Brown Family Farm was established in 2012 by owner Ben Brown, this upcoming 2018 season we will have about 15 tilled acres between the land we rent in Big Lake & Elk River. We sell our fresh produce, fruits & herbs mainly in CSA Shares but we also participate in one small local farmer’s market.
Ben learned farming skills and techniques from experience working for his neighbors’ farm as a kid. With almost 2 decades of experience & Horticulture classes from Central Lakes College, he is equipped for success.
As a family, we spend a lot of time together in the fields. Our kids are growing up fast and their interest in how we share our harvest makes farming for our neighbors & community even more rewarding.
(Farmer Ben with wife Jodi, William, Karli & Kelsi).
Our Farm Practices
Simple is better.
- We do not grow any GMO (Genetically Modified Organisms).
- We use many sustainable farming practices to limit the need for any product applications.
- We do not use any Herbicides.
- We have planned a crop rotation to maximize the production & harvest of our produce, while reducing the risk of disease transfer by using considerations of what crops we grow near each other in the fields, what was planted there in previous years, soil types, drainage, organic matter content, etc.
- We use all natural composted manure to supplement the nutrients in our fields.
- We use drip-tape irrigation to conserve water.
- We care about the safety and quality of your food, just as we do for our own family!
We offer complete transparency. If you have a question, just ask us!
We are in Big Lake, MN on the southern edge of Sherburne County. The soil in Big Lake is more like sand, there are not a lot of nutrients in it. Since we know that we need to supplement the nutrients annually in the fields, we plant Rye in the fall. This is commonly called a “Cover Crop”. When the Rye comes up in the spring, we will till it back under and as it decomposes it naturally leaves nutrients that are easily taken up by the produce that we grow. This is a natural source of the nutrients found in fertilizer. We also use composted horse and cow manure to spread into the fields. Using several trailer-loads full of composted manure in a field does wonders for plant health.
We do not use herbicides. We weed by hand or weed with a hoe. This is a very important maintenance task in the field and is important to keeping good root structure in our plants. Even though we recognize how much time this takes to hoe an entire field, we feel that we are willing to put in the extra time because it is important to keep things as natural as possible.
Black Mulch is a thin plastic that lays the length of the field in rows. Black mulch is beneficial because it warms up the soil increasing plant growth early in the Spring, it can help insulate from late frosts, reduces top soil drifting, and it keeps the weeds down so well eliminating the need for product application. Black mulch is a common technique used by Organic farms. We are not Organic, but we will use sustainable farming methods whenever we can.
We only use black mulch with a few varieties, vining crops like melons or squash are a great example. Watermelons send shoots out in every direction which makes it very difficult to use a hoe without damaging a few vines. Using Black mulch eliminates the need for hoeing at all, and it gives the melons extra heat in the Spring which results in more blooms and more melons!
We use as many natural methods in our fields as possible, but we would use a pesticide if we were at risk of losing a whole crop. Many people don’t know that there are organic pesticides, they are naturally occurring chemicals in nature that can be applied to plants eliminating the pest problem while not harming the produce. We use several Certified Organic pesticides but we are not certified organic.
Crop rotation is one of the easiest sustainable farming techniques. Ben has a map of what produce was planted in which field, every season. With Crop Rotation we can plan our fields accordingly to help eliminate disease transfer while using the nutrients in the field strategically. Some varieties of produce and fruit use larger amounts of certain nutrients like Phosphorous, Nitrogen & Potassium than others so it can be strategic to plant one variety (needing a higher nutrient quantity) after a previous variety was planted in the same location (that used less of that certain nutrient). Crop Rotation also helps deter pests, especially boring insects.
We use Drip Tape Irrigation instead of overhead watering systems because it conserves water and energy. Drip tape irrigation is a basically a thin plastic hose that runs the length of the rows, it has small pin-prick holes every 6 inches and waters the plants slowly allowing more water to go to the roots reducing run-off. Another perk to drip tape is that the water doesn’t reach the weeds in the center of the rows, which allows for more time between hoeings.
The picture to the left shows purple cauliflower and broccoli with the drip tape lines on the right side of each row.
Certifications and Associations
We are Minnesota Grown Certified.
We have contributed to the program for many years and are active members. Through our CSA Share program, we helped to create a bridge for MN Breweries who use local ingredients to be MN Grown certified! We also helped encourage expansion of their online CSA Pick-up Site search engine. We are so happy to see this resource continue to develop and grow, as it benefits everyone in the community.
We are members of the East Central Chapter of the Sustainable Farming Association.
Participating in the SFA is a pleasure as they provide many farmer education opportunities surrounding soil health, post-harvest practices and many specialty workshops. We will be attending the SFA Annual conference in February 2018, pictures to come soon.
We are donating partners to the Minnesota Department of Agriculture program called “Farm to Food shelf”, working with Second Harvest Heartland.
We also work with our local Big Lake Food Shelf.
We donate produce to the Food Shelf all season long. When CSA Share members are out of town, they have the option of donating their share directly to the food shelf that week. We delivered 27 CSA Shares to the food shelf in the 2017 season in addition to our usual amount of surplus produce.