Partner of the Month

PARTNER OF THE MONTH: Josephson’s Sweet Corn

The staggered plantings rise up to the horizon. The shortest row is Steve's hopes to extend the sweet corn season. It will mature right as the cold weather hits, but, if the temperatures agree, it will mean a couple more days of sweet corn for Josephson's customers. In the field neighboring Steve and Sue Josephson’s house, rows of sweet corn rise in steps away from the bordering county road. The closest stalks are no higher than mid-calf while the far rows have bulging ears that will be harvested in two days time. “Each planting lasts 5 to 7 days and then we move to a new planting,” explains Steve. This staggered planting of their five different sweet corn varieties keeps the corn supply steady from mid-July until the first frost. Each variety matures at a different time, allowing them to make the most of the sweet corn season. Pollen sheds from the tassels of this sweet corn stalk. [...]



For Bob Draheim, owner of Busy Bee Honey Farm in Cannon Falls, MN, bees began as a accessory to his farm in Byron, MN about 20 years ago. “We had a pick-your-own strawberry, pick-your-own raspberry farm… We needed the bees to pollinate raspberries, so I bought two hives of bees,” Bob recalls, “We had such a good raspberry crop that one year, the second year we started with the bees, and we were like, “God, we got to get more bees!” Eventually Bob sold the berry farm to move closer for his job as a rural mail carrier in Apple Valley. “I had a couple times in January that I couldn’t make it up County Road 5, south of Pine Island. I got stuck and I said nope, this is enough. So we sold the place and moved up here,” Bob remembers. “Got out of the raspberry, strawberry business. Kept the bee business.” He has been cultivating these little pollinators [...]



The long rows of green beans in Sno Pac's fields near Caledonia, MN Most CEOs would feel out of place in a farm field, but not Pete Gengler. He is the fourth generation of his family to farm and freeze vegetables for Sno Pac Foods in Caledonia, MN and it is in a farm field that he feels most at home. “I started out picking strawberries when I was 5. I worked in the plant from then on. My brother did more the field stuff as far as harvesting and such, I ran the plant. Around the time we were 12-13 years old, we were in charge of crews at the plant. I don’t know when I took over. I guess probably about 25-30 years ago,” Pete laughs. “I never thought I would do anything different. This was my whole goal my whole life.” The first beginnings of Sno Pac’s organic frozen vegetables happened around 1900. Pete’s great [...]


PARTNER OF THE MONTH: Costas Candies and Restaurant

On many evenings, you can find Grant Schultz in the back of Costas Candies and Restaurant, patiently stirring a pot of bubbling caramel. For two to three hours he keeps vigilance over the hot confection until it is ready to pour onto a marble slab to cool for the night. Costas Candies and Restaurant has been a main stay in Owatonna, MN for almost a century, but the Schultz family is new to the candy kitchen. Grant had grown up in that community and when he married his wife, Julie, they served Costas candy at their wedding. “Never in our wildest dreams would we have thought this would be our future, but we are loving it,” smiles Julie. Three and a half years after that joyous occasion, they purchased the candy shop and restaurant in 2009 and have continued the location’s long tradition of handmade candies ever since. Candies are stacked neatly in Costas' candy case. Handmade candies have [...]


PARTNER OF THE MONTH: Ruhland’s Strudel Haus

Tom Ruhland was enticed, like many Midwesterners, with the promise of easy riches if he were to have a coveted food concession stand at the Minnesota State Fair. He began experimenting with puff pastry as a hobby while he worked as a teacher. “This was, quite honestly, kind of a side gig for me,” Tom recalls. “I used to paint houses in the summer time as additional income and I thought ‘I would rather be in the food business’ because I was always kind of a foodie. So I started playing around with puff pastry, which morphed into strudel.” Tom has German ancestry, but his grandma never passed her cooking knowledge down to him. His strudel recipe evolved from trial-and-error and uninhibited creativity. “On some of our t-shirts it says ‘soon to be an old family recipe’,” laughs Tom. Around 7 years after the experimenting began he had a successful Apple Strudel and Tom and his brother were ready to [...]


