St. Olaf Garden Research and Organic Works

STOGROW Farm- It’s a jungle out there…

Hey all! The summer is soon coming to a close- it’s already August- yikes! With the end of summer comes the beginning of fall- leaves changing, classes starting, harvest increasing. We started harvesting during July and have continued harvesting with an increase in pounds and variety of vegetables harvested. The first week harvesting included a few pounds of basil and mixed greens. At this point we are harvesting almost everything in the garden- squash, peppers, eggplant, carrots, beets, radishes, onions, peas, basil, green beans, and tomatoes. The only crops left are pumpkins and watermelons. The watermelons should be ready within the next few weeks and we’ll be leaving the pumpkins for harvesting a little later this fall.

Our tomatoes have just begun to turn red, after a long-awaited ripening. We watched the green tomatoes on the vine get bigger and bigger and still bigger and wondered if they would ever turn red or just stay green for the rest of eternity. Luckily, our tomatoes wanted to be picked and decided it was time to get on board with harvesting. Our figures show that we were harvesting tomatoes at the beginning of August last season, so our tomatoes are coming in much later than last year. However, this is beneficial to us in a couple different ways: Bon Appetit (St.Olaf’s catering company and our guaranteed buyer) has a greater demand for vegetables after the school year starts because of the arrival of students, which means the bigger the harvest after school starts, the better. Also, last growing season we were overwhelmed with the amount of tomatoes- we had planted over 900 plants(this growing season we’ve planted about a third of that). When school started we didn’t know what to do with ourselves and didn’t have enough hands to pick them. This year our crops are more diversified and the tomatoes will not be overwhelming once the school year starts and we have busier schedules due to classes and other activities.

Besides the excitement of harvesting, we’ve been kept occupied with maintaining the garden and attending to visitors of varying interests and ages. The garden seems to always surprise us with the number of weeds that seem to “pop up,’ especially after a good rain. “Where did those come from? I swear I just weeded that last week…” Getting on top of the weeds is a big task, but we seem to find motivation when the task is at its greatest. (That is, harvesting becomes an even greater chore because the weeds are bigger than the plants and blocking our view of the fruit). So, we get on our hands and knees and start pulling. Amidst the pulling we hear loud screams and quick bursts of noises- the nettles and thistles got one of our farmers again! Four hours later, we seem to have made some progress. Sort of. We bike up to lunch with dirty nails and dirt-crusted ankles, sweat dripping from our brow and our feet and hands still stinging from all those darn nettles.

We’ve had the privilege of hosting several groups at the farm this summer. Quite a few YMCA groups ranging in age from 5-15 years old have come to the garden to take a peek and nibble on some fresh veggies. Other groups included an environmental ethics summer class at St. Olaf, a group of Leaders for Social Change from St. Olaf and McCallister, and a St.Olaf staff retreat of about 50 people. My favorite groups are the YMCA groups- they always have the most interesting comments and questions- “Ew, the chickens poop in the garden?!!!” or “Oh, a radish, I WANT ONE!!!!”; “Do chickens eat humans?”; “CHICKENS!!!! Let’s catch ‘em!!! Can you catch a chicken for us again, please, please, please, PLEASE!” “Are we done yet? Can we play duck-duck gray duck?” As you can see, the kids seem to have a thing with chickens, or perhaps just birds in general. I can tell you that we had to stop them from eating our profits. The green beans and peas were just so yummy apparently.

We will continue harvesting into the school year until the frost intensifies and Minnesota winter creeps in and kills our plants ( yes, it’s very sad, but this is the cycle of life and the reality of living in Minnesota). That means we’ll need volunteers to help us harvest. We send out emails to our alias and if you would like to be on that alias, just email to be added. We will also be involved during Homecoming/Family weekend, Friday and Saturday, September 25-26. Our annual farm festival planning is still underway, so look for information sometime this fall. Until then, any visitors are welcome at the farm at any time. Everything is growing and sprawling quite nicely- the transformation from seed to harvest has been quite remarkable, yet again. Just beware, it’s a jungle out there…


This summer STOGROW held its first-ever 5k. The walk/run took participants through St.Olaf’s natural lands and ended on the STOGROW farm. Participants paid an entry fee of $10 which included a free t-shirt. After the 5k people socialized with coffee (provided by Goodbye Blue Monday Coffeehouse), cookies, zucchini bread (made with STOGROW zucchini) and apples. The chickens were a big hit, as usual, and the farm enjoyed the visitors’ laughter and pitter-patter of feet wandering throughout the garden. Will this continue throughout the years and become an annual event? We’ll have to consult next year’s chickens before coming to that conclusion.

A special thanks to: Goodbye Blue Monday Coffeehouse for the free coffee; Bon Appetit for catering the event; St.Olaf College for making the natural lands accessible and Judy Stromayer for providing guidance on waiver logistics; the Cannon River Watershed Partnership for allowing us to use their restroom facilities; and Mother Earth for providing a beautiful day with sunshine and clear skies.

