David checks some of the first lettuce growing at the Wolf Ridge Organic Farm
The following is an interview between David Abazs, Farmer of Round River and Wolf Ridge Organic Farm Director in Finland,MN, and Mary Beth Factor, Naturalist at Wolf Ridge Environmental Learning Center.
MBF: What was your original connection to Wolf Ridge?
DA: We heard banging in the woods a couple of miles away from our property and we walked through the woods to find Wolf Ridge. Wolf Ridge was in the process of being built and we said, “Oh my gosh! This is huge! What is going on?” We met Jack Pichotta – the Executive Director of Wolf Ridge at the time – and we got internships the first winter from 1988 to 1989.
Back at our property, we were in the process of establishing our farm – Round River. The name Round River Farm is from Aldo Leopold’s journal Round River. It’s a name to remind us to try to build as many cycles or circles into our system as opposed to linear or non sustainable methods.
MBF: What is your vision for the Wolf Ridge Farm? Do you want the Wolf Ridge Farm to mirror your success at Round River?
DA: Hmm…not really. Wolf Ridge’s vision that’s been created over the years with various naturalists and staff is to create a farm that feeds all the students, parents, and teachers that come year round. Our other goals are to be cutting-edge with farming methods and to be organic, so that we are not depleting the earth in the process of producing food for everyone. Ideally it will be powered by solar or wind to help fulfill the mission of Wolf Ridge playing a stewardship role.
MBF: You envision fulfilling the mission of Wolf Ridge while establishing the Wolf Ridge Farm. Are you also going to develop a curriculum that supports that?
DA: Yes. A curriculum is underway and we are in the process of brainstorming. We’re looking at a 3 class curriculum to start which would basically be a 101 on farming. Most people are quite illiterate with food production. The first class focuses on harvesting, cleaning, and preparing vegetables to put on a pizza for lunch. The group pizza will be cooked in the oven – so the whole time the class is down at the farm is part of the education – right down to the food they would be consuming. Initially we’re looking at a curriculum called Plants and Pollination as a focus for the afternoon class. They will learn the process of how plants work – how they grow, how they get pollinated, and all the different issues around pollinators. Further in the future, afternoon classes may focus on soil production and management or livestock management.
MBF: What’s your vision for the farm a year from now?
DA: I imagine a year from now, we’ll be developing our curriculum for schools. We’ll really learn a lot in the early trials. It will still be in the early stages, but a year from now it will begin to look like a farm. We will also be working on the second of two greenhouses and trying to finish them up. There will be some fields cleared, the greenhouses will be going up, and there will be a real production happening in a limited fashion. We’ll also have more farm food in the dining hall. Two years from now, we’ll be that much farther and have more classes in the summer program. My hope is we’ll add a two-week summer camp on farm and food.
Wolf Ridge is participating in the by purchasing food from local farmers. We anticipate the day visiting schools pick and eat their own vegetables from the Wolf Ridge Organic Farm. In addition we look forward to the sense of community students will build as they share their harvest – an idea imagined by David when he was only seven.