Young farmers join local movementWINDSOR, N.D. — Hannah Sargent and Jonathon Moser didn’t intend to be farmers. In January 2013, the young couple traveled to the Land Down Under to work at Captain’s Creek Organic Farm, a 200-acre organic vegetable farm an hour north of Melbourne, Victoria. They managed the farm’s community-supported agriculture operation and learned how to milk goats.
By: Anna G. Larson, Forum News Service
WINDSOR, N.D. — Hannah Sargent and Jonathon Moser didn’t intend to be farmers.
Two years ago, they had office jobs, lived in downtown Fargo, N.D., and ate sushi on a regular basis.
But clean hands weren’t satisfying, especially after they’d worked on an organic farm in Australia.
In January 2013, the young couple traveled to the Land Down Under to work at Captain’s Creek Organic Farm, a 200-acre organic vegetable farm an hour north of Melbourne, Victoria. They managed the farm’s community-supported agriculture operation and learned how to milk goats.
When they returned to North Dakota in June 2013, they knew they wanted to be vegetable farmers and raise goats for milk.
Moser, 28, and Sargent, 24, founded Forager Farm last summer in hopes of “reviving the food culture” in North Dakota.
Farmers ages 25 to 34 make up 5 percent of the farmers in the U.S., according to the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s 2012 Census of Agriculture. In North Dakota, they make up 8 percent of total farmers.
“The food culture now is fast food, processed food, having no clue where your food comes from or not caring where your food comes from,” Sargent says. “In a nutshell, reviving the food culture is wanting people to have a connection with their food and their farmers.”
Starting in late June, Forager Farm will offer vegetable farm shares for the first time.
“We like to say farm share because CSA is such a broad term. It stands for community-supported agriculture, which could mean many things,” Moser says.
The vegetables, fruit and herbs that’ll pack farm-share bags are grown on the seven acres of land Moser and Sargent rent from friends here, an hour and a half from Fargo. Half an acre is devoted to growing produce for North Dakota’s Farm to School program, which provides locally grown food to school cafeterias. Forager Farms’ produce will benefit Jamestown Public Schools.
Seeds are planted for spinach, radishes, lettuce, celery, early broccoli and onion, among other vegetables. Next up are members of the nightshade family, such as tomatoes, eggplant and peppers.
“The food is a lot better in terms of taste and nutrition, whether it’s from us or not, than the fast food, processed food and peppers that come from Mexico,” Sargent says.
Lauren Trefethren, one of Sargent’s longtime friends, is anxious to receive her first farm share this summer.
“We often become so removed from the origins of our food that we forget it is the very thing that fuels and sustains us,” the Fargo woman says. “Food is meant to be such a personal, intimate thing. If there is an option to get veggies from an ambitious, local young couple who genuinely care about the food they grow and the people they grow for, why not take advantage of that?”
A grant-loan from the Foundation for Agricultural and Rural Resource Management and Sustainability, a nonprofit based in Medina, helped Forager Farm plant its roots. People who purchase farm shares for the summer sustain the farm financially.
A ‘fulfilling’ life
Sargent and Moser, who are getting married in August, live in a small building on the farm that’s attached to a greenhouse. Their friends who own the land live in an earthen home on the other side of the greenhouse.
“Sometimes it feels like I live in a barn or something,” Sargent says.
The couple added flooring to their bedroom and renovated the rest of the space so it’s livable. Their heat source is a wood-burning stove, and they also have high-speed Internet, a television and a computer. They eat what they grow and preserve vegetables for the colder months.
“We’re trying to live a life that’s more fulfilling for us. That’s something I feel is easier to do out here,” Sargent says. “Being in a town, you so quickly want to buy stuff or go out to eat, or all these things that I don’t even think about when I’m not in Fargo.”
Sargent, a Hazen native, graduated from Minnesota State University Moorhead and only recently quit her job in Fargo to live in Windsor full time.
“I was living the marketing lifestyle,” she says. “I don’t know what possessed me to follow him to Australia.”
Moser, who’s from Streeter, grew up on a calving ranch and first worked on the Australian farm from 2010 to 2011. He realized accounting was not his passion and wanted to pursue organic farming.
Farm life suits him well, although Moser has his own way of doing things.
“I’m the opposite of a normal farmer,” he says. “I like to wake up at 7 a.m. and work until midnight.”
Eventually, Moser and Sargent would like to sell homemade breads and cheeses, in addition to growing the farm-share operation. Sargent estimates it could happen in five years, but will probably take longer.
For now, the young farmers are happily adjusting to their rural lifestyle and look forward to their first year of providing organic food to North Dakota. Moser says the farm only lacks one thing — sushi.
“Once I learn how to make sushi, I’ll never leave this place at all,” he says. “Well, except to deliver vegetables.”