Brian Petersen has been farming organically for over 25 years on an idyllic farm just north of Rochester. He is very intentional in how he farms in order to grow healthy, nutritious produce for his family and for his customers while maintaining a sustainable farming practice.
Brian is incredibly invested in his soil. He boosts it with tons of compost—literally tons. His website has a counter that tracks how much compost has been laid on the farm. As of June 6, over 1.9 billion grams of compost had been added. That translates to over 2,000 tons! He also carefully rotates his crops so as not to deplete the soil of specific nutrients and minerals. He allows ground cover of weeds to help retain moisture and to distract pests from his crops.
The Petersen farm grows all kinds of produce but has become known for its baby vegetables. All year long, you’ll see baby lettuce, baby spinach, baby squash blossoms, baby potatoes, etc. Some people assume these are special varieties but in fact, the produce is just picked while small.
Brian likes to harvest baby vegetables because they are “perfect for salads without additional prep, catering to the consumer who doesn’t have a lot of extra time. The flavor, tenderness and presentation at this stage is truly amazing,” he writes on his blog.
Brian cares deeply about the crops he grows and the soil where they grow. His life has been full of moments of serendipity, he likes to say, little surprises and happenstance that have led him to where he is today.
“Sometimes our greatest mistakes in farming and in life can yield some of our best learning points; it is how we incorporate this learning that will tell whether we achieve a new breakthrough or see it as a failure,” writes Brian in a post aptly titled ‘Serendipity.’
He learns from moments of surprise, calls them serendipity and uses them to enhance his farm. Take spinach, for example. He had spinach left in the field one winter and, come spring, learned that this seemingly delicate green would overwinter even in the harsh Minnesota climate.
Another serendipitous moment came in the form of red okra. While Brian had originally grown red okra as an ornamental plant, it is in fact incredibly tasty, lasts longer than green okra, and the seeds can be saved. Now he sells it as produce.
In the fall, Brian sells beautiful squash and pumpkins at the Rochester Downtown Farmers Market, Squash Blossom Farms and at the end of his driveway. All of the squash are priced by weight and tagged, so anyone can drive up, grab a few pumpkins and leave cash in the mailbox. It’s another way Brian has made a name for himself, by growing a wide variety of decorative (and delicious) squash.
You can find Brian and his baby vegetables, along with fully-grown vegetables, plants, potting soil and charcoal, at the Rochester Downtown Farmers Market every Saturday and browse through his wealth of knowledge and stories on his website.