Community ag sprouts ahead

Published 5:43 am Friday, February 15, 2013

A CSA member of Oak Knoll Farm near Albert Lea works in a field. Members can offset food costs by working on the farm. -- Photo provided

Family’s farm operation offers variety of foods for local residents

As winter eases into spring, people are already thinking about vegetables — planting, harvesting, selling and trading them.

Photo provided

Talk to Casey McGill, who with his family runs Oak Knoll Farm near Albert Lea, and he’ll say the increasing trend is community supported agriculture. People are catching onto it.

McGill and his family cleared five acres of their cropland and planted a diverse selection of vegetables, of which they sell at local farmers markets and drop off at several locations each week, including Hardy Geranium in Austin, where buyers pick them up.

Email newsletter signup

“Our CSA is about knowing where your food comes from and how it is grown,” McGill said.

People pay a one-time fee at the beginning of the summer and have vegetables delivered to their drop-off location every week.

“Each week, each member gets a little bit of everything we have,” McGill said.

Oak Knoll Farm offers eggs and has naturally raised beef and pork, along with many vegetables, too.

Jen Haugen of Austin and dietitian at Hy-Vee used McGill’s CSA program last year for 18 weeks, from May to October. She was curious, picked items out of McGill’s garden one time and then tried the program. The best part for her? It fosters good health. Once people pay for something, they’re going to want to use it. Furthermore, vegetables are on the mind more often.

“You are more mindful of eating fruits and vegetables because they are delivered to you, and you have a variety of them,” Haugen said.

People can pay for their deliveries outright, and they can also offset costs by doing their share of work on the farm. McGill hopes more locals will try the CSA program, even restaurants and caterers. About 25 locals use his CSA farm now, and he hopes for 50 by this summer.

“We’re just kind of looking to get more members and expand,” he said.

Among the usual tomatoes and zucchinis, Oak Knoll offers many types of winter squashes, berries, eggs and some things people have never seen, McGill said. They also have pasture-raised beef and pork, honeybees and maple syrup and are in the process of getting their organic certification.

Oak Knoll will even offer a pumpkin patch this fall now that Albert Lea’s former pumpkin patch has closed. The public is welcome to visit the facility just east of Albert Lea, 21791 785th Ave Albert Lea, MN 56007, if they contact McGill in advance at 507-402-7637.

Those who want to learn more about CSAs may visit