Moose Lake farmer is full of beans

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“Oh, I missed one. Farm bean, ”Johnson said, grabbing the small legume with his thumb and forefinger.

Large farms have technology that allows this; Johnson does it by hand.

Britt Johnson picks out broken and discolored Soldier Beans in the shop at her property outside of Moose Lake on Monday afternoon, November 29, 2021. Jed Carlson / Superior Telegram

she is behind Polish farmer, the artisanal dry bean and fruit and vegetable operation of Moose Lake. This is Johnson’s second year on her 40 acres, and she is one of two new bean farms in the area. (The second is Four Beans Farm in Superior, which also opened in 2020.)

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“COVID has shown that supply chains don’t always work. As a society, we realize we should stay close to home when it’s something as important as our food, ”Johnson said.

Also: “I like being able to offer something that consumers won’t be able to find,” she added.

You grow up thinking that there are limited types of beans – pinto, kidney, black – but many have more flavor and many characteristics that are not looked for in large-scale farming because they don’t hold up well. or that they aren’t as high performing, Johnson said.

She chooses hers based on their natural beauty and flavor.


Britt Johnson holds up a bag of King of the Early Polish Farm Beans in the shop at his property outside of Moose Lake on Monday afternoon, November 29, 2021. Jed Carlson / Superior Telegram

Britt Johnson holds up a bag of King of the Early Polish Farm Beans in the shop at his property outside of Moose Lake on Monday afternoon, November 29, 2021. Jed Carlson / Superior Telegram

In Johnson’s shop were bags of Jacob’s Cattle, a bright burgundy bean with white spots; and Calypso resembling a Dalmatian, with black and white spots.

Arikara, Marfax and Tiger’s Eye are also among the 10 varieties Johnson grows, and although they are limited in northern Minnesota, this is only the tip of the iceberg, she said.

Some varieties that she cultivates can be traced to native tribes in North and South America. Farmers are fortunate to be able to grow these beans that other generations have taken the time to preserve, she said.

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Johnson graduated from college with an elementary education diploma. She then signed up to teach English abroad and moved to Kazakhstan for six months.

“Everyone around me has a garden, everyone around was raising an animal for their meat, and I took that home and started a garden in my mother’s yard,” she recalls. .

She then began farming internships in southern Alaska and Wisconsin before eventually working at Food Farm and Stone’s Throw Farm in Wrenshall. Originally from Saint-Paul, she lived in Duluth for five years before purchasing her Moose Lake farm.


Catherine Conover Photo contribution

Catherine Conover Photo contribution

Catherine Conover, co-owner of Stone’s Throw, connected her community-supported agriculture members with Polish Farmer for Beans.

Johnson has worked the Conover land for five years and she is his only employee during the season. “The first few times she worked for me I realized she was going to be faster than me in just about everything, and I was okay with that,” Conover recalls. “She is a very dedicated person who works hard… I am very proud of her.”


Photo by Mary Dragich

Photo by Mary Dragich

Conover connected Mary Dragich to Johnson’s farm.

Dragich of Duluth prefers to support local farmers; the practices are more sustainable and “I like to keep money in the community,” supporting the people who do the work, knowing who they are and how the food is grown, she said.

Dragich grew beans in his own garden, and it was a difficult task. The work you put in for 2 cups of beans is a lot, and it doesn’t go very far. “Having 7 pounds of Britt’s beans is ‘wow’,” said Dragich, adding, “It’s great that we have this opportunity to buy someone a source of protein down the road.”


Britt Johnson picks King of the Early beans from their pods in the barn on Monday afternoon, November 29, 2021, on her farm outside of Moose Lake.  Jed Carlson / Superior Telegram

Britt Johnson picks King of the Early beans from their pods in the barn on Monday afternoon, November 29, 2021, on her farm outside of Moose Lake. Jed Carlson / Superior Telegram

The name of his farm is a tribute to the agricultural history of his family.

Her mother’s family emigrated from Poland to Minnesota in 1881. “A lot of people relate to agriculture in their history,” she said.

Johnson’s farm in Moose Lake is a former small-scale 1970s dairy farm that saw more cattle and hay than vegetables.

She shares the shop with her partner, and there are pieces of woodwork in progress, destined for the farm, as well as beekeeper costumes for their unique beehive so far.

Her plots are surrounded by an electric fence and she plans to modernize her irrigation system.

Johnson has cultivated about an acre and a half and plans to continue enriching the soil.


A bucket full of Jacob's Cattle beans rests in the store Monday afternoon, November 29, 2021, on Britt Johnson's farm outside of Moose Lake.  Jed Carlson / Superior Telegram

A bucket full of Jacob’s Cattle beans rests in the store Monday afternoon, November 29, 2021, on Britt Johnson’s farm outside of Moose Lake. Jed Carlson / Superior Telegram

The beans themselves are quite light on the ground, she said. They fix their own nitrogen. They are not very heavy feeders and they do not need to be fertilized a lot.

Growing beans is a little different from growing vegetables.

What seeds are not saved from the previous year Johnson gets from Iowa or Vermont. They are planted in June. Arrive in September when the plants are brown and a little dry, she can start harvesting; they won’t be ready to sell until October.

After tearing them up by hand, the bean plants dry for a few days in a heap. Johnson then throws package after package into his modified wood chipper, which threshes and separates the seeds.

She valves the plants by passing them through a large sieve and depositing them in buckets in front of a boxed fan for additional drying. Then the sorting, and again the sorting, to remove the split and discolored beans to prepare them for the market.

The drought did not affect her crop as much as the wet September, causing her to cover and move her beans indoors and outdoors to allow sufficient drying time. “If I let them sit too long with moisture, they will split in the wood chipper,” she said.

Johnson has grossed around 500 pounds this year.

“Agriculture is a personal challenge. Anything is possible, it all depends on the energy and time you can devote to it. Can you continue for that other hour, even in this rainy, soggy weather. What can keep you going and motivated.

“The end product is what makes.”

On Our Farm is a profