For nearly four decades Bluebird Gardens has had one mandate: to grow. This means many things to us. It means growing vegetables, yes, but it also means growing community strength and healthy human bodies. We believe that growth is a delicate and complex process, requiring creation, destruction and constant re-evaluation at every turn. It means looking out for your neighbors and for generations who, while not here presently, are just as dependent on our choices today.
At this time in history, growth means bringing Bluebird Gardens into the next era, realizing our full potential to help lead the way in MN towards creating secure, year-round local food systems that bolster local economies, create quality local jobs, and connect millions to nutritious, sustainable food.
It goes beyond us. Our vision is to grow Bluebird into more than a farm. Already we are working with coalitions, local leaders in business and policy and other producers to trouble shoot ways we can help ALL local, family-owned farms like ours survive the long term. We are investigating new methods like the Walipini structures, and collaborating on development sites for year-round hydro/aero/aquaponic fruit and vegetable growth. We partner with food hubs, schools, daycares, retirement centers, restaurants and grocery stores. Anywhere that people need access to good food. By bridging the gap between small local producers and their often larger retail partners, we can re-invigorate the entire state-wide food system and become an example for the rest of the country of what it looks like for a state to become independently food-secure.
Our educational efforts span from attending local events to promote our farming methods to giving standing-room only presentations for regional and national conferences. Below is owner Mark Boen presenting at the MOSES 2016 Organic Growers Conference in La Crosse, WI.
It’s All About The Ecosystem
One of our biggest missions is creating and maintaining pollinator habitats for birds and bees. Watch this informative animated video about the importance of bees for our food supply.
While the situation with bees is alarming, we never stop improving our local ecosystem to make sure bees and birds alike find our farm an inviting biodiverse habitat to grow, thrive and pollinate. We line our entire farm with plants and flowers that attract bees, we also actively turn farm “slews” into micro wetland habitats. Our efforts bring all sorts of beneficial critters to the farm and thousands of microorganisms to the soil. “If you build it, they will come” is the mantra of a biological farmer.
What happens under your feet is magic!
People walk over entire worlds without ever realizing it. Under our feet, in healthy soil, there are hundreds of thousands of creatures all doing their little bit to create a full ecosystem to nurture and protect healthy plants. Beetles, spiders, wevils, mites and of course WORMS! Worms are a very important part of healthy soil. They work the earth creating channels for water and air, and leave behind some very nutritious… er, “stuff”! Look at how hard worms work to help cycle life through our soil.
The Local Conservation Authorities Have Recognized Us For Our Ongoing Efforts improving land and water.
We do what we do for community and family health.
From growing vegetables that have complete proteins and enzymes, to clean water and healthy soils, our methods promote public health. Access to good nutritious food is an increasing problem for many Americans, and we aim to that change that.
We Need More Sustainable, Soil-Centric Farms.
This charming dairy farmer in the U.K. explains how biological farming has impacted his soil health and the health of his cows! You’ll notice he doesn’t go into complicated scientific explanations. To him the benefits are obvious, and they are to us as well. This is why we listen to the soil and nature around us rather than telling it what to do.
Risks and challenges
Risks to our project are about the same as any farmer would face. Weather events are getting more destructive. Decreasing habitats for birds and bees statewide has serious negative repurcussions for our food security.
Our methods, if adopted widely across the agricultural sector, would work to counter effects of climate change, habitat loss and erosion. Healthy topsoil means less runoff of minerals and nutrients to the Mississippi delta basin. It also means that water holds in the soil longer, so farms would start to drastically reduce their water use over time. Farming the Bluebird way also cleans the groundwater naturally, which is why after decades of conservation efforts we now have our entire farm clean water certified!
Our dedication to protecting wildlife on the farm can be seen in the soil, and tasted in the rich complexity of our produce, but one or two farms doing this is not enough. We have to take things further if we want to see real progress made towards improving access to good food for everyone. This is why we are starting plans on the Bluebird Institute of Sustainable Agriculture which would purchase and utilize additional farmland for academic experimentation (studies on cover crop rotations to benefit soil biology, native plants and grasses for fostering more wildlife habitat, the establishment of wetland oases), developing a first-in-the-region year-round indoor growing facility and many more exciting endevours connected to improving health -restoring our land and water are all on our agenda.
What investment means to the farm:
If we raise $1 million we will be able to upgrade our washing and packing facilities, which will help us secure high volume production and ensure safety on the job. Better staff housing is needed as well as a loading dock and upgrades to our cold storage to keep our higher volumes of produce cold and fresh.
If a miracle happens and we raise the full $3 million needed we will be able to make all needed upgrades as well as secure total ownership of two fields while restructuring our existing debt. This helps us lower our costs, secure our land, and sets the stage for all of our long term goals. This would truly be a victory for sustainable farming and a catalyst for change to come.