For the last 10 years, Jody and Mike Lenz have been running the Threshing Table Farm in Star Prairie. The couple have had their ups and downs as a CSA (Community Supported Agriculture) farm, but they have maintained the quality and availability of their fresh produce.
"We sure hoped that we could make it 10 years. But nothing is for sure in life, and definitely not in farming," Jody Lenz said. "We are thrilled to be celebrating our 10th anniversary, but we certainly didn't expect to be as successful as we are. But at the same time, although we are very successful, we are not rolling in the dough either.
"We are still hoping the car makes it one more year. But we just want to live a good life and make a fair wage for what we are doing and to be able to hire people and pay them a fair salary. To us, that is success."
The Threshing Table Farm started out with 25 members 10 years ago - following an article being written about the new CSA farm in the News - and the farm has grown ever since.
"Ten years ago we bought this farm to start a CSA," Lenz said. "I grew up on a dairy farm in western Wisconsin and I wanted to raise my kids on a farm. I was a teacher at the time and then took a farm beginning class, which my husband went kicking and screaming, too. But after one class he was on board and felt that we could do this."
There are currently 100 local shareholders who support the Threshing Table Farm, including members from New Richmond, Hudson, Somerset, River Falls, Osceola and Stillwater. The family started with 10 acres of their own land, but have had to rent another 8 acres from one of their neighbors in order to fill their quota.
"We went into purchasing our farm and starting Threshing Table Farm with the mission to feed people locally, because so many CSA farms that we worked with and mentored with, their whole business was in the Cities," Lenz said. "So, in some ways, that made it much easier for us to have local support because we are part of this community, versus living and working in one place and bringing food into another. That is really helpful for us and it made us focus close to home. But there also not as many people here who are up on the CSA."
One of the biggest surprises the family has seen in their 10 years on the farm was when a Twin Cities food service company reached out to them to buy 100 shares in their CSA in order to invest in what the Threshing Table was doing and to have locally sourced food in their kitchens, which include Hill Murray School as well as other schools and businesses in the Twin Cities.
"Taher Food Service coming in and purchasing 100 shares is definitely not normal," Lenz said. "We never saw that coming. It would be great if more of this kind of thing could happen. They even brought their chefs out to the farm for a tour and they were all surprised to see broccoli growing on the plant because they had never seen that before or had that connection to their ingredients. So they are really excited to have us as that place where they can come and connect in that way."
Although the Threshing Table is seeing a lot of success lately, Lenz doesn't want to see the farm grow too much more because she feels like it would then lose its small farm feeling.
"As much as we would like to have more shares to be more stable, there is also a negative to that. If we had a ton more shares, that would mean we'd have to have more employees and I'd probably end up managing things more than being able to put my hands in the dirt like I really want to," Lenz said. "We could not get 200 local and feel confident enough that we could keep that every year. It would be great if we could said, 'Yea, New Richmond, 200 shares. No problem.' Or have another CSA nearby and be able to tell them that there is room for everybody. I would love to see that happen."
Along with supporting local businesses, the Lenz family also likes to support local food shelves.
"We will also be partnering with the Somerset Food Pantry in the near future as well because they were able to get grant money to purchase shares in the farm," Lenz said. "We also donate a bunch of food to the New Richmond food pantry as well. We try to get there every week with whatever we have extra."
For more information on the Threshing Table Farm, visit threshingtablefarm.org or reach out to Jody and Mike at firstname.lastname@example.org or 715-248-7205.