Hidden Roadside Gems

When you travel, do a seek out the independent business or the nearest franchise in a strip mall? I’m betting on the former.

We dreamed up the farm stand at the end of our driveway when on a fall trip to Vermont in 2005, inspired by all the classic wooden stands you find there. Mar and I loved traveling through the beautiful New England countryside adorned with white farmhouses and cows against the autumn backdrop of golds and reds. We drove on these windy roads transporting us from one quaint town to another, all the while discovering these roadside gems like a farm that pressed cider or a farmstead cheese operation.  The whole scene reminded us a lot of….well, Otter Tail County, minus the all the cool farm stands.

Farm stand 8.13.18Since we loved the authenticity and picturesque quality of the farm stands of New England, we decided to build one seven years ago and we have applied that same thinking to everything else that inspires us. Lida Farm is built on the idea that we should just do what we want to see in the world. The world needs good, organic food…let’s grow it. Wouldn’t it be nice to have a community event with food and music, let’s host a fall harvest party. Sauna, let’s build one. Raw milk, let’s get a cow. I know from talking to the many visitors to our area who come across our farm stand, that our stand now serves as their hidden gem when in lakes country and I’d like to think our local community is just a little bit richer from our efforts.

WARNING: TOTAL RANT BY RYAN. My biggest frustration in life is talk about how all the cool stuff happens somewhere else and we are just worthless consumers who have no agency and no means of changing ourselves. If only our community only had more businesses, more energy, more people, a bigger tax base, more grants…then we’d be great.  No, we don’t have to wait for some multi-national corporation or big foundation or leadership guru to build our community into something. We can do that and we are doing that! If you look around, appreciate the small and independent places that are making Otter Tail a really cool place to be.  Even better, if you have the energy to jump into an endeavor, just do it. The world will be all the better for it.

In the box:

  • Celery
  • Tomato mix
  • Flat-leaf Parsley
  • Trinity Bi-color Sweet Corn
  • Onion
  • Green Onions
  • Garlic 
  • Peppers
  • Yellow Satina Potatoes
  • Green and Purple Beans
  • Basil: Please don’t put into the fridge (it will turn black). Instead, treat like a cut flower…trim the bottom and put in a vase with water.


Family Labor

At one time all labor was family labor. Picture a Russian serf family or a tribe of neanderthals trying to make it…kids, husband, wife all pulling together to survive. In modern times, few have experienced this dynamic, and, when they have, it makes an impression. Ask someone who lived through the great depression or a natural disaster and they will often share not about how miserable they were, but how they pulled together as family.

Sylvia and farm statnd
Sylvia with the farm stand project we worked on Sunday

Like other fathers and a husbands, I can feel like I carry the weight of the farm business on my shoulders. Men like to be dramatic this way, as if they are the lone hero of their life’s story. Their great and amazing willpower and vision brings great success, but the hero at times is also trapped alone in a task only HE can do. Psychoanalyzing all men aside, I feel this at times. I can be trudging through a week and worn down. At times like these, when I don’t think I can pull off another CSA harvest, my beautiful wife Maree takes on two or three time-consuming tasks or the kids jump in to help pack boxes on the line. The work goes quickly or a crop which was looked impossibly lost in weeds a week ago is now simply beautiful. This is the joy of any small band in a common endeavor – together we do great things. Even the ‘great man’ concedes that he cannot succeed without the support of his wife and family.

Don’t let me be overly romantic on the topic lest you think we’re this picture perfect farm family, happily going about farm work like a scene from the Sound of Music. We still have all the same 21st century problems. I swear that I spend about half my day monitoring kids’ device use and many hours are spent shuttling children from place to place as we’re wrapped up in the same over-scheduled environment as every other family.

Working with kids takes time, and, although I could crank something out more quickly alone, I do muster the patience some days to slow down and let them take on a task. But when I do, the reward is often greater than simply the job getting done. I hope my kids do leave this place one day with some skills and ethic that will carry them through life.

In the box: