Organic farming in BE
Taking West 14th Street out southwest of Blue Earth, driving onto a gravel road just past Highland Drive, tucked away in a quaint corner of the county is the home of Blue Dirt Farm. This farm grew out of the desire of Scott Haase to grow and raise top-quality, wholesome, nutritious food all while trying to find a harmonious and self-reliant type of farming that is good for both the land and the community.
Haase and his two sons, Gannon, 14, and August, 12, work hard to create diversified livestock and crops that help feed the family, the community, and even create greater health in the soil of their land. On their 10-acre farm, the Haase men raise Mangalitsa pigs, and house a few turkeys, ducks, and geese to keep their farm diverse.
“The thing about growing Mangalitsa pigs is they produce a superior meat and a higher lard quality,” says Haase. “Our heritage pigs are mixed from three main heritage breeds to produce one stellar combination. The main breed is the Mangalitsa along with Large Black and Tamworth breeds to produce a faster-maturing pig.”
The Mangalitsa pig’s unique breed was developed nearly 200 years ago in Hungary. After almost going extinct in the 1990s, it was first imported into the United States in 2007.
The most striking outward characteristic of the Mangalitsa is its wooly coat. This, along with a thick layer of fat, makes it well-adapted for Minnesota winters. The meat is often a rich, red color and well-marbled with a buttery fat that, according to Haase, “melts in your mouth.” Blue Dirt Farm raises these pigs along with Mangalitsas crossed with other heritage breeds known for exceptional quality.
Whole and half pigs are for sale at Blue Dirt Farm with a quality that Haase says is hard to match.
“I have had lots of happy customers,” he says.
Haase’s group of poultry are an incredible and welcoming sight to the farm, as well. August Haase helps his dad maintain their turkey population and grew one of their geese, named Goose, from when it was a tiny egg.
But the farm animals are only a small portion of the picture at Blue Dirt Farm. Scott has been working hard for the past 10 years to learn about the world forever around him from the sky to the earth. Especially the earth.
“I am trying to create an integrated ecosystem,” he says. “Constantly learning from our past and what used to be here near the Blue Earth riverbed that created life and room for more life is essential to eco-diversity.”
In that sense, eco-diversity goes hand in hand with soil health and, for Haase and his farm, which is next to the Blue Earth River, river health.
The five soil health principles that Haase models after are the same soil health principles the Sustainable Farming Association (or SFA) have adapted. They are:
1. Keep the soil covered,
2. Minimize soil disturbance,
3. Increase crop diversity,
4. Keep living roots in the soil,
5. Integrate livestock.
“I have a sixth one,” adds Haase. “Claim your reward! By reducing synthetic fertilizer and pesticides by following these steps, you will have your land creating food naturally for you. The soil will be able to boost microbial nutrients to sustain itself all the while.”
The Blue Earth native says he has been trying many different ideas throughout the nine or 10 years he’s had this plot of land of his family’s. He has learned about relay cropping, when farmers plant winter rye and soybeans at the same time to produce twice as much on one plot of land.
“Technology is also helping to diversify crops,” Haase shares. “And these principles are starting to take hold with more farmers. The more these principles can take hold, the more benefit we reap. It’s so synergistic, too.”
There are two big picture ideas that Haase is focused on through his farming at Blue Dirt Farm.
First, a better understanding of ‘you are what you eat’. He says his initial interest in farming came from the food industry. He worked in a restaurant and learned a lot about not only the multitude of components in culinary experience, but about the source of food the earth.
“Low density and low mineral farming can cause residual effects to the land and its runoff,” he says. And that is where big picture idea number two comes in.
“We really need to work on the pollution of our river,” says Haase. “There is not enough buffering to the river to prevent pesticides and fertilizers from going into the river. It’s also creating massive amounts of sediments in the banks and riverbeds of the river. Just look at what’s happening with Lake Pepin near Wisconsin.”
According to the Minnesota Pollution Control Agency (MPCA), the 21-mile-long Lake Pepin is naturally the widest part of the Mississippi River, and is a naturally occurring lake formed by the backup of water behind sedimentary deposit of the Chippewa River’s delta on the Wisconsin side. In 2002, the MPCA assessed the lake and found nutrient levels too high to meet state water quality standards that are designed to ensure that lakes and streams are fishable and swimmable.
“Lake Pepin is impaired by high levels of nutrients that cause excessive growth of algae,” says MPCA’s website. “High levels of sediment, carried in by major river systems (like the Blue Earth river) also affect the lake. The sediment is filling in the lake at a much faster rate than before Minnesota was settled and intensely farmed.”
“Why has the pollution in our river increased so much?” questions Haase. “Because of poor soil health and poor agregation. This needs to be fixed for our future. We need to begin stepping out of our comfort zone, asking tough questions, and finding solutions.”
Haase says the other benefit of cleaning the river would be to create a more self-sustaining community.
“We could market more directly with the community, to create unique products and a profitable market for our local community,” says Haase. “And we could create a greater ability to support local growers.”
Haase says he is by no means an expert at farming, but he has learned quite a bit through not only trial and error at his own farm, but through reading, gardening, and networking with other farmers. And, Haase says anyone can do what he has done.
“Talk to people, ask to visit farms, just start and don’t be scared,” says the Blue Dirt Farm owner. “Nature is my greatest inspiration to do this. I want to see diversity in our fields, on our farms, and in our streams and rivers. There are so many farmers in our area whom I’ve learned from. They are initiating some cutting edge technology and do amazing work on thousands of acres. But substantiality is key for our future, so we can grow our farms to sustain our communities locally. It makes life here more fun.”
Blue Dirt Farm regularly hosts small group events centered around deepening connections with nature in ways that are meaningful yet practical. Haase says he will continue to share valuable knowledge with visitors on topics of food, permaculture design and natural building.
For more information, or if you are interested in purchasing pork from Blue Dirt Farm, call Scott Haase at 507-526-4729, or email him at firstname.lastname@example.org. You can also visit their website at www.bluedirtfarm.com.