MOORHEAD, Minn. - Mark Askegaard always knows it's time to plant when the snow is out of the tree rows at Askegaard Organic Farm just 12 miles south of Moorhead, Minn.
"Things are shaping up pretty well," Askegaard said on April 25. He was optimistic he'd be in the field by May 4. A little warmth, sun and wind can change things in a hurry - if it doesn't rain.
Askegaard, 58, farms with his daughter, Beth McConnon, 27, who joined the enterprise full time in 2013. The two raise spring wheat, flaxseed and soybeans as cash crops and cover crops for soil health.
"This year we plan to do some interseeding of clovers in with our spring wheat," Askegaard says. "We also plan to do some strips in our soybean fields of pollinator crops to bring some beneficial insects to help with the pollination and to control the soybean aphids a little bit better."
Organic farmers Mark Askegaard (pronounced “ASK-eh-guard”), 58, and his daughter, Beth McConnon, 27, have used their time recently working on their grain drills and tractors and getting their RTK global positioning system in place. Photo taken April 25, 2018, rural Moorhead, Minn. (Forum News Service/Agweek/Mikkel Pates)
Like conventional farmers, the Askegaards work on preparing equipment in the spring and on sourcing their seed. But they also get an "organic system plan" to document their seed sourcing and equipment cleaning regimens, according to Organic Crop Improvement Association standards. Most of the farm is organic, except for one "transitional" field that is in year two of a three-year transitional program. Among other things, organic farmers can't use synthetic fertilizers, pesticides or genetically-modified seed. They'll make a one-pass tillage program before they plant spring wheat.
This year they're planting a University of Minnesota soybean variety - MN0702CN - a conventional bean that has cyst nematode tolerance and can be used in the organic market. Most of their beans are used as soy milk or in the food industry for tofu or edamame.
Organic farmers Mark Askegaard (pronounced “ASK-eh-guard”), 58, and his daughter, Beth McConnon, 27, are finishing installing a new mill and automatic weigh-scale for organic flaxseed, which they market locally. A Minnesota state grant paid 25 percent of the costs. Photo taken April 25, 2018, rural Moorhead, Minn. (Forum News Service/Agweek/Mikkel Pates)
McConnon says they do some further processing of flax to add value to the crop. In the past the Askegaards have used a mill at North Dakota State University in Fargo, N.D., to take whole seed into its meal form. They package and distribute it to grocery stores, food cooperatives and wholesalers in the region.
This year they have a new mill and automatic packaging scale. An AGRI Minnesota Value Added Grant Program grant paid 25 percent of the costs.
"We're hoping to increase efficiency and get into some new markets," McConnon says.
McConnon says some of her marketing is done through Instagram and Facebook. Her goal is to take daily photos from the field to let consumers know "what we're doing and where their food is coming from."