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Kragnes Family Farms CSA expands with help from local shareholders

Felton, Minn. - In 2010, Ben Kragnes and his girlfriend, Tyne Stormo, grew enough fresh produce on a plot of land near here to support eight shareholders - members who receive a share of the harvest in exchange for their financial support.

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Tyne Stormo and her boyfriend, Ben Kragnes, operate Kragnes Family Farms near Felton, Minn. David Samson / The Forum

Felton, Minn. – In 2010, Ben Kragnes and his girlfriend, Tyne Stormo, grew enough fresh produce on a plot of land near here to support eight shareholders – members who receive a share of the harvest in exchange for their financial support.
Just four years later, the couple, now operating as Kragnes Family Farms CSA (Community Supported Agriculture), was producing enough for 175 shareholders and had reached their capacity.
The greenhouse was so full last year that some plants could not get enough light to grow, Kragnes said. He knew if they wanted to continue to expand the CSA, they needed to add another greenhouse.
Stormo suggested a Kickstarter campaign similar to one Lida Farms in Pelican Rapids, Minn., launched to fund its winter greenhouse. If the campaign was successful, she reasoned there was enough demand to support an expansion. The answer was a resounding “yes.”
Thanks to the support of friends, family members and shareholders, Kragnes and Stormo easily reached their fundraising goal of $7,045.
The second greenhouse is already under construction and will soon be filled with tomatoes, onions, cucumbers, leeks and dozens of other plants the couple has already started indoors.
They plan to grow enough to support 225 shareholders this year.
They grow more than 80 varieties of produce using organic methods, but do not refer to their food as “certified-organic” because they do not pay for the designation.
“It’s good to have some standard that everybody has to work by. We just don’t feel like we should have to pay to not spray. It feels backwards, so we do not do it,” Kragnes said.
“‘Naturally grown’ is the phrase we use now.”
They sell one-bushel and half-bushel shares that are delivered to Sydney’s Health Market in Moorhead and Clay Your Way, Elements for Women and the Hotel Donaldson in Fargo each week. They also sell their produce at the Farmers Market in Detroit Lakes, Minn., and plan to have a drop-off location there as well.
Shares are delivered for 20 weeks, starting in early to mid-June and ending sometime in November.
Several restaurants also purchase their produce. The Hotel Donaldson was actually one of the first eight shareholders.
“The HoDo is the best at designing their menu based on what we grow seasonally,” Stormo said.
The couple also donates a great deal of produce to local food pantries each year. Stormo estimates they donate between 2,000 and 3,000 pounds a year.
“If we didn’t need to make a living, I’d give everything away,” Stormo said. “It’s so awesome.”
Family roots

Kragnes’ roots run deep in Minnesota farming. Aanund Kragnes, his great-great-great grandfather and namesake of the town, was one of the first farmers to claim land near Kragnes.
His parents, David and Peggy Kragnes, grow soybeans and corn on the adjacent 1,350 acres. Ben Kragnes said they have played an integral part in the CSA, from providing labor to the use of some farm equipment.
“It’s nice when David needs help, Ben will help. When we need help, David will help,” Stormo said. “There have been multiple days where he will be out hoeing onions when we get here. He doesn’t want to be out in the heat of the day, so he’ll be out here when it’s still fairly dark.”
“There is no doubt that we owe them a lot for what they’ve done,” Kragnes said.
Stormo grew up on a dairy farm near Detroit Lakes. While they had a few gardens over the years, she said most of what she knows about farming was learned from Kragnes.
She said she used to be intimidated by his big plans and fearlessness. Thanks to the success of the CSA over the past few years, now she is much more apt to say, “Let’s try it!”

Area CSAs

New CSAs seem to pop up in the area each summer. A few with drop-off locations Fargo, Moorhead and West Fargo are:

 
Business profile

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What: Kragnes Family Farms CSA
Where: 10600 60th St. N., Felton, Minn.
Contact: (218) 234-7894 or tyne@kragnesfamilyfarms .
Online: www.kragnesfamilyfarms.com

Related Topics: AGRICULTURE
Angie Wieck is the business editor for The Forum. Email her at awieck@forumcomm.com
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