St. Olaf College alumna Rebecca Carlson’s passion for growing started when she was just a seedling herself on the college’s campus in Northfield, MN.
It blossomed over the course of her junior and senior years — literally — when she started her small-scale farm.
Ten years later, Becca’s Farm to Fork-registered Seeds Farm sells more than 300,000 pounds of produce in a season, much of it to the Bon Appétit team at St. Olaf!
Bon Appétit Fellow Lily Gross recently joined Rebecca, St. Olaf Assistant Professor Kiara Jorgenson, and students from Professor Jorgenson’s Environmental Conversations program for a special tour of the grounds. Rebecca started out by explaining that she plants cover crops to help improve the health of the soil, increase biodiversity, and reduce excess water usage. Every season she tries to leave the soil in better condition than before.
As her dog Sprout tailed the group, Rebecca also opened up about the unique challenges of growing in Minnesota. The fast-changing seasons and harsh winter climate mean that she and her team often need to work fast and harvest crops earlier than planned. They’ve been successful in growing crops inside their greenhouse during the winter and transplanting them in the spring to get a head start on the short season.
Throughout the visit, students peppered Rebecca with questions, from “how does drip tape work?” to “what do you do to protect crops from potato bugs?” They got to sample fresh carrots and marvel at how crisp and sweet they were compared to store bought. They learned how early frost can trigger a reaction in some root vegetables that converts starches to sugars (which is why some restaurants specifically request frost-sweetened carrots).
They later split into two groups: one helped Rebecca’s seasonal workers plant garlic and the other harvested and boxed kale for storage. Rebecca thanked the group afterward, saying that without their help, Seeds Farm might not have been able to pack up all the kale before the frost.