By Starrla Cray
At Riverbend Farm in Delano, Greg and Mary Reynolds believe in an honest, simple way of life and they expect no less of the food they produce.
The Reynolds’ certified organic vegetable farm was one of eight Minnesota operations recently featured in a documentary about sustainable farming.
“I think, for a lot of people, farming is pretty mysterious,” Greg Reynolds said. “The idea with this is to let people know how we produce food and how we see the world.”
The video was produced as a collaborative effort between Gustavus Adolphus College in St. Peter and the Sustainable Farming Association (SFA) of Minnesota.
It is available for purchase online at www.createspace.com/287888, and it will also be shown at the Minnesota Garlic Festival in Hutchinson Saturday, Aug. 14.
Reynolds’ farm was chosen for the film based on his involvement with the SFA and his commitment to sustainable farming.
“My interest in organics started in the late ‘60s, early ‘70s,” Reynolds said. At that time, gas prices had quadrupled, which led to higher prices for farming inputs. The Vietnam War era also brought forth a “back to the land” movement, in which people thought more about the way they lived and the type of food they ate.
“Organic Gardening magazine was really gaining traction at that time,” Reynolds said.
Reynolds hadn’t grown up on a farm, but since both of his parents had, “that was kind of always in the background.”
In 1992, he purchased Riverbend Farm, and began farming with a natural approach.
Some organic farms are more industrial, with operations similar to a conventional farm. The main exception is that they use organic inputs, Reynolds said.
However, Riverbend Farm utilizes a “slower-paced” method.
“We’re not very big, and we tend to use a lot of manual labor instead of equipment,” he said. “We start off by building up the soil with different grasses and legumes.”
Leguminous cover crops are typically high in nitrogen and can provide the needed amount for crop production. On non-organic farms, this nitrogen would normally be applied in chemical fertilizer form.
“We’re just trying to mimic a more natural system,” Reynolds said.
People’s interest in food produced by natural methods is steadily increasing. According to Reynolds, organic and sustainable farming has grown 20 percent per year for the past 15 to 20 years.
“I think people are looking for alternatives to fast food and processed food, and this video gives them reinforcement,” Reynolds said.
Currently, Americans spend about 9 percent of their income on food, and about half of that is spent in restaurants and fast food places, Reynolds said.
Of the food that is eaten at home, much of it is already processed, packaged, and prepared.
“Eating raw vegetables is alien to a lot of people,” Reynolds said. “People are used to chicken nuggets and french fries.”
The one-hour “Farming Forward” documentary is an uplifting way to connect with “what food should be like.”
“I think people sense something’s not right with our food system,” Reynolds said.
The film offers a relaxed look into the lives of eight sustainable farms from around the state. Gustavus Adolphus College communication studies professor Martin Lang and student Ethan Marxhausen shot more than 40 hours of footage from early July through mid-August 2009.
In addition to Riverbend Farm, the other featured operations include: Living Song Farm in Howard Lake; Prairie Horizons Farm in Starbuck; Loon Organics in Hutchinson; Big River Farm in Marine on St. Croix; City Backyard Farming in St. Paul; Big Hill Farm in St. Peter, and a farmers market in west St. Paul.
To learn more about Riverbend Farm, go to www.rbfcsa.com.