Sourcewell Grant/Brakstad Farms “Farm to Table initiative” for Lakes Area Food Shelf
Farm to Food Shelf
Partnership with Lakes Area Food Shelf Delivers Nutrient Rich Produce
Robyn and Lance Bragstad are a couple so much in sync, they finish each other’s sentences. The two own and operate Brakstad Farms in Pequot Lakes, both a second career and a lifestyle. They’ve transformed the dairy farm, once owned by Lance’s grandparents, into a major regional provider of nutrient rich fresh produce. Though, things didn’t start out that way.
“It was a hobby in the beginning,” Robyn explained during a tour of their facility. “But, it’s turned into something much more. It's more of a mission to share what we have learned with others to create a sustainable lifestyle.”
Their “mission” is built on sustainable farming methods including a technique called hydroponic, used to grow lettuce. Inside one of Brakstad’s three Quonset-hut-shaped “high tunnels,” lettuce grows in water, constantly monitored to ensure the natural balance of nutrients is maintained. Nothing is wasted. In other high tunnels, tomatoes, and cucumbers grow in soil with irrigation. This isn’t factory farming.
“Our soil is kept alive, not devastated by chemicals,” Lance says, holding up a plant’s roots. “Healthy soil, like a healthy body, can ward off attacks from insects and disease.”
Brakstad Farms - the “k” is the Norwegian spelling of the Bragstad name - delivers a priority commodity for the Lakes Area Food Shelf. Other partners in the pilot program include Pine River Area Food Shelf and the Pine River/BackusCommUnity Meal Program. Through the “Farm To Food Shelf Program,” funded by a $50,500 grant from Sourcewell, Brakstad provides high quality vegetables for low income families. It is a much needed service filling the objectives of Sourcewell, a Minnesota government cooperative helping communities solve problems. Lack of produce for those who use food shelves is one of those issues.
A report from Feeding America – which studies solutions to hunger around the country — says, “Fresh produce provides a tremendous opportunity to both feed people facing hunger and also offer nutrient-rich foods that can improve health outcomes. What’s more, people struggling with hunger are often at higher risk for nutritIon-related illnesses.”
“The Sourcewell grant allows us to provide the highest nutrition possible to friends and neighbors, to keep children healthy and help avoid disease including diabetes” said LAFS Director Kathy Adams. “It makes a difference in meeting the high costs of food.”
Robyn and Lance worked with LAFS and other area food shelves long before the grant came along by donatIng produce on a regular basis. Their relationship includes experimenting with other ways to end hunger. This past fall when Brakstad needed help harvesting, some LAFS clients volunteered to help, and were able to keep produce they picked at no cost. This community-based approach is part of Lance’s bigger vision for American agriculture: more small acreage farms that, in theory, can feed the world.
“Look at the bigger picture of shipping everything in from California,” he reasons, looking out over his 320 acres. “If you had more of these farms, and we had more local, it would be back to the old fashioned way.”
Visions aside, Robyn takes pride that Brakstad can help one small part of Minnesota. “It's nice for any of the food shelves in the area to be able to find a local grower willing to share with them,” she explains.
We at LAFS couldn’t agree more. Thanks Robyn and Lance!
Photo Credits: Mark Casey for Lakes Area Food Shelf