The Importance of Supporting Local Farmers

Just Food Co-op - Fri, 04/07/2017 - 12:01pm

By Alyson Center, Board Member

As Earth Day approaches on April 22nd, let’s think about where food comes from, and how we as members and patrons of Just Food Co-op, support systems that promote environmental health.  Food ultimately comes from the soil.  Healthy soil contains multiple components including mineral particles like sand, gravel, silt and clay, and dead organic matter that stores nutrients and gives soil its dark color.  Healthy soil also contains an abundance of organisms including bacteria, worms, fungi and insects that recycle and release nutrients that plants can use.  The upper Midwest has some of the best soil for farming because of rich glacial silt deposits and amenable climate.  However, conventional agriculture both causes and suffers soil and environmental degradation.  Specifically, the industrialization of agriculture and the shift to intensive monoculture farming for increased efficiency and productivity has slowly degraded the soil needed to produce food and negatively impacts the surrounding environment.  The causes of soil degradation are complex and often location specific, but frequently include soil loss from water and wind erosion, and soil degradation from excessive fertilization, reliance of synthetic pesticides, and routine plowing.  Over the past 50 years, it is estimated that over 1,900 million hectares or 7.3 million square miles of agricultural land has been degraded to some extent and about 15% of that and has been severely degraded1.  While the causes of soil and environmental degradation are exceedingly complex and have numerous interdependent causes, let’s examine one major factor: the reliance on monocultures.

The shift from diversified farming methods to growing a single crop or type of animal in a large area (monoculture) was the solution to feeding the world that began in the 1960s with the Green Revolution.  This shift in farming practices marked the beginning of the industrialization of food systems.  While the use of monocultures and the intensification of agriculture have greatly increased crop productivity, the environmental consequences are becoming increasingly apparent. For example, a study by the Minnesota Pollution Control Agency (2016) found that the water quality of the Mississippi River rapidly declines south of St. Cloud because of increased run-off and nutrient pollution from farms2. The decline in water quality is directly related to how farmers fertilize their fields.  In addition to relying on fertilizers, farmers that grow crops in monocultures have to rely on pesticides because of the inherent vulnerability of pest outbreaks when a single species in planted over a large area. The overuse and reliance on pesticides has lead to the evolution of resistance in many pest species populations, which in turn requires farmers to either switch chemicals and/or apply more concentrated does.  Monocultures require seasonal applications of fertilizer to increase crop yields. If farmers do not know the amount of nutrients their soil can hold (called the cation exchange capacity), they will undoubtedly over-fertilize which results in nutrient leaching into ground water, and/or surface run-off into local waterways. Over-fertilization not only affects our local aquatic ecosystems but also contributes to the Dead Zone in the Gulf of Mexico.  Excessive nutrient pollution from farms (mainly nitrogen and phosphorous) destabilizes aquatic systems through a process called eutrophication, which results in extremely low oxygen levels in water.  Once oxygen levels in an area of water drop below a critical point, the aquatic system can no longer support life and is called a ‘dead zone’.  The largest dead zone in the world occurs at the mouth of the Mississippi River and spans an area of over 8,500 sq. miles, or roughly the size of New Jersey1.

While large conventional farmers rely on monocultures to increase efficiency but contribute to environmental degradation, sustainable farmers use principles found in nature to build healthy soil and increase crop productivity.  Many of the local farmers around Northfield that sell products through Just Food are part of Sustainable Farmers Association (SFA), and explicitly produce food in ways that promote environmental health.  For example, a sustainable farmer may plant crops in polycultures (multiple species interplanted) or use stripe farming, where different crops are plants in alternating rows.  These sorts of planting methods help protect soil and reduce the reliance on pesticides (synthetic or organic approved) by increasing environmental complexity and reducing the chance of outbreaks by pests.  Additionally, unlike most conventional farm systems where soil is left bare post-harvest, sustainable farmers frequently plant cover crops after the main crop is harvested.  Bare soil is highly vulnerable to water and wind erosion and cover crops reduces this risk by physically covering the soil and from plant roots that hold onto and stabilize the upper soil layers.  Additionally, cover crops can reduce the need for fertilizers because specific plants like legumes (nitrogen fixers) can be planted as part of the cover crop.  These plants can be tilled into the soil and increase fertility by feeding soil organisms and adding to the soil organic material.  While the practices of sustainable farming are more costly and time consuming, they are essential to building and maintaining a healthy environment.

