Local Food Pioneer Spoke at the 2016 Plant Sale

Cover of Accidentally Green with colorful illustration of many vegetables

“I always figure that we are selling enjoyment, not failure. Gardening needs to be fun and gardeners need to succeed.”

[Note: this appearance was at the 2016 plant sale.]

If you want to know more about where your organic, local vegetables come from — and where many of your Friends School Plant Sale plants come from as well — join us for a talk by Gene Stark, founder of Glacial Ridge Growers (previously Greenfingers Farm) on Saturday morning, May 7 at 11:00 a.m., during the Friends School Plant Sale.

Gene has recently published a memoir of his 45 years of farming called Accidentally Green: Building an Organic Lifestyle. He’ll share some of his writing and answer questions from the audience, as well as sign copies that will be available for sale ($14.95).

Since 1980, Gene and his wife Muriel have been pioneers in Twin Cities local food, after a 10-year stint learning to farm outside Lincoln, Nebraska. As the Starks’ children were born and began to grow up, Gene and Muriel decided to move the farm back to Minnesota so they could be closer to their families, and Lincoln’s loss has clearly been Minnesota’s gain!

In the book and during Gene’s talk, you’ll find out what it takes to grow the food we eat (especially in Minnesota’s short growing season). It’s great encouragement for vegetable gardeners to think bigger about what we can accomplish, whether to provide a larger share of the food our families and friends eat or to share with food shelves.

The Starks and their organic produce (and native plants) have been long-time fixtures at the St. Paul Farmers Market as well, and in the book Gene offers an insider’s view of that local treasure, which many of us will appreciate. And the Friends School Plant Sale even gets a shout-out on page 183!

There are a lot of great parts of the book that I could quote, but this bit stood out for me. It’s from the era when Greenfingers Farm ran a retail greenhouse in Prior Lake. As a former teacher, Gene always found education was part of his role with customers, whether wholesale buyers in grocery produce departments or individuals at the farmers market or farm stand. Once Greenfingers started selling plants direct to the public in Prior Lake, that education extended to gardening advice. He writes, “I always figure that we are selling enjoyment, not failure. Gardening needs to be fun and gardeners need to succeed.”

Come learn more about how the Starks have succeeded as Minnesota growers of vegetables and young plants on Saturday, May 7 at 11:00 a.m. in the Garden Fair’s workshop tent.

—Pat T.

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