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Wrenshall news: Farmers cool their carrots


November 1, 2019

Ellis Dugan lounges in a Food Farm carrot field.

Dave Hanlon was succinct. "Its just a stupid amount of carrots." That's how Hanlon, from the Food Farm in Wrenshall, describes our record-breaking harvest this fall. In the last two weeks we've pulled more than 75,000 pounds of carrots out of the ground, all despite what farmer Janaki Fisher-Merritt describes as "challenging conditions." A dry summer sandwiched between a wet spring and fall made for difficult harvest weather. But the outcome was by far the best we've ever experienced for the orange tuber. Last year we had 80 bins of carrots, this year we have 120. I plugged the numbers into a caterer calculator and it came out to 772,500 portions – enough for 21 servings for every person in Carlton County.

Considering the rations we've got ahead of us, I asked the farm crew about their favorite way to eat carrots. Patricia Clure suggested that carrot salad is both easy and tasty. She shreds the carrot and then mixes it with toasted mustard seeds and a little bit of lemon juice. Truman Dugan said carrot muffins, while Janaki cuts out cooking entirely and just grabs them straight. "They make for really good car food; they help me stay awake."

The large harvest had me wondering about what other vegetable farmers in Wrenshall experienced this year. Rick Dalen of Northern Harvest farm just built a new cooler space this summer to handle larger pallets of vegetables – good timing, with the cabbage, carrots, beets and onions he was able to get out of the ground. "We've totally outgrown our space; I'm storing things in the garage as I make room for all the pallets of cabbage we have." He plans to deliver vegetables to members and wholesale accounts in Duluth through at least February.

Dalen, who takes over cooking the family meals starting mid-November, said the first part of any recipe in the Northland is cutting up an onion and shredding a carrot. By the time he is finished with this initial task, he usually has a plan for dinner. "You can use shredded carrots in coleslaw, salad, enchiladas, stir fry, pretty much anything. They go great in tacos."

At Stone's Throw Farm, Catherine Conover grew purple and orange cauliflower for the first time this year. "My customers seemed to enjoy it, and they're just so pretty. I don't do a big fall harvest, just enough to fill 30 or so Thanksgiving shares, which is a one-time distribution in mid-November, so I've got it all in (squash, pumpkins, potatoes, carrots, onions) except the Brussels sprouts."

Adam Kemp runs Uffda Organics. When I asked what he was most proud of this growing season, he had an answer other than carrots: "It was a good spinach season for me. I did a better job than normal with the summer plantings and managed to make a delivery each week. I wouldn't say I'm proud of my production yet, but it's getting there. I trialed a bunch of new varieties and learned a lot about seed priming. That's really where the joy is for me in farming, observing, learning something new and hopefully improving each year."

I would add that eating is my favorite part of farming, and given this year's harvest, we're going to be doing a lot of it, especially carrots.

If you have a Wrenshall specific story you would like to share, reach me at [email protected] or 218-310-4703


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