From Your Farmer: November 2020

The empty boxes are piling up high in the back room, so Thanksgiving must be just around the corner!  Beginning mid-summer each year, we start saving empty boxes of all shapes and sizes to assist with turkey carryout during the Thanksgiving season. Because dressed turkeys tend to be heavy and awkwardly shaped, we give a lot of used boxes a second act as a handy carrying container.  The tall pile of boxes ready-for-action signals that Thanksgiving prep is in full swing around here. This is the time of year we’re all operating in high speed -- on the farm, at the market, and in our warehouse.  Our team is taking orders, loading shipments, and, of course, tending to turkeys each day.  Despite the curveballs 2020 has thrown at us, we are grateful for the opportunity to continue many of these usual Thanksgiving patterns here. And yet, we know so many things will feel very different this Thanksgiving season.  For [...]


From Your Farmer: September 2020

My Grandpa certainly wasn’t thinking about finding a good day-trip-destination community when he settled on our farm in the late 1930s.  He just wanted a good spot to grow turkeys, and who could have foreseen what an ideal destination Cannon Falls would become?  In that era, Highway 52 was a quiet two-lane road and Cannon Falls would have felt much further from the growing population base in the Twin Cities.  Today, with the help of 65 mile-per-hour speed limits and four-lane highways, our historic community along the Cannon River is less than an hour from both the Twin Cities and Rochester, and a perfect place for us to call home. I’ve been thinking about this a lot lately because this is typically the season of community planning for our Flavors of the Falls celebration and annual Ferndale Market Fall Open House, held on the same weekend.  Although these events won’t be held this year, autumn is still a terrific [...]


From Your Farmer: August 2020

It seems like everybody is pivoting these days.  New ways of communicating, working, and shopping have become the norm.  Even my beloved Minnesota Twins are only playing 60 games this season, although I hope they manage a few more in October!  As many of you know, we’ve done our best to adapt to the current realities at Ferndale Market too, launching curbside pickup and regional shipping, all while dealing with the loss of our college, school, and restaurant partners and the uncertainty that lies ahead. In the world of turkey farming, no day carries more significance than Thanksgiving, and there’s no easy pivot here because our Thanksgiving flocks are already running around the farm.  We’ve wrestled for months with how to best continue our traditions at Ferndale Market because they are central to our annual cycle and important to so many of our farm partners – from our pie maker to our gravy kitchen.  With that in mind, we’ve been busy building a [...]


From Your Farmer: July 2020

It’s mid-July and in any typical year that would mean we’d be busy with summer farm tours.  We’d have already hosted the annual Co-op Farm Tour and had an evening on the farm with the chefs and butchers that source our turkey.  Of course, this is no normal year.  Historically, these have been some of my favorite days each summer and I’m missing them tremendously. Thinking of farm tours reminded me that I wrote in March about how our birds move through our farm in their younger days. I owe you a conclusion to that cliffhanger about how our turkeys live once they’re on range. Each spring, when the age of our turkeys and our faith in a “real” spring weather forecast intersect, we chase our first flock to range and continue that pattern throughout the summer.  When we initially move our turkeys fully outdoors, there is a pattern of adjustment as they adapt to new shelters, feeders, and [...]


From Your Farmer: June 2020

Maybe it’s the busy season on our farm that hits each year around this time. More likely, it’s the result of the turbulence in our world and the frayed thinking that results.  Either way, I struggled to build a cohesive theme to share this month.  Instead, I want to share a couple of loosely connected thoughts to all that’s happened in the world of food and agriculture over the past few months. First, I’ve learned from my English instructor wife that words have real power.  As the pandemic escalated, our country began an informal discussion about who would go to work and who would work at home.  Farmers, meat processors, grocers, and food workers were deemed essential, and the public recognition felt powerful for the many people hidden behind the big brand name on a food package.  The “essential” status gave visibility and purpose to those who keep the country fed. All of this is a stark reminder of [...]