Just like the industrialization of crop production, the increased productivity of animal operations has come from monocultures.  Intensive monocultures in animal systems are commonly known as concentrated animal feeding operations (CAFOs), where thousands of animals are housed in confined settings and largely fed corn and soy.  Because of the intensive nature of CAFOs they produce large amounts of waste.  It is estimated that CAFOs produce more than 500 million tons of manure annually, which is more than three times the amount of sewage produced by humans in the US per year3.  Unl
ike human waste, manure is not treated but collected and contained in sewage lagoons and often applied directly to agriculture fields as fertilizer.  Additionally, healthy animals in CAFOs are continuously fed antibiotics in their feed to both promote growth and reduce the risk of disease.  There have been numerous studies linking CAFOs to the evolution of antibiotic resistant bacteria, like Staphylococcus aureus, the bacteria responsible for staph infections.  Research by Dr. Nadimpalli and colleagues (2016) found that 44% of CAFO hog workers that participated in their study had S. aureus bacteria in their noses after they left work and half of those bacteria were resistant to multiple antibiotics.  It should be noted that not all of the antibiotics used in animal systems are also used to treat humans, but some of them are.  Additionally, many CAFO farms are contract farmers for large corporations and have clauses in their agreements that limit access and research on these farms5.

Unlike large CAFOs, sustainable organic animal farmers may use pasture systems and rotate animals across a landscape to mimic grazing patterns of herd animals.  These types of open practices increase soil fertility since roaming animals disperse their waste across the landscape where it can be decomposed and naturally integrated into soil just like in natural ecosystems.  Alternatively, animal waste from chicken coops or barns can be collected and composted and then applied as an organic fertilizer that helps to build soil by increasing organic matter (one of the components of soil). Additionally, the sustainable and/or organic farmer does not feed antibiotics to their animals (and cannot to be certified organic), which reduces the potential public health risk inherent in the over-reliance of antibiotics in conventional systems.  When we shop at cooperatives like Just Food, we are supporting the alternative to big conventional agricultural systems because co-ops, unlike other ‘natural’ food stores, are major supporters of local and small farmers that produce food using the principles of nature and not the conventional industrial model.


1Cunningham, W. P., & Cunningham, M. A. (2013). Principles of environmental science: Inquiry and applications. Boston: McGraw-Hill.

2Our Upper Mississippi River. (2017). Retrieved from:

3Rogers, S., & Haines, J. (2005). Detecting and mitigating the environmental impact of fecal pathogens originating from confined animal feeding operations: review.

4Nadimpalli, M., Stewart, J. R., Pierce, E., Pisanic, N., Love, D. C., Hall, D., … & Heaney, C. D. (2016). Livestock-Associated, Antibiotic-Resistant Staphylococcus aureus Nasal Carriage and Recent Skin and Soft Tissue Infection among Industrial Hog Operation Workers. PloS one, 11(11), e0165713.

5Moyer, M. W. (2016). How Drug-Resistance Bacteria Travel from the Farm to Your Table. Scientific American.

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Categories: Businesses

What’s happening at Knecht’s Nurseries & Landscaping?

Spring is in full swing at Knecht’s Nurseries & Landscaping!

Jim, putting out the open sign, 2017!

Last weekend, we officially opened for the season.  Familiar faces and new friends have been stopping in all week to get their spring projects and plans underway.  A stroll through the greenhouses treats our senses to all things green and growing!


This Saturday, April 8th, from 9-3, Knecht’s will be at the Northfield Home and Garden Show!  Stop at our booth for a visit, and bring your list of plant/landscape questions.  We’ll be there to answer those questions, and handing out our Knecht’s Home Show Coupons!


Bonus Bucks

Speaking of coupons…April and May are Knecht’s Bonus Buck season!  For every $25 you spend on merchandise in  April and May, you will receive $1 in Knecht’s Bonus Bucks!  You can spend your accumulated Bonus Bucks at the nursery in June.

And finally, last but not least, I have a feeling that our Knecht’s Facebook Giveaways will be returning soon!  Make sure you’re following us on Facebook if you want to get in on all that fun!

It’s time to get growing!

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Modern Minimalist Home Project | Northfield, MN

Northfield Construction Company - Tue, 04/04/2017 - 9:34pm

This custom-built, modern minimalist home brings us to the outskirts of Northfield, MN. Matthew and Christine began working with Northfield Construction Company in the fall of 2016 to complete their dream of building a home on this beautiful piece of land. The design definitely takes advantage of the view (we can’t wait to see it in the summer/fall!) […]

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Imminent Brewing March Update

Northfield Construction Company - Tue, 04/04/2017 - 8:33pm

It’s been a big month for the folks over at Imminent Brewery! Brewing equipment arrived!!! Need we say more?!

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Categories: Businesses

Upcoming Social Media Marketing Workshop

Brand Yourself Consulting - Tami Enfield - Mon, 04/03/2017 - 12:15pm

We are hosting a social media workshop on April 19th in Northfield, MN. We will cover five major platforms and what you can do to increase engagement, SEO and business through these platforms, as well as, how Facebook and Instagram Ads are highly beneficial to business. We hope you can join us!

