Featherstone Fruits and Vegetables started in 1995 as Jack Hedin and Jenni McHugh’s five-acre garden at the Zephyr Valley Land Co-op near Winona, Minn. Since then, the farm has relocated to land near the town of Rushford, Minn., and now employs nearly 50 people working on over 250 acres of optimal vegetable-growing ground. Beginning in late May with leaf lettuce, through a summer’s harvest of zucchini and cherry tomatoes, into winter squash and carrots in the winter, there’s hardly a month that Featherstone isn’t represented in the co-op’s Produce department. The farm is certified organic and is dedicated to creating a truly sustainable agriculture system. That includes geothermal heating and cooling for the packing shed, as well as a solar array that generates about 60 percent of the farm’s energy. Featherstone Farm was the featured Know Our Grower Sept. 18 - Oct. 1. Meet the Grower: Sunday, Sept. 29.
Grower: Jack Hedin
When did you begin farming and what inspired you to pursue farming as a profession?
In 1987, the summer between my junior and senior year at college, I started an internship at New Morning Farm in Pennsylvania. I hoped to get applicable, real life skills for the community development work I was planning to do in developing nations. Instead, I fell in love with vegetable farming, and I never looked back.
Can you describe your approach to farming? Are there any unique components to your farm that may be different from other local farms?
We're trying to be as sustainable as possible. With climate change right here and now, this should be first and foremost in our minds. We do this with our solar panels, our geothermal heating system, our cover cropping and rotational systems, and in general looking toward how we can work more toward a closed loop ecosystem on our farm.
What distinguishes your products from other local produce?
Our 17 years of farming experience shows in the high quality of our produce; over the years, we've selected crops that we grow well. If you ask our customers, our carrots are certainly a standout crop for their incredible sweetness and flavor.
What is your favorite way to enjoy your own produce?
I absolutely love winter squash, which is why we grow so many great varieties. There's nothing better than popping a kabocha squash in the oven on a chilly winter day and letting it warm you up. Kale is also a favorite of mine.