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Lodge's farm to table dinner showcases area agriculture

HAVANA, N.D. — Welcoming people from all walks of life and introducing them (or furthering their knowledge of) family farms can be a fantastic notion — especially in learning how food gets to the table and where it comes from. Nowadays, restaurants in cities across the country are embracing the "farm to table" lifestyle more frequently, while new practices are being established to ensure soil health and conservationism.

For the Breker farm in southeast North Dakota, operating the Coteau des Prairie Lodge means providing stunning views of the surrounding prairie farms and fields and providing a unique opportunity for farm families and non-farm families alike to learn a little more about their soil conservation practices and what goes into their food.

"Well, obviously North Dakota is a huge farming population," says Joe Breker, owner and operator of the lodge that offers dining, tours and rooms for overnight stays. "We are as rural as states get and we've got a great agriculture tradition. But you don't have to get too many generations — in fact, one generation — away from the farm to lose track of what you eat and how it's produced and how it's taken care of."

Farm to Table

Coteau des Prairie Lodge in Havana, N.D., gives guests stunning views of surrounding prairie and farmland.Featuring locally produced, grown or raised ingredients and expertly-paired beverages, the Coteau des Prairie Lodge's annual Farm to Table Dinners are a big effort, but the reward is worth it.

"There's a lot of work that goes into planning these events," says Phillip Breker, director of marketing events for Coteau des Prairie Lodge. "We do other dinners, beer dinners and wine dinners, where most of the food comes off the chef's truck from the restaurant. But in this case, we go to the work of creating a menu based on ingredients that will be available to us this season."

With a couple dozen sources for ingredients — including beef raised on the Breker's land and edamame from soybeans harvested just that morning from the Breker's own fields — showing guests exactly where their food comes from and the care that goes into using fresh local ingredients can make a difference.

"I think today there's such a disconnect between the typical consumer and the farmer raising the food," Phillip says. "There's a lot of misinformation out there about where your food comes from and it's so good for people to have the chance to come out on a farm — especially a family farm — so they can connect on a human level with the people who are producing that food. And they can see that there's people's livelihood and families behind the food they eat and that the people who are producing that food really care about the food they're making. It's important to them."

Conservation practices

House-made ricotta alongside salted melon and rye and flax crackers and a microgreen saladBeyond using local ingredients in their dinner, the team at the lodge treated their guests to presentations on soil and water conservation practices and a new to North America crop used in part of the dishes served. Joe, who has taken it upon himself to dedicate his farm to soil conservation practices throughout his career, says healthy food starts in the soil.

"One of the things that we highlight (at the Breker Farm) is that I've been involved in conservation agriculture for 40 years," he says. "When I started farming I thought we should do a better job on our farm on conserving the soil and making it more productive, so for 40 years I've done no-till farm, I've used cover-crops to enhance soil biology and organic matter. We've had very good results in being able to turn our soil around, and now they're starting to be able to prove that a healthy soil makes healthy food. It's an interesting conversation to have, too, with people, to ensure them there are ways to grow healthier food."

Phillip, who grew up on the Breker Farm, has seen the measures his dad has taken to continue to preserve soil health and sustainability.

"In the beginning when (Joe) started no-till farming, there wasn't much known about it," Phillip says. "He started in the early days. Since then, it's become a practice that's become widely adopted across the country and more is known about it. Over time, he's implemented more practices like strip-tilling, cover crops, grazing rotation onto fields with livestock, dual cropping — there's lots of opportunities that have opened up because of the research and the people who have adopted the methods."

Emma Vatnsdal

Emma Vatnsdal is a Features writer, focused on telling stories about people, places and all the interesting things that come along with it. She earned her degree in multimedia journalism from Minnesota State University Moorhead and joined the Forum Communications team in 2018. She grew up in the far north town of Roseau, Minn. and has a thick Minnesotan-Canadian accent. Follow her on Twitter @emmajeaniewenie.

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