Here are some things that others have said about this workshop:

“Ever wonder how social media works? When people are looking at your posts and why certain posts get more views? Tasha Herrgott with Brand Yourself Consulting is hosting a workshop.  If you have your own business, are selling things like Norwex and Lula Roe, this is ABSOLUTELY worth your time to attend. In one day, you’ll learn way to increase business and understand who you should target and HOW to do it! After spending a half day with Tasha Herrgott and her team, I had dozens of valuable ways to move forward and get ahead using social media. Tasha is knowledgable, friendly and she KNOWS business. She is a successful small business owner with a passion for helping others grow their business. I can not recommend her and this class enough!” – Alison Geier,

“I had the opportunity to attend this workshop today and as a small business owner I left feeling armed with new knowledge and all kinds of inspired! Did you know that with Facebook’s algorithms there are better times and days of the week to post to social media than others? If you use social media for any kind of marketing, whether you’re the owner of a corporation or a LuLaRoe Consultant, the information you learn here is invaluable! There is so much to social media that I had no idea about and I considered myself pretty savvy. My good friend Tasha Herrgott is teaching the workshop at Brand Yourself Consulting and she does an amazing job with a lot of information. I highly recommend booking a one on one session after the workshop. You’ll receive personal instruction tailored to your specific business. The one on one spaces are limited so don’t miss out! Brand Yourself offers every level of service from website design to running ad campaigns, I highly recommend them if you are in the market to take your business to the next level.” Olivia Wagner,

“Yesterday I got to attend this class on Social Media Marketing put on by Tasha Herrgott of Brand Yourself Consulting. Today I am brimming with ideas on how to improve my social media marketing efforts. Because of what I learned, I am going to be able to spend LESS time and reach a more targeted audience. Who doesn’t want that? They are holding another class in a couple of weeks – so hurry and sign up! You won’t regret it!” Shelley Paulson,“There is a class that I went to a couple of weeks ago that was FANTASTIC! It was put on by one of my wonderful girlfriends. Brand Yourself Consulting can help you with any sort of social media marketing needs. However, they are hosting another workshop in April and I would HIGHLY recommend it, its worth every dollar. Going to a class like this is crucial if you want to learn more about what you should and shouldn’t do on social media for your business.” Noelle Nielsen, Bright Birch Group

Space is limited so register today!
Social Media: All the Things You Wish You Knew

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Categories: Businesses

Spring OPEN at Knecht’s!

Jim, putting out the open sign, 2017!

Knecht’s Nurseries and Landscaping is open for the season! We look forward to sharing our love of plants, and landscape design with you this year!

Hours: April through Mid-November…

Monday-Friday 8-6, Saturday 8-5 and Sunday 10-4

Closed for Easter and the 4th of July.

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Helleborus, Lenten Rose

Lenton Rose

Say “I do” to the Helleborus Wedding PartyTM  Series!  It’s a new collection of Helleborus at Knecht’s, and we’re honored to share it with you.  The Helleborous Wedding PartyTM Series is an selection of double flowered Hellebores, developed by hybridizer Hans Hansen of Walter’s Gardens Inc.

Hellebours ‘Flower Girl’ Wedding Party Series
Photo courtesy of Walter’s Gardens Inc.

We have two from this handsome wedding party to offer this spring.  Helleborus ‘Flower Girl’ is a lovely pink blushing beauty.  She produces 3″, double pink flowers which are shown off nicely by the thick, deep evergreen foliage beneath.   Next down the aisle is ‘True Love’.  What would a wedding be without

Helleborus ‘True Love’ Wedding Party Series
Photo courtesy of Walter’s Gardens Inc.

it?  ‘Helleborus ‘True Love’ boasts double 3.5″, deep maroon-red flowers on sturdy stems.

These amazing perennials begin to bloom in late winter, announcing springs’ return.  Their bloom coinciding with the Christian season of Lent, which has given them their more popular, common name of Lenten Rose. Helleborus thrive in moist, woodland settings where their roots can spreed out and establish extensively; making them a wonderful choice for naturalizing.  A mature clump will grow to be about two feet tall and wide.  Plant them in partial shade, average to fertile soil, and provide them with regular watering during dry spells.  These marvelous spring bloomers are deer and rabbit resistant, evergreen and zone 4 hardy.

