Stories from the corner of 37th and Nicollet

Receiving what we Give

A couple weeks back I made a trek to southeastern Minnesota to deliver cupcakes.  This was not an ordinary delivery and I don’t imagine I’ll do many more like it.  As a reward for supporting my café’s move last year, Lisa Klein of Hidden Stream Farm chose to receive a set of birthday cupcakes from me.  Had this been any other person in Elgin, I think I would have tried to dissuade them from choosing this gift.  But, after several years of working with the Klein family and receiving produce and meats from their family farm, I was actually thrilled at the opportunity to make the trip.  This was a trip I’ve wanted to make for quite a while, but like most of the things on my wish list, finding the time to make a four to five hour round trip journey gets pushed down the list pretty quickly by things like getting dishes done or running to the grocery store, or covering for a missing staff person.

So, with cupcakes in hand and staff on board, I made the nearly two-hour drive to Elgin on a misty, cool and breezy October morning.  Having been through the area a few times many years ago, it was somewhat familiar except for the amount of development along a route I remembered as very rural.  The freshly constructed Highway 52 was obvious to me since I had been watching Nicollet Ave under construction all summer.  Thankfully, no active road construction met me along the way.  There was a bit of rain, but there were also breaks in the clouds that spilled onto harvested fields and lit up fall foliage of blazing sumac and golden maple.

My directions didn’t quite take into account a new roundabout exit and placed the farm on the wrong side of the road, but eventually I pulled into the driveway to be greeted by Erik as he was coming out of his barn.  We went into the house to make the birthday delivery to Lisa (about 3 weeks delayed – but another celebration would now be at hand this evening) and I was offered a tour of the farm. 

The rain was holding off, but the two inches of overnight rain (much needed) has turned much of the fields and pathways to mud.  All three of us clambered into the “ranger,” an atv, and made the bumpy, slippery drive past lambs, pigs, chicken pasture (the chickens were absent, already having been harvested), and then out to see the cattle.  It was time for the cattle move into new pasture, so Erik and Lisa helped make the transfer (with quite a wait for a cattle traffic jam) by encouraging a few cows to lead the other skittish newcomers (from a neighbor seeking to have his cattle grass-fed) into another field for grazing.  I was given a sense of the mission of their farm to raise grass-fed beef and pastured chickens.  Erik and Lisa are indeed grass farmers, raising food for animals, so that in turn they can raise animals for our food. 

They have an understanding and deep appreciation for this land, a farm that has been in Lisa’s family for many years.  They are raising their children on this farm, with lessons in land stewardship being passed onto another generation.  And, as they share their story with me, giving me a deeper desire to support their efforts.

We finished the tour by circling a large garden area that was nearly finished for the year.  They have offered the space to a neighbor, who was growing and selling the produce and herbs through the Klein’s network of restaurants and the family’s farmers’ market stand in Rochester.   Throughout the operation of the farm, from egg laying hens, to the compost pile off in the distance, to the wood-burning boiler heating their home, I could feel their rootedness to a lifestyle that is about restoring and caring for the earth and about building community.

 

The Hidden Stream of Hidden Stream farm was dry at this time of year, and in most years doesn’t show up unless there has been lots of spring rain.    The gently rolling hills and wooded valley in this fertile area was very comforting, even in the cool misty rain that began as we finished the tour.  

 

Then, as I was preparing to leave, Erik and Lisa made sure I left with a gift.  A couple of packages of prepared meats were found in a cooler, and I was given an lovely gray heirloom pumpkin. Lisa shared her memories of her grandmother and mother saving the seeds of these pumpkins year after year.  It was prized for its smooth, dense flesh and the sweetness that marks a great pie pumpkin.  I promised to put it to good use and to save its seeds as a way to share a bit of Lisa’s family in an ever-widening circle.

 

I returned to shop, carrying with me a beautiful gray pumpkin, but also the gift of being invited into the home and life of people who have been working for me and raising animals for my shop’s customers.  I am grateful to have learned more about this family farm, and to have seen the care and kindness of these farmers, for it helps me appreciate even more what I receive from them and what I am able to provide to my customers