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Published March 08, 2010, 12:00 AM

Wrenshall farmers win award for sustainable practices

Food Farm’s fresh organic vegetables, grown by John, Jane and Janaki Fisher-Merritt of Wrenshall, are already well-known around Carlton County and the Duluth area.

By: Lisa Baumann, lbaumann@pinejournal.com

Food Farm’s fresh organic vegetables, grown by John, Jane and Janaki Fisher-Merritt of Wrenshall, are already well-known around Carlton County and the Duluth area.

Thanks to their “outstanding farming practices,” some 2,700 organic farmers around the world are now aware of them too.

Last week, John, Jane and Janaki Fisher-Merritt were presented with the 2010 Midwest Organic and Sustainable Education Service (MOSES) Organic Farmer of the Year award during the annual MOSES Organic Farming Conference in La Crosse, Wis. Now in its 21st year, it’s the largest organic farming conference in the nation with attendees from as far away as Armenia, Thailand, Austria and South Korea.

The award, handed out since 2003, is given to organic farmers who practice outstanding land stewardship, innovation and outreach.

The Fisher-Merritts say they approach their farm as a living organism, and manage their soil so it can be farmed forever. Diversity of production includes grazing poultry as part of the system to improve soil, lessen weeds and manage insect populations.

In 2000, the Fisher-Merritts designed and built an innovative energy efficient “root

cellar/cooler.” It has enough storage to supply root crops to their Community Supported Agriculture, or CSA, members and retail stores in Duluth throughout the winter. This root cellar uses the natural cooling/heating capacity of the Earth. A series of fans thermostatically bring in or limit outside air to control a variety of air temperatures for different crops, including the many tons of carrots, potatoes and squash. For an entire year, this large storage area uses less than $200 in electricity.

“We’re a community-supported farm that is more diversified than most CSA farms,” said John Fisher-Merritt. “Our first delivery year was 1994, and when we started in northern Minnesota, people had never heard of the idea, so it was a novel idea, but people quickly took to it.”

The Fisher-Merritts, including Janaki’s wife, Annie Dugan, are also well-known for the Free Range Film Festival, which takes place annually in a family barn.

MOSES is a nonprofit organization working to promote sustainable and organic agriculture through trainings, workshops, educational initiatives, and by providing free resources to farmers striving to produce high-quality, healthful food using organic and sustainable techniques.

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