AFTON, Minn. — In a brief conversation with Halliday Anderson, owner of 10th Street Farm and Market, you will quickly hear about her passion for agriculture and teaching others about agriculture. As a first generation farmer who started in 2011, Halliday has carved out a successful niche on her farm in Afton, Minn. From community supported agriculture (CSA) shares to wholesale crops to a year round farm stand, 10th Street Farm and Market has something for everyone.
Although not farmers themselves, Halliday’s parents were both employed in the agricultural industry working for Oxbo International, a company that manufactures specialty market agricultural equipment. “My mom retired and had always wanted to start a bed and breakfast or a small farm. The more she thought about it the more she thought it was the right time to do that,” related Anderson, “She called me up one day and said, ‘Do you want to do this with me?’ and I jumped on it!”
So in 2011, Anderson and her husband found a small acreage in Afton, Minn. which was priced right and they made the purchase. “That fall we put up two moveable high tunnels. The next winter we planted in them and went from there,” she said. “We had no idea what we were doing! But we were determined to figure out how to make it work!”
Anderson said the original intent she and her mother had for 10th Street Farm and Market was to provide fresh produce to local farmers markets and to try and extend the growing season using their greenhouses. “For the two of us who had never vegetable farmed before, it seemed like a way for us to manage the land on our own and do it in a way where we didn’t need huge capital investment, we didn’t need a tractor, we didn’t need any large scale tools, we could just do everything by hand,” explained Anderson. “In our area, the east side of the Twin Cities, there aren’t a lot of farms. We found an opening in the market for high-quality greens as well. That was our intention immediately.”
Anderson went on to say that during their first growing season, they were bringing produce to three different farmers markets.
With selling products in various locations, Anderson noticed they were away from the farm too often. “With our very hands-on system and high tunnels that needed to be constantly opened and closed with the [changing] weather, by the end of that season, we fell into the CSA idea purely as a functional way to keep the farm bringing in money and for us to be on the farm more.
“The idea of a CSA really terrified us. Collecting money from customers before the season even started and then being beholden to them really scared us!” laughed Anderson. She said since then, 10th Street Farm and Market has become a hidden gem for locals who desire fresh produce and greens. Customers can get them by way of a CSA or stopping at the farm stand as well as finding Anderson’s produce at co-op grocers whom she supplies.
Currently, Anderson is 10th Street Farm and Market’s only full time, year-round employee. “My mom has since been promoted to Grandma,” she said, chuckling, “so she doesn’t spend as much time at the farm.” This year, Halliday will hire seven seasonal employees. “We do a lot of training. We have an apprentice program. My side passion is to help train small scale farmers to be both sustainable and profitable,” she said.
10th Street Farm and Market is certainly not your average Minnesota vegetable garden spanning from May to September. Rather, Anderson is able to offer 44 weeks of CSA and farm stand crops, breaking the CSA’s up into spring, summer, fall and winter shares. She is able to do this by using her three moveable high tunnels, her 100-foot in-ground growing tunnel, three heated greenhouses and caterpillar tunnels or low tunnel greenhouses. “For me, I like to think of my season starting in October and running until the next October,” she explained. “So in October, I’m thinking about what I’m harvesting out of my winter tunnels which are my three movable tunnels and my 100-foot tunnel that I’m growing in the ground in. That’s my main production for the winter.”
In January she begins pulling out one crop in order to transplant a new crop for the spring CSA’s. “Our caterpillar tunnels are more of a three-season structure because they are smaller. Our greenhouses transition as well, we remove our winter [crops] and we move to raised beds in there in the summer where we do strawberries and more heat-loving crops.”
Once spring planting conditions are favorable, Anderson then plants her outdoor field crops. During the main season, which is late April through September, 10th Street Farm and Market is offering around 140 different varieties of vegetables. Then come late September, Anderson is planting her winter tunnels and the cycle starts again.
Soil health is paramount to a farmer like Halliday Anderson who is constantly working to improve the organic matter of her beds. “We are a compost-based fertility system. We buy in NOP-approved [National Organic Program] compost from Cowsmos out of central Wisconsin and that’s the basis of our fertility system,” she said. “We have all permanent beds on the farm that we heavily mulch in the fall with [composted] leaf mulch and then we put compost on top of that. Our main goal is to build organic matter every year.”
Anderson does take soil samples each year to make sure her soil fertility and soil health is constantly improving. “We make judgements [based on soil test results] just like anyone else would. We also look at how our crops function in different areas. Like, I know there is a specific area on the farm that has higher fungal activity, so my brassica’s are not going to function there, so I will plant them elsewhere.”
Cover cropping is done behind long season, heavy feeders like tomatoes, peppers, eggplant and Brussel sprouts, she added. Anderson then went on to say within that fertility system, crop rotation is intense with very quick succession. This helps with the reduction of disease, weed and pest pressure since the crops are rotating so quickly. Because 10th Street Farm and Market uses organic practices, any weeding is done by hand.
Owning and operating a niche vegetable farm has not come without challenges. Anderson laughed — saying that maintaining sanity is one! “Everything is always in motion and the needs of each crop are their own. Because we do so many, there is a lot to pay attention to. My biggest struggle with doing everything on the farm is finding time to do everything on the farm. My biggest challenge right now is structuring people and my own time management so that I’m not missing a step and we’re screwed,” she added.
Anderson’s favorite crop is bok choy. She said she loves it because it can be harvested at any time or size, it’s a year-round producer, the flavors are very interesting and the colors it comes in are vibrant. “You can’t help but want to eat it!”
She is also very excited about the future of agriculture and is hoping to dedicate part of her land to act as a teaching farm. “There are so many ways to start a farm and not have a significant amount of capital, not need a ton of land, you can do this kind of farming in your backyard and it can be profitable if you are smart about it,” she said with excitement.
You can find out more about Anderson and 10th Street Farm and Market on their website, www.10thstfarmandmarket.com, as well as social media platforms such as Facebook and Instagram.