By Jennie Zeitler, Staff Writer
Roger Flint grew up on a farm in Roscoe. Since Flint’s father, Gregor, drove a regular route hauling livestock to the Twin Cities, his grandfather, John, farmed Gregor’s acreage, while another son ran John’s farm two miles north of town.
It was Roger and his brother, Allen, who farmed with their grandfather, learning by doing.
When he was 13, Roger went to Morris to attend agricultural boarding high school on what is now the University of Minnesota campus.
The West Central School of Agriculture had opened in 1910, offering a three-year program that ran from late October after the fall harvest until late March before spring planting.
Classes were held from 8 a.m. – 4:15 p.m., Monday through Friday for those six months.
“I came home just about every weekend,” Roger said. “When the school year was done, we could go home and farm.”
Four or five students from the Roscoe area pooled rides, and one of their parents drove to get them.
The year Roger graduated was the last year high school freshmen were accepted, because the school was converted to a university.
“I got my high school diploma from the University of Minnesota,” he said. “We had to have a ‘C’ average to graduate. There were 140 who started in my class, and 83 graduated. It was a unique thing.”
Roger worked at the Roscoe Elevator for a time, and then at Cold Spring Granite. After driving truck, he started at Franklin in St. Cloud, which was bought out by Frigidaire and then became Electrolux.
He had been with Electrolux 40 years when his father moved into a nursing home and his mother wanted to stay on the farm.
“I was able to take a six-month leave of absence during the summer, and did that two times before finally retiring,” Roger said.
Roger and Allen, who lives across the road from the home farm, traded off staying with their mother.
“The land had been rented, but then I started growing vegetables and taking them to farmers’ markets,” Roger said.
He also planted soybeans, corn, oats and barley and waited to see what would grow best. The crops were managed without chemicals, which is the way Roger grew up.
“I heard about certified organic farming, that grain and vegetable prices were better that way,” he said. “I had to farm three years before the land could be certified organic.”
It was at an annual Minnesota Organic Conference in St. Cloud where Roger was truly convinced.
“That conference really got me to believe in it — seeing all those healthy people,” he said. “There is a big difference in taste with organic. My grandkids will only eat the potatoes I grow.”
Roger hired a nutrient and pest manager who tests his soil and makes recommendations for crops.
“He said my barley needed nitrogen, so I planted peas and barley together,” Roger said. “I heard that dairy farmers near Sauk Centre use that. I would have sold the crop to Wadena Buckwheat Growers, but the yield was pretty small with the dry conditions.”
Since a local organic farmer asked about the crop first, Roger was pleased to sell it to him and avoid any trucking costs.
“You learn when you’re an organic farmer that it’s all about timing — learning what to plant and when to plant,” said Roger.
A New York farmer with 4,000 acres explained at the conference that there is an ideal two-week window in which to plant, and if a farmer doesn’t make that, it’s better to leave the field black.
Farmers’ markets turned out to be a little too much work, and Roger now sells his vegetables to the Good Earth Food Co-op in St. Cloud. Soybeans are sold to Sunopta in Moorhead.
The farm includes five different parcels of land for a total of 130 acres. Roger farms 50 of those acres. Allen is retired now and helps with the field work. Roger’s grandson, Chandler, works with his grandpa on the farm too.
“His goal is to be a hunting and fishing guide or a farmer,” said Roger. “He’s 12, and got his third deer this year.”
Some of the Flint land is held as Conservation Reserve Program (CRP) land, which creates wildlife nesting. “The deer, pheasants and turkeys keep coming in,” said Roger.
“As I get older, I keep active. Instead of going to the gym, farming is a lot of exercise,” he said. “The more work I can do, the better I feel. I wish I’d thought of farming 20 years ago.”