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She’s cultivating a pumpkin paradise in rural Wells

Jackie Soens grows many types of vegetables in her two-acre garden

By Chuck Hunt - Editor | Sep 19, 2021

Above, Jackie Soens pauses under an arbor which has all the quaint charm of a garden from a fairytale. Soens cultivates her garden in Wells, where she grows a variety of all-natural produce, including pumpkins, tomatoes, onions, sweet corn, squash, beets, peppers, cucumbers, spinach, radishes, cabbages, and three different plantings of green beans. Sunflowers also grace the pretty patch of greenery, although they popped up of their own accord this season.

Lots of people have vegetable gardens, but a few people take it to a whole new level.

Jackie Soens, of rural Wells, is one of those super gardeners.

Running her two-acre garden is pretty much a full time job, at least for more than half the year.

It is a lot like having a small farming operation. She grows her product and sells her produce both at her home and at the Wells Farmers Market, which takes place at the Marketplace Foods store’s parking lot on Wednesdays and Saturdays.

Soens lives on a farmstead just a few miles east of Wells on 180th Street. It is right where 180th Street takes a bend to the north.

“I call my fresh produce business ‘On The Bend Market,’ because it is located where the road bends,” Soens says. “People know right where it is because of that.”

In her two-acre garden she planted over 100 tomato plants (both Brandywine and Glacier), 2,000 onions, rows of sweet corn, pumpkins, squash, beets, peppers (including jalapenos), cucumbers, spinach, radishes, cabbages and three different plantings of green beans so that she can have them continue to come in all summer.

And then there are the sunflowers. She planted a row of them last year, and did not plant any this year, but four rows of them appeared on their own. Many of them were at least 14 feet tall.

Besides selling all the produce at the stand in her front yard and at the Farmers Market in Wells, Soens also creates other products with it.

She makes jellies and jams of different kinds, tomato sauces, pickled

beets and pickled jalapenos, salsa, ketchup and a very terrific Bloody Mary mix.

“I also make a dehydrated onion powder and a jalapeno powder, which is good in taco mixes,” Soens says. “I also make apple juice from apples from my grandpa’s orchard up north, and can peaches, too.”

Some of that is for her personal family use, of course, but she also markets some of it as well.

“I use my great-grandma’s canning jars for my own personal use,” Soens says. “I learned how from my family.”

Soens moved to Wells four years ago, to be near her boyfriend, Darren Yokiel. He farms on the next farm across the road.

“He is a certified organic farmer,” Soens says. “No chemicals or pesticides. I also don’t use any chemicals or pesticides, just all natural control. But I have not been certified as an organic gardener, however.”

Soens grew up in Hinckley, Minnesota, and graduated from high school there.

“I worked different jobs after high school, including road construction,” Soens says. “Then I worked at my parents’ dairy farm for a few years.”

She says her love of gardening was instilled in her from her family. Her parents’ farm has been in the family for 100 years.

“But I never was into gardening like this before, and never sold produce like this before now,” she says. “This is my third year of doing that.”

Although her garden is pretty large and her business is doing well, she has not yet expanded into other areas, such as going to other Farmers Markets.

“I don’t really have enough produce to make it viable to try other markets,” she says. “I have a really good clientele for all my produce and other products here in Wells.”

Soens has often been the only seller at the Wells Farmers Market this season. There has been one person occasionally selling sweet corn and another sometimes there selling honey.

The Farmers Market is open from 4-6 p.m. on Wednesdays and 9 a.m. to noon on Saturdays.

“We start around the end of June and go through mid-October,” Soens says. “Of course, right now I have a lot of pumpkins both at my house and at the market.”

If gardening, canning and freezing produce isn’t enough to keep her busy, Soens has a few animals running around, including a horse and eight chickens.

“Darren and I have two kids between us,” Soens says. “I have a son, Trent, who is 10, and he has a daughter, Bethany, who is also 10.”

The horse belongs to Bethany and the chickens belong to Trent.

When they are not busy farming, gardening and tending to animals, the blended family likes to go to the lake in the summer, visit the dairy farm near Hinckley and see family, including seeing cousins, and just be together.

So what does Soens do during the winter months when she is not gardening?

“I have another business, too,” she says. “I am an independent representative for Arieyl, which deals with health, wellness and beauty products, and that is a year round business for me.”

Of course, Soens does not get a long break from the garden.

“I grow everything from seeds,” she says. “So I start growing some plants in March, in a greenhouse.”

The greenhouse was a birthday gift to her a couple years ago. Right now the greenhouse is being used to dry some of the many onions she grew this year.

Much of her garden did very well this season, despite the very dry conditions. Soens does some watering from some tanks on a small trailer, but usually relies on timely rains.

Some of her garden area has already been cleared out and she plants a cover crop over the winter. It is part of her natural gardening practices. That also includes using things like essential oils which keep the pests away, but also attract pollinators.

Soens also spends some of her time baking, another thing she loves to do. And just so she can keep her gardening skills honed in the winter, she also tends to a variety of houseplants during the cold months.

“I guess I just really like doing all those things,” Soens says. “Like gardening, canning, baking. And I am blessed to be able to do it.”