From Your Farmer: May 2020

In one of the final days before our world came to a virus-induced halt, I attended the funeral for Marlene Willis.  Marlene was our very first retail clerk at Ferndale Market, hired right before we opened our on-farm store in the fall of 2008.  Her hiring was purely a matter of dumb luck and good timing, as my mom happened to bump into Marlene and she expressed an interested in our store-to-be.  I called her up and offered her a job - no application or interview needed.  That’s how the best things work in a small community. We’d known Marlene and her history in local retail, owning the Hallmark store and working the front desk at the Cannon Falls Beacon newspaper. From the start, she was our biggest fan, even when we probably didn’t deserve the cheerleading.  We were total retail novices, but she encouraged us forward, making signage and teaching us how to better merchandise.  She told me [...]


From Your Farmer: April 2020

It’s both an honor and a challenge to be an “essential business” during the COVID-19 pandemic.  No doubt most farmers would gladly tell you they’ve always been essential, but the impacts we’ve felt here at Ferndale Market have pulled us in many new directions.  We’re in the food business from farm to table at Ferndale Market, so it’s been like riding a rollercoaster blindfolded as the situation turns each day. In our on-farm market, our team rallied incredibly fast to get us ready for curbside grocery pickup and local delivery.  We’re fully up and running with both, and I’m proud that we were able to quickly find ways to serve both customers and local food partners, all with social distancing in place.  The curbside and delivery options had been aspirational long-term goals for quite some time, but became a reality in less than two weeks with thoughtful work and hours of web programming.  Our frequent cleaning of all surfaces [...]


From Your Farmer: March 2020

I realized recently that we talk a lot about our baby turkeys (poults) and big birds on range, but not necessarily about the time in between those stages.  Although brooding (starting baby turkeys) and life outdoors are two of the high points (and definitely most labor intensive) on our farm, there is plenty that happens between those periods. I thought I’d share more about that process here. All of our turkeys begin their life in a brooder barn.  By the time they arrive on our farm, they’ve already put in an honest day’s work, pecking their way out of their egg at the hatchery, being sorted into boxes of 100, and then riding in a warm, comfy truck to the farm.  Our poults arrive within a day of hatching, and we place them in small groups, encircled by cardboard dividers to create rings, where they can easily find heat, feed, and water.  And they like the heat!  While we [...]


From Your Farmer: February 2020

I’m not used to winning awards.  I must be too old for the everybody-gets-a-trophy era, and my own abilities have rarely proven award winning.  In our family, our trophy heyday came over 80 years ago, when my great grandparents took turkeys to regional and national competitions to show their birds.  We have the trophies and platters to prove that my ancestors were true award-winners, but we’ve had a long dry spell since. This experience probably explains why I didn’t think to stick around for the awards ceremony at the Feast Festival in December.   So, you can imagine my surprise when I learned the next morning that Ferndale Market had been given the “Inspiring Social Benefit Award,” which recognizes a business model that incorporates community values and social benefit causes.  Needless to say, I was incredibly surprised and honored. I believe business can – and should – be a force for good.  Change can be spurred in many ways, and [...]


From Your Farmer: January 2020

What would you like to see from Ferndale Market in 2020? This is the question on our minds and in our discussions here as we start the New Year.  2019 was good year for us here.  We experienced some high-profile milestones, like the 80th anniversary of our farm’s founding and the chance to be at the state fair with Minnesota Cooks, while also making slow-but-steady progress on the unseen, daily projects that prepare us for the future – building more ranging shelters, planting new trees, and replacing worn fences. In 2019, we are proud to have launched our new Ground Turkey Breast and our Birchwood Café Turkey Burger.  In our on-farm market, we introduced our now-popular glass bottle milk from Crystal Ball Farms and re-introduced local favorite Thousand Hills Cattle Company grass-fed beef.  We also welcomed a number of new members to our team and somehow allowed a few to sneak off into the world of retirement.  We expanded [...]