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Articles written by John Hatcher

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  • Birding bonanza is a delight

    John Hatcher|May 24, 2024

    For birding enthusiasts, it's hard to beat May in northern Minnesota. There was a day last week that we'll remember for a long time. Often, we plan an extended trip to go explore and look for birds in May, but we're just too busy this year. So, instead, we stayed close to home. And it was amazing. We decided to see what would happen if we looked for different species of birds all within a 15-mile radius of the farm here near Barnum. We awoke at dawn to a slight drizzle, but put on our rain gear... Full story

  • On The Farm: Seasons end, but not the chores

    John Hatcher|Oct 27, 2023

    It’s fitting that on Sunday morning the sun rose at nearly the same place in the sky and at nearly the same time as it did the day we started this farm season back on April 1. That’s the day Heather-Marie trudged across the snow and turned on the heater in the greenhouse to start the first round of seeds for this growing season. They would be planted in our field and eventually feed our 45 CSA members and our farmstand customers. And now they’ll feed us throughout the winter that’s about t...

  • On The Farm: Farming life has its turns

    John Hatcher|Jun 23, 2023

    Farming teaches you that nothing stays the same. Everything is in flux. In early spring in Minnesota (meaning it's still winter), we look for any signs that spring might be coming. As the bird migration begins, we keep a list of the different warblers and other migrating birds passing through our farm. As the days grow warmer, we welcome the return of the birds who spend the summer nesting and raising young at the farm: the tree swallows occupy the nesting boxes along our fence; the bobolinks... Full story

  • Can small-scale farming save rural America?

    John Hatcher|Feb 24, 2023

    The snow began just outside of Madison, Wisconsin. We had been driving north for days, watching the landscape change from green to brown until the world looked like an old black and white photo. And then it was as though we entered a snowglobe. The landscape was blanketed in white. Ahead, a string of brakelights snaked around the curve. The road was encrusted in ice. There had been a crash, and the interstate was closed in both directions. We took a detour that wound through hilly Wisconsin farm...

  • On The Farm: Patience is this year's test

    John Hatcher|Apr 29, 2022

    On Sunday, we took a day off. There are a million things we could do; we should do. But we've also learned how important rest is. A day to recharge and reflect. Ok, to be fair, we're trying to learn. Eliot Coleman writes, in his "The New Organic Grower" book: "There is a strong temptation when starting out in farming ... to try to do it all right now ... Rest and reflection not only heal the body but help provide insight into how to get more accomplished with less work in the future so the same... Full story

  • Feeling grateful - and sad

    John Hatcher|Mar 19, 2021

    I've read and listened to a lot of stories in the past week about "the moment" when people realized that the global pandemic was going to change their lives as they knew it. While we'd been living with the impact of the crisis for months, for me, everything changed within minutes after the group photo at right was taken a year ago. I had just finished up another workshop at the University of Social Sciences and Humanities in Ho Chi Minh City, where I was working as a visiting professor through...

  • Lands: Past is prologue in new farm formation

    John Hatcher|Feb 26, 2021

    With our farm's first growing season fast approaching, a century-old picture on the living room wall inspires us. The image is cloudy and faded at the edges. The faces of the people are blurry. We don't know a lot about the photo except that it's from about 1915 and that two of the people are Ed and Abigail Simpson, who first homesteaded the farm in 1906. The image shows a family and all of their livestock: A team of tall, white horses; five cows and a flock of chickens pecking away in the... Full story

  • We share in calling this place our home

    John Hatcher|Feb 19, 2021

    In June of 2020, we turned off County Road 6, just east of Barnum, and onto the gravel driveway at the Johnson family farm. It may be our new home, but it will always be the Johnson farm. We had just come from Moose Lake, where we had signed the closing papers. Ed Johnson had handed us several large sets of keys. We still aren't sure what some of those keys open. We parked, got out of the car and started to walk. Nothing needed to be said. My fiancé, Heather-Marie Bloom, and I knew where we... Full story

  • Trying to put down roots in Carlton County

    John Hatcher|Apr 24, 2020

    It was the stand of white pines that sold us this spring. We turned off the gravel road, stepped out of the car and you could hear it: The wind whistling through the pine needles. We were home. Or, we thought we were. The 40-acre parcel of land was just down the road from Cromwell and near where we now rent a farm. It had most of the things we were looking for - decent land, a few outbuildings, and a large buffer of woods and wetland. My partner could run her vegetable farm from here and I...

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