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From Your Farmer: March 2021

One year ago, we wrote our first COVID response statement after a hasty team meeting the morning after Minnesota’s school closure was announced.  Like everybody, we knew the world was about to change but had no way to sense the twists-and-turns we were in for.  I remember I started our statement with “we are all in this together.”  I’m sure the rest of the note was naive, given all we know today, but I know we led with loads of extra sanitation in our market.  Over the ensuing weeks, we came to launch curbside pickup, worked with our local food partners as demand surged, and expanded the measures to keep our staff and customers safe. It seems like the quick-and-easy narrative for businesses during COVID has been a focus on the obstacles (and there have been plenty), but I want to note the anniversary by looking forward at a few of the unforeseen positives that have come out of [...]


From Your Farmer: February 2021

In the grand scheme of things, the world doesn’t really need our Ferndale Market turkey.  The flocks we grow in a year are a rounding error in the billions of pounds of turkey grown annually, much of it by global meat companies.  The early pandemic processing plant worries showed many consumers just how concentrated the control in the meat world has become, and it’s not just true for turkeys.  Any chicken, pig, or beef farmer would likely tell you the same.  We’ve all heard the often-true agricultural mantra “that the big get bigger and the rest get out.” We spend a lot of time talking about the well-defined and visible differences with our Ferndale turkeys: they’re grown free-range and raised without antibiotics.  And while these are significant differences – and sources of pride – for us, the difference in our model of farming might be the real difference-maker.  One of my local food heroes is Lucie Amundsen, who founded [...]


From Your Farmer: January 2021

Happy New Year from the team and turkeys at Ferndale Market! I love to recap and celebrate at the end of each year. I learned from an early boss that no process is complete without celebrating the accomplishment, and I agree. Although this year’s toasts are masked and socially-distanced, the wild ride of 2020 is all the more reason to look back at the roads we traveled here. In our market, I marvel at how much has happened over the past 12 months. Like all businesses, we did our best to respond to the needs of 2020, and I believe we are better off for it. Our team quickly added new staple food items to our mix to better serve as a one-stop-shop for our customers, adapted to our now-popular curbside pickup, and soon thereafter launched boxes to ship to your door. All of these were wish list items that rapidly got moved to the front-burner with the encouragement of our customers. [...]


From Your Farmer: December 2020

On the first morning of our very first attempt at drive-through TurkeyFest, our website crashed.  We’d built our plan over the past many months and countless conversations, and it all hinged on solid technology. We needed to see each order online and know when each customer would arrive so we could have orders ready, bring them to the right car, and match the right turkey to the right recipient. It all worked perfectly in trial runs, but here we were on opening morning: our website was down and all the information we needed went with it. Nothing could get started. Thankfully, we were quickly able to get a hold of our web programmer. Within minutes, the site was up and we were back in business. I tell this story not to recount the short moments of terror on that first day, but because it’s a reminder of how many people are behind our Thanksgiving season. We could grow the world’s [...]


From Your Farmer: November 2020

The empty boxes are piling up high in the back room, so Thanksgiving must be just around the corner!  Beginning mid-summer each year, we start saving empty boxes of all shapes and sizes to assist with turkey carryout during the Thanksgiving season. Because dressed turkeys tend to be heavy and awkwardly shaped, we give a lot of used boxes a second act as a handy carrying container.  The tall pile of boxes ready-for-action signals that Thanksgiving prep is in full swing around here. This is the time of year we’re all operating in high speed -- on the farm, at the market, and in our warehouse.  Our team is taking orders, loading shipments, and, of course, tending to turkeys each day.  Despite the curveballs 2020 has thrown at us, we are grateful for the opportunity to continue many of these usual Thanksgiving patterns here. And yet, we know so many things will feel very different this Thanksgiving season.  For [...]


From Your Farmer: September 2020

My Grandpa certainly wasn’t thinking about finding a good day-trip-destination community when he settled on our farm in the late 1930s.  He just wanted a good spot to grow turkeys, and who could have foreseen what an ideal destination Cannon Falls would become?  In that era, Highway 52 was a quiet two-lane road and Cannon Falls would have felt much further from the growing population base in the Twin Cities.  Today, with the help of 65 mile-per-hour speed limits and four-lane highways, our historic community along the Cannon River is less than an hour from both the Twin Cities and Rochester, and a perfect place for us to call home. I’ve been thinking about this a lot lately because this is typically the season of community planning for our Flavors of the Falls celebration and annual Ferndale Market Fall Open House, held on the same weekend.  Although these events won’t be held this year, autumn is still a terrific [...]


From Your Farmer: August 2020

It seems like everybody is pivoting these days.  New ways of communicating, working, and shopping have become the norm.  Even my beloved Minnesota Twins are only playing 60 games this season, although I hope they manage a few more in October!  As many of you know, we’ve done our best to adapt to the current realities at Ferndale Market too, launching curbside pickup and regional shipping, all while dealing with the loss of our college, school, and restaurant partners and the uncertainty that lies ahead. In the world of turkey farming, no day carries more significance than Thanksgiving, and there’s no easy pivot here because our Thanksgiving flocks are already running around the farm.  We’ve wrestled for months with how to best continue our traditions at Ferndale Market because they are central to our annual cycle and important to so many of our farm partners – from our pie maker to our gravy kitchen.  With that in mind, we’ve been busy building a [...]


From Your Farmer: July 2020

It’s mid-July and in any typical year that would mean we’d be busy with summer farm tours.  We’d have already hosted the annual Co-op Farm Tour and had an evening on the farm with the chefs and butchers that source our turkey.  Of course, this is no normal year.  Historically, these have been some of my favorite days each summer and I’m missing them tremendously. Thinking of farm tours reminded me that I wrote in March about how our birds move through our farm in their younger days. I owe you a conclusion to that cliffhanger about how our turkeys live once they’re on range. Each spring, when the age of our turkeys and our faith in a “real” spring weather forecast intersect, we chase our first flock to range and continue that pattern throughout the summer.  When we initially move our turkeys fully outdoors, there is a pattern of adjustment as they adapt to new shelters, feeders, and [...]


From Your Farmer: June 2020

Maybe it’s the busy season on our farm that hits each year around this time. More likely, it’s the result of the turbulence in our world and the frayed thinking that results.  Either way, I struggled to build a cohesive theme to share this month.  Instead, I want to share a couple of loosely connected thoughts to all that’s happened in the world of food and agriculture over the past few months. First, I’ve learned from my English instructor wife that words have real power.  As the pandemic escalated, our country began an informal discussion about who would go to work and who would work at home.  Farmers, meat processors, grocers, and food workers were deemed essential, and the public recognition felt powerful for the many people hidden behind the big brand name on a food package.  The “essential” status gave visibility and purpose to those who keep the country fed. All of this is a stark reminder of [...]


From Your Farmer: May 2020

In one of the final days before our world came to a virus-induced halt, I attended the funeral for Marlene Willis.  Marlene was our very first retail clerk at Ferndale Market, hired right before we opened our on-farm store in the fall of 2008.  Her hiring was purely a matter of dumb luck and good timing, as my mom happened to bump into Marlene and she expressed an interested in our store-to-be.  I called her up and offered her a job - no application or interview needed.  That’s how the best things work in a small community. We’d known Marlene and her history in local retail, owning the Hallmark store and working the front desk at the Cannon Falls Beacon newspaper. From the start, she was our biggest fan, even when we probably didn’t deserve the cheerleading.  We were total retail novices, but she encouraged us forward, making signage and teaching us how to better merchandise.  She told me [...]