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Wrenshall News: Farmers get energized


March 6, 2020

Annie Dugan

Wrenshall farmers at the MOSES organic farming conference in Lacrosse, Wisconsin, included three generations of farmers from the writer's family, from left, John Fisher-Merritt, Janaki Fisher-Merritt and Truman Dugan, age 5.

Wrenshall had a strong showing this past weekend at the country's largest organic farming conference held in Lacrosse, Wisconsin. Rick Dalen and Clara Salveson of Northern Harvest Farm, Jason Amundson of Farm LoLa, and practically the whole family from our Food Farm attended the conference.

My husband and I both felt it was the power of being part of a group of folks who are dealing with similar challenges and successes. It's energizing hearing what other people are growing and how they are doing it.

Rick Dalen agreed.

"It gets you fired up for the farming season," he said. Dalen went down to Lacrosse early for the "organic university" and attended an all-day session on apple growing. "There was a lot of really good information, everything from pest management to marketing to ideas on training and trellising." He also felt the specific information on agricultural handling practices and the food modernization act were important as Northern Harvest Farm builds a new pack shed.

"We want to figure out how to put good systems in place and make them part of our routine," he said.

My mom, Betsy Dugan, said it was "encouraging to see so many young farmers enthusiastic about growing healthy food while building more fertility in the soil, using forested land for silvopasture, and embracing the idea of diversified small family farming and indigenous food."

Take it from Dad

My dad, Sandy Dugan, wrote up his own summary: Millennials of all races, ethnicities and socioeconomic backgrounds drive the organic food movement. That was clear to the dozen Carlton County farmers who attended the nation's largest organic conference. Three thousand agricultural producers, dealers, equipment manufacturers, educators, researchers and advocates gathered for three days to power up before the 2020 growing season. Looking over the crowd gathered at two plenary sessions, one could see a few greybeards in plaid shirts and overalls, but it was the 20- to 35-year-old women and men of various backgrounds who packed the hall while their kids played in daycare.

Millennials, the country's most powerful consumer group, align their buying choices with values that organic farmers bring to their vocation.

The conference goes back to 1990 when 90 upper Midwest farmers, including Wrenshall's John Fisher-Merritt, gathered to discuss and promote organic farming methods. What was then a way of life and a still inchoate movement shared by many around the world, became a standard with strict regulation and drew a wide following in the marketplace. Large corporations saw the demand and co-opted the label "organic." They industrialized production and pushed for reduced regulation to the point that today serious producers seek certification as "Real Organic" growers.

The Carlton County contingent learned about how to grow greens in midwinter, all kinds of production systems, soil health and human health, leadership and community, pest control, silvopasture and agroforestry, wild food foraging, adapting to climate change, food justice.

While many in the group are familiar faces from years past, three new participants are from the Ashi-niswi Giizisoog (Thirteen Moons) program of the Fond du Lac Band of Lake Superior Chippewa.

The lively keynote speeches focused on food sovereignty and people- centered farming.

The MOSES organic farming conference marks the beginning of the farming season for many growers in the region. If you are interested in being part of one of Wrenshall's CSAs find out more information or sign up at: or

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