Farm Horizons, Aug. 2016

Tangletown Gardens in Plato uses sustainable methods for its community supported agriculture (CSA) program

By Starrla Cray

At Tangletown Gardens, everything is intertwined.

“The plants and animals take care of each other,” co-owner Dean Engelmann said. “We see our role as just the conductors of the orchestra.”

Engelmann and his business partner, Scott Endres, began the farm in Plato 14 years ago.

“Scott and I actually met in college,” Englemann said, explaining that they both studied horticulture. “We went our separate ways when we started our careers, and ended up at the same garden center in St. Paul.”

Engelmann and Endres discovered they had a similar vision, and decided to create their own garden center in Minneapolis, calling it Tangletown Gardens. At the same time, they also began growing fruits and vegetables at the 100-acre Tangletown Gardens farm in Plato.

Like the plants they produce, the enterprise has grown over the past decade. A community supported agriculture (CSA) program was added seven years ago, and a restaurant in Minneapolis called Wise Acre Eatery began five years ago.

Although the garden center and restaurant are popular for visitors, the real action takes place west of the Twin Cities. The farm includes an orchard with apple, cherry, plum, and other fruit trees, as well as an array of fruit and vegetable fields – squash, cucumbers, strawberries, rhubarb, peas, sweet corn, potatoes, peppers, spinach, herbs, and tomatoes – to name a few.

An eating adventure

CSA members receive in-season, freshly picked, washed produce each week from mid-June through mid-October.

“We decide what goes into the boxes,” Engelmann said. “It ebbs and flows with the seasons.”

Being part of a CSA is perfect for those who aren’t afraid to try new things.

“People end up trying things they wouldn’t grab off the grocery store shelf. Someone might have never tried eggplant, but find out that they really like it,” Englemann said. “A good CSA member is one who has an open mind and an open palette.”

All produce for Tangletown’s CSA share program is sustainably grown, without chemically-based fertilizers or pesticides. While the farm isn’t certified organic, Englemann said he and Endres only grow food they’d want to eat themselves.

The animals at Tangletown Gardens are also raised naturally, with no chemicals or hormones used. The menagerie includes Scottish Highland beef cattle, Heritage hogs, Heritage turkeys, broiler chickens, several varieties of laying hens, and 300 to 400 meat ducks.

Meat and eggs aren’t currently available through Tangletown’s CSA program, but they can be enjoyed at Wise Acre Eatery in Minneapolis.

Balanced farming

From the ground up, ecological principles and land stewardship are paramount at Tangletown Gardens.

“We continually strive to build healthier soil,” Engelmann said. “We aim to improve it, rather than deplete it.”

One way they take care of the soil is by changing the usage every four to five years. What was once a field becomes a pasture, and vice versa.

Strategic tilling techniques can also improve soil quality.

“We use minimal tillage, so we only disturb the top 2 inches of soil,” Engelmann said. “Tillage, over time, actually damages the soil’s properties. It’s like a crutch.”

Year-round delights

Although the farm is busiest in the warmer months, Tangletown Gardens doesn’t go dormant in the winter.

“We’re able to provide year-round employment,” Englemann said, explaining that low-heat greenhouses produce salad greens and radishes in the winter, and the farm preserves summer produce through canning and freezing.

To learn more about Tangletown Gardens, call (612) 822-4769, email, or go to

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