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New crop for county farmers

By Staff | Apr 1, 2018

A pea picker, above, at Seneca Foods in Blue Earth, appeared to be out practicing winter harvest techniques for frozen peas, left.

There could soon be a new crop option for Faribault County farmers to plant, if some recent information from winter ag meetings is correct.

Frozen peas.

While sweet peas are a popular crop already in the county, and are already readily available in the frozen foods aisle at grocery stores, these frozen peas are different.

Local farmers say they have been contacted about planting a special variety of peas later in the growing season that will not be harvested until winter when they are already frozen.

“It will enable the canning factory to produce frozen peas without all the equipment necessary now to freeze them after harvest,” says one Faribault County farmer who wished not to be identified.

A representative of the local Seneca Foods canning plant declined to comment on whether the frozen pea idea was a viable option or not, but local residents noticed that the company’s pea picking machines came out of storage last month and seemed to be experimenting with operating in the snow and cold of winter.

A spokesman from Seneca’s headquarters in Seneca, New York, would only say that Seneca is always experimenting with new crops, canning techniques and types of food products.

Elias Grayne, chairman of the North American Frozen Pea Growers Association, confirmed their scientists have been working on a new type of pea that was genetically engineered to withstand any effects of cold temperatures on the pea pods themselves.

“This makes it possible to leave the peas in the field until they are frozen hard, and then harvest them,” he said. “They basically go right from the field to the freezer.”

Grayne says it is important the peas be planted in a climate where a fast hard freeze happens every year. He confirmed that Faribault County, Minnesota, would fit the bill.

However, one concern for the new crop is the possibility of wind farms in the county. Grayne says both his group and the canning company do not yet know what effect these giant wind towers will have on the frozen pea crop.

“I understand they are worried that the wind turbines might either keep the peas from freezing hard, or maybe cause them to freeze too hard too fast,” he says. “They might have to be planted away from any wind turbines.”

Another unanswered question is when the frozen pea crop will start. Many farmers are saying it could still be this coming planting season, but Grayne says it might just be test plots this year, with full field planting coming the following year.

This is not the first time some innovative crops have been planted in Faribault County. There have been sugar beets, giant radishes and even cannabis (marijuana) grown here over years past.

The cannabis, of course, was not grown as marijuana to smoke, but as hemp to be made into rope. Remnants of that long ago hemp plantings can be seen sprouting up around the county to this day, in road ditches and around farmsteads and barns.

Another innovative farm crop that was introduced back in 1968 was pretzels. Farmers were told to plant small sticks of pretzels in the ground and they would grow into the large curly-Q pretzels everyone loves to eat, especially with beer.

No, wait. That was an April Fools Day story and was not true.

Just like this one.