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Transforming Tiny Spaces

Northfield Construction Company - Sun, 03/26/2017 - 4:44pm

Tyler Severson, a Project Manager for NCC, made some improvements to his home recently and wanted to share it on our blog! He transformed some unused space in his home into a play space for his son Maverick. It made us all think about what could be done in other tiny spaces in our homes. Check […]

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Gardening with Children

I’ve been spending time out in the yard, finalizing my plan for spring 2017.  It’s spring break, so my kids are right there with me!  They point out every insect, woolly caterpillar and spider they find exploring with us. This is the first year that my oldest has shown interest in “the plan” for our yard and garden. She reminded me that last fall, I mentioned it might be nice to plant vines along the fence out back, and that she could select the varieties of tomatoes we will plant in the vegetable garden this spring. My years of planting bulbs with her each fall, devoting yard space to a sunflower fort, and growing a pizza garden in the shape of a pizza slice, seem to be paying off! She’s become comfortable and confident in the garden and looks forward to the work and the reward of it. Gardening with children doesn’t have to be as involved as my list above.  Enchanted or miniature gardens grown in containers on a porch, a strawberry pot with ever-bearing strawberries out on the deck, or a single tomato plant growing in a large pot on a sunny patio, can produce the same fun, excitement, and reward on a smaller, more manageable scale.

Each spring I organize a very special event at the nursery called, Kid’s Planting Day!  It’s an hour-long event that gets children and their parent(s) “playing” in the potting mix.  After everyone has rinsed their hands off under the hose and headed off to enjoy their afternoon, I am left with a beautiful assortment of childrens’ planters.  Each carefully filled with potting mix, blooming annuals, and a name tag.  At the nursery we care for the planters.  We pinch them back, deadhead and feed them.  We keep them warm and watered so that in two weeks, when the kiddos return to pick them up, they have a beautiful and growing gift to give to a special woman in their life on Mother’s Day weekend.  Kid’s Planting Day has become an annual tradition for some of our young families. It’s fun to see them return each spring to get their hands dirty, enjoy a spring day in the greenhouse with us, and to see the pride and joy in childrens’ faces when they stop in to pick up their full and blooming planters. I dug up some memories of Kid’s Planting Day on our Knecht’s Facebook Page, and hope they will inspire you to share the importance and fun of green and growing things with a child in your life!

Kid's Planting Day Slideshow

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The March of Spring!

As spring continues “Marching” in, with the vernal equinox next week, I spend time finalizing my plans for the yard and garden. Having a landscape design or a garden plan, keeps me on track, and prevents my tendency to start multiple projects all at once. The seeds I ordered have arrived.  As I slice open the tape and pull back the box flaps, I can’t help but consider all the potential those seed packets hold.  Despite the recent snow, the grip of winter has loosed these past few weeks.  This makes the waiting that much harder. Pussy willows are out, and the forsythia won’t hold back much longer. The buds on the trees are swelling, letting us know their sap is running.  Flocks of robins have returned, and according to my three-year old, the nuthatches are “acting silly” at the bird feeder. Spring is marching in.  Are you ready?  Here it comes!

Forsythia in full bloom

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Hastings Estate Sale -April 15 & 16

Kuhlman Auctions - Wed, 04/06/2016 - 7:49am

We will be conducting an estate sale for the Carol Glade estate on April 15 & 16 in Hastings.  The sale will run from 9:00AM to 4:00PM both days.  Numbers will be given out starting at 8:00AM.  The address for the sale is 1141 Zweber Lane in Hastings.  There is an exceptional collection of fine furniture, glassware, primitives, rugs, clocks, artwork, and antique lighting.  Please come and see us at the sale.

Marble topped mirrored buffet, Walnut bed & dresser w/round (Knapp) dovetails, double oak china cabinet,Victorian loveseat & upholstered chairs, oak fireplace mantle, spinning wheel, Amish quilt, bracket lamp, double kerosene angle lamp, hanging kerosene lamp, GWTW style lamps,  spinning wheel, loveseat, carved shelves, vintage metal purses, Terry Redlin artwork, inlaid table, Windsor type chair, fancy lamp table, wicker buggies, Dionne Quints picture, Miss America butter dish, vintage pictures, handpainted plates, pressed & cut glass, wall clocks, mustache cup and shaving mug collection, primitives, antique wedding dress, rugs, lots of décor, collection of Seraphim Classics angels, tools, household, yard & garden, 17′ redwood canoe,  beer can collection, and lots more.
View full details and see more pictures at EstateSales.NET: https://www.EstateSales.NET/MN/Hastings/55033/1146588

Categories: Businesses


Grand Event Center - Wed, 04/27/2011 - 10:50am

It’s Northfield’s Annual Girls Nite Out…Friday, May 6th.  After an evening of shopping and dining join us at The Grand for entertainment by The G.N.O. Dancers and live music by Sweet Stache.  Tickets are $10 and can be purchased at The Rare Pair, Sisters Ugly, Fine Threads, Anna’s Closet,  Rooms by Tagg 2 or the Eclectic Goat.  For more info  call 507-645-2376.

Categories: Businesses

Wed, 12/31/1969 - 7:00pm

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