SF Adapt: How One Couple Started a Small Farm With Limited Resources
By Katie Honnette
For Josh and Sally Reinitz, the farm-to-table movement is deeply rooted. Josh grew up on a Minnesota dairy farm that fell victim to the 1980s farm debt crisis. His parents kept their house and 40 acres, but they sold the rest of the farm. “I saw the oak trees in our dairy cow pasture being bulldozed,” Josh says. “Because of that, I was pretty jaded with farming.”
Sally grew up in the Twin Cities and met Josh when he was in college. Although their backgrounds differed, they both wanted to raise a family in the country. While working in the corporate world, Josh had what he calls a quarter-life crisis. “I wondered what I was doing with my life. I couldn’t stay in the city anymore, and I finally said, ‘I’m going home.’”
The couple moved back to Henderson, Minnesota, built a house, and started farming the land adjoining Josh’s childhood home, using antique farm equipment and salvaged lumber.
In 2008, they established the East Henderson Farm and began selling organic vegetables through a CSA. Customers buy a membership, paying up front for 18 weeks of produce that they pick up at the farm throughout the growing season. The initial payment helps Josh and Sally pay for seed, fertilizer, and tools, but it carries risk.
“If there was a tornado and we lost everything, our members would lose everything,” says Josh. “On the other hand, if we get a bumper crop, they do too. They get a share of everything we grow.”
East Henderson Farm was certified organic in 2010.
“We have an appreciation for the natural world and ecology. That’s why we’ve chosen to pursue organic certification,” says Josh. “It’s a system that produces food in harmony with nature.”
Josh and Sally are do-it-yourself types, with sunburned shoulders and muddy knees from working in the field. Although they hire a few people part time, Josh and Sally do most work themselves.
Every week during the growing season, members visit the farm on pick-up day. Josh and Sally arrange fresh vegetables in overflowing baskets, and a chalkboard tells members how much produce to collect. Members walk through the building selecting their share for that week, such as 10 cucumbers, 20 tomatoes, and five onions.
Farm expansion will only come if it fits the family, says Sally. “We want to have a happy family life first and foremost.” Their three sons – Henry, 10, Miles, 7, and Sam, 3 – often help weed and harvest.
“The driving force for me is my kids,” says Josh. “I want to pass along my country skills to them. Growing up in the country demands common sense. It helps develop physical and mechanical ability. I’d like to teach the boys about hunting and fishing, and how to fix a car and drive a tractor.”
Josh and Sally plan to diversify by adding meat, fruit, and honey.
In the meantime, they take pride in making a sustainable and healthy living, honoring history, and respecting ecology.
Ag diversification adds profit today (ADAPT). Here are a few farmers who take advantage of consumer trends. Steal an idea or two: