5 questions with ... Marvin Baker, organic vegetable farmer, Carpio, N.D.
Q: What is your role in agriculture today? Our role is to promote education of organic agriculture in general and more specifically organic vegetables. There is so much confusion about organic agriculture. We've taken it upon ourselves to educate...
Q: What is your role in agriculture today?
Our role is to promote education of organic agriculture in general and more specifically organic vegetables. There is so much confusion about organic agriculture. We've taken it upon ourselves to educate our customers first and the general public about organic. I remember a vendor telling me at the farmer's' market that she was organic - she only used Roundup when she needed it. There are regulations and inspections, and we adhere to them for a reason.
Q: Why did you start North Star Farms and how has your farm evolved since you started?
We had a small garden in 2003 and that fall, family and friends wanted produce, which quickly led us to believe we needed something bigger. In July 2004, we purchased a couple of lots and a condemned house for $200 in back taxes, tore the house down, landscaped the property and set up a commercial greenhouse. We became certified organic in 2006 and have been building ever since.
Q: What is a misconception about organic farming and how do you overcome it?
There are several misconceptions, actually, one being that the price of organic products are expensive. The truth is, they don't have to be expensive. Many times marketers take advantage of consumers and mark up the price prohibitively because it's a "premium" product. We don't do that at North Star Farms. We use the same price structure as conventional. We've made money every year since 2005.
Q: How and where do you sell and market your crops to?
We have a couple of markets. Our first market is North Prairie Farmers' Market in Minot every Saturday from 11 a.m. to 2 p.m. We also have a CSA (community supported agriculture) that has been in operation since 2009. Several of our shareholders have been with us the entire time. We would like to expand to grocery store sales, as KJ's Fresh Market has opened in Minot.
Q: If you could choose anyone, who would be a mentor to you and why?
It would most likely be my grandfather John Ackerman, who was a gardener who came to Hazelton, N.D., from Switzerland in 1920. All I remember about him was him feeding me garlic in the garden when I was 3 years old, but I've heard a lot of gardening stories about him I'd like to learn, including his growing peanuts, which, in his memory, I've been doing now for 12 years.
Marvin Baker of North Star Farms is also the editor of The Kenmare News and retired from the North Dakota National Guard after serving 35 years. He farms alongside his wife, Ilene Baker who is human resources director at First Western Bank and Trust in Minot.