By Jennie Zeitler, Staff Writer
Pam Rach now loves to be out gardening, but as the youngest of nine siblings, she didn’t like it growing up. “We’d sit down to shell a five-gallon pail of peas, and it seemed like we had only two quarts when we were done,” said Rach.
Rach grew up near Verndale, then lived near Belgrade before moving with her husband, Jim, and three children to Rach’n R Ranch just west of Brooten more than 15 years ago. “It was the red barn that made me want this place,” said Rach.
But her interest in gardening methods had already begun years earlier. While in her teens, Rach went on a six-week trip sponsored by People to People. “We went to Japan, China, Hong Kong and Taiwan,” she said.
“It was very interesting. In Japan they were drying manure and packaging it to sell. It would be interesting to see how that has advanced in the more than 20 years since I was there,” said Rach.
She received agriculture technology certification in Detroit Lakes. “Then I spent five years in Australia and New Zealand as part of an agricultural exchange program,” she said. “I was given room and board and was paid to experience other countries’ farming industries.”
The Rachs knew they had found their farm home when they saw all the red buildings. The first thing they did was fill a huge hole in the yard where abuilding had been. Then the garden was dug up.
About eight years ago, Rach worked for a local garden for one summer. “When the owners retired, they gave all of their contacts my information and Red Barn Produce started the next year,” said Rach.
“Our produce is grown chemical-free with non-genetically modified organism seeds,” she said. “We have not paid for the organic certification yet. It takes three years of documentation and testing for that process.”
“Buckwheat Growers in Wadena is my seed source,” said Rach. “I use chicken manure fertilizer from my own chickens.”
With close to 50 laying hens, she sells about 14 dozen eggs per week in the winter. “I’ll butcher some chickens for us this year, and maybe next year will offer some for sale. You have to have the right setup for that,” she said.
Rach took her produce to the Brooten Farmers Market before starting a Community Supported Agriculture (CSA) program. “Last year was my first CSA year, delivering to Paynesville, Willmar and locally to the Belgrade-Brooten area,” said Rach. “I deliver directly to homes or businesses.”
CSAs offer shares of produce from a local garden. Full shares are a box every week, half shares every other week.
“I didn’t get to the Farmers Market much last year,” she said, “because it was the same day as the CSA deliveries.”
Rach does a lot of canning. “I’ve done snap peas, green beans, tomato sauce and salsa and pesto,” she said. “I also freeze items.”
Although Rach does not have good memories of her mom using a pressure cooker, this year she will be trying one, too. Rach’s kids enjoy the fresh produce at meals. “After too many nights in a row of grabbing a quick bite out between activities, they ask if it’s time for supper at home yet,” she said.
“The most positive aspect of growing our food is eating so many fresh things ourselves on a daily basis,” said Rach.
“Being able to help other people who want good food but don’t garden is very rewarding,” she said. “They are so excited to get the items.”
“My weakness is in marketing and sales. But I believe that the people who want fresh produce, know the goodness of it and what it’s worth will find me,” said Rach.
“Everything doesn’t always go great in the garden, but that’s what prayer and faith are all about,” she said. Prayers are not always answered the way you want, but everything is slowly falling into place, Rach said.
Goats also call the farm “home.” “We have them for the entertainment value,” Rach said. “It’s just a hobby now, but we drink goat’s milk, make cheese and soap. We have four nannies and have borrowed a billy — Sven, with curly blond hair between his horns.”
Red Barn will be offering shares starting in mid-June. Only 15-20 shares are available, only seven are taken. Call (320) 346-4269 with questions or check online at www.redbarnproduce.org.