Here's a quick wrap-up of the 2008-2009 season:

Overall, we enjoyed the fruits of a bountiful harvest, the many blessings of enjoying our time outside with our hands in the dirt, nurturing, maintaining, and caring for the plants we seeded. We held our annual farm festival with music, t-shirts for sale, tours of the farm, hay-rides to and from the farm through the St. Olaf natural lands (thanks to the help of Dave Legvold), face-painting, and food and beverages made from STOGROW produce (zucchini bread, gazpacho, babaganooch, and green bean salad, thanks to our wonderful Bon Appetit chefs). We also had acoustic music from two talented St. Olaf students, Colin Weaver and Emily Robertson. Community members and students and staff of St.Olaf came and went as the hours of the beautiful day passed. Our six chickens also received a lot of attention, and were completely exhausted at the end of the day. A special thanks to all parties involved for helping us make the annual farm festival a time for fun, food, and laughter once again.

And now a little info on the veggies:

Our largest crops for the 2008 growing season were as follows:

Tomatoes: 8,191.5 pounds
Eggplant: 866.5
Squash: 821.5
Peppers: 339.5

Our squash took a big hit from the cucumber beetles. Many of the plants were killed and the remaining plants produced less fruit than expected. Our winter squash seemed to be less effected than our summer squash, probably due to the beetle’s population and reproduction being greatest in middle to late June. The winter squash were also located on the far back side of the garden, a distance away from the summer squash, which also may have affected their ability to outlast the beetles.

We ended up with a lot more tomatoes than expected. We had planted a little over 900 tomato plants and by the end of the season, we were up to our necks in tomatoes. Although tomatoes are hardy plants that have a great yield, we do wish to contribute a variety of vegetables to Bon Appetit, so we plan to plant less tomatoes and take organic steps to overcome the challenges of pests on our squash plants and other plants that may be affected.

Thanks again to all those who contributed to our success in this growing season, and we look forward to seeing you and sharing the beauty of the garden with you next season!

STOGROW Growing Season 2008

A few photos from summer 2008:

Farm Festival 2008

This year we hosted a STOGROW festival to celebrate a successful growing season. Students from St. Olaf and people from the community attended the festival and enjoyed fresh food from the garden, live music, tours, face painting, coloring, and hay rides.

Here are a few pictures from the festival:

Playing with chickens!

Food from the garden
Thanks to everyone who participated in the festival to make it a great success! We look forward to yet another successful growing season!

STOGROW Summer 2009

STOGROW's 5th growing season has begun! The majority of plants are in the ground and growing healthily, with the exception of some sick-looking squash plants. Unfortunately the cucumber beetles attacked our baby squash seedlings with full force, but we are currently starting new seedlings in the green house. We have 3 egg-laying chickens on the farm this year and so far, they have been a delightful addition to the farm.

This year we have planted a variety of vegetables including: basil, tomatoes, beans, eggplants, green and red bell peppers, kale, brussel sprouts, winter and summer squash, zucchini, cucumbers, carrots, beets, radishes, salad mixes, spinach, onions, pumpkins, melons, and peas.

A few photos of the farm:

Brussel Sprouts!
Pretty Flowers

Growing in the green house

Flower plot

We have 3 chickens!

Weekly Pictures (6/15 - 6/22)

Hey everybody,

I thought I would throw up a few pictures from this past week.

Both varieties of basil, yum!

Everyone working hard

Laying soaker hoses is how we water a third of the garden,
for the rest we have an awesome new irrigation system (pictures to come...)

Just Another Day at the Farm...

June 9-13.

This week at STOGROW we’ve been continuing planting, weeding, trellising, and working on special projects. Nearly all of the vegetables are planted leaving only a few more tomatoes (destroyed in the recent cow rampage). New plants in the ground this week included basil, onions, green peppers and winter squash. These were all transplants from the greenhouse; the seeds were planted earlier this spring. We planted two basil varieties, one of which has a beautiful purple color. As Abby and Rob have an extreme love for basil, they were very excited. In fact, they couldn’t stop smelling it as they planted. The onion transplants were a new addition this year. Onion seeds were planted last year, but not much amounted from them. We’re hoping for greater onion success. Seeds planted this week included beets, radishes, and carrots.

The weather this week was cooperative for the most part. The heavy rains and strong thunderstorms Wednesday night left the ground soggy and too wet to walk on Thursday morning. The afternoon on Thursday, however, followed with warm sunshine and enough heat to dry up the soil and allow a few of the farmers to do some work.

A new project on the farm is a raised flowerbed on the east side, near the newly planted carrots. We took some old tires that were piled around the greenhouse, filled them with compost and arranged them in an arc, planting four or five flowers in each tire. The flowers planted were statice mixes and impatiens. A big heap of compost was added on the west side to house some transplants. (A few plants that were in the flower bed by the greenhouse were overtaking the smaller flowers, so we decided to make a raised flower bed elsewhere to accommodate their larger size.) The new raised flowerbed was complimented with a hedge of rocks to keep the soil in formation and add a little decoration, as well.

The chickens are still doing well. Rob and Tom made a new portable hut (aka chicken tractor, as Rob likes to call it) for the chickens last week during a rainy day. This hut is a little more structurally sound and allows for the chickens to have even more access to parts of the farm and time outside of their main coop. As usual, they accompany Rob wherever he goes and they like to visit us while we plant, making sure they do a good job of weeding, fertilizing, and taking little nibbles at the earthworms and other insects.