PARTNER OF THE MONTH: Spring Grove Soda Pop

Spring Grove makes nine flavors (Cream soda not pictured) and Ferndale is proud to carry them all. Rhuberry is their newest flavor combining the summer flavors of strawberry and rhubarb. When Bob and Dawn Hansen moved just outside the small town of Spring Grove, MN in 1983, the company Spring Grove Soda Pop was quickly approaching its 90th birthday. It would be another 20 years before they would purchase this local icon, but the soda had already made a strong impression on them. “Whenever we would come to town… to do our grocery shopping one of us would always grab a 6 pack of soda and take it home. We always had it with us. We just thought it was a really neat thing that they had their own soda pop,” remembers Bob. “We just loved it.” Spring Grove Soda Pop was started in 1895 by G.G. Ristey, who used cane sugar as a sweetener. The recipe for [...]



A local apiary drops by to install more bee boxes in the Open Hands bee colony. A dusty flatbed pickup rolls along the gravel driveway of Open Hands Farm and out past the fields of lush vegetable plants. The bright patchwork of bee boxes strapped securely to its bed will soon house the growing swarm of pollinators that work alongside Erin Johnson and Ben Doherty on their organic vegetable farm. Since 2006, this couple has been cultivating produce in the rolling hills of Northfield, MN. The first year they tended just a few acres of land they rented from a local landowner. Each year their fields have slowing expanded and now they own and manage over 30 acres. “We have been really fortunate to have land owners that were willing to work with us and take a chance on us at first,” says Ben Doherty. “I think that is definitely one of the difficult things for people who [...]


PARTNER OF THE MONTH: Lorence’s Berry Farm

  The Lorence Family (L to R: Gayle, Shawn, Jake, David, Susie, and Emily) standing next to one of their strawberry fields. As the warmth of June settles into the valleys around Northfield, the first strawberries at Lorence’s Berry Farm grow heavy on their leafy stems. The Lorences nurture fields of strawberries, asparagus, and fall raspberries just west of Castle Rock, MN. The asparagus has been pushing through the sandy soil since the beginning of May, one of the first harvests to signal that spring is upon us. “The first day we go to the farmer’s market, it is usually me,” reminisces Shawn Lorence, a 5th generation farmer that runs the Lorence Berry Farm with his wife Gayle and parents, David and Susie. “We pick a small amount [of asparagus] and take it up to St.­ Paul and just to watch how excited everyone is, coming up to your table, to see something green out of the ground, [...]


PARTNER OF THE MONTH: Prairie Pride Farm

In 1878, after immigrating across the Atlantic Ocean, the Hubmer family settled in the vast Minnesota prairie to begin farming. Ever since, the family has worked the land, stewards for each generation of children who would farm after them. Roger and Dawn started farming together in 1982, after their marriage. In 1998, they started Prairie Pride Farm. “Prairie Pride came about because of a passion for providing good, clean, healthy food for people who are looking for this,” states Dawn Hubmer. Prairie Pride produces pork and chicken that focuses on flavor, quality, nutrition, and sustainability. “My inspiration [for Prairie Pride] came from my concern about today’s lack of healthy food choices. Many children have no idea what good healthy food tastes like,” states Dawn. “We have always been farmers, but we put a name to it: Prairie Pride Farm.” Ferndale carries a wide range of Prairie Pride pork products, focusing on their line of delicious sausages. Whether a brat for [...]



In 1968, Ed and Mary Lorentz were visiting family in Chicago when they received the call that the Bremer Brother’s Meat Market in Ed’s hometown of Cannon Falls, MN was for sale.  Ed was working at an ammonia plant at the time, but he had experience as a meat cutter and a rich entrepreneurial spirit so he and Mary made the leap into owning their own business and started the Lorentz Meats and Deli. The business grew and flourished under their care, earning a reputation for high-quality meat, professional production, and an unyielding commitment to the local farmer. It was important to Ed that his company be a family affair so he encouraged his sons and extended family to take an active role in the company. In 1997, Ed and Mary passed the torch onto two of their sons, Rob and Mike. The brothers saw an opportunity for expansion and new means of reaching the local community by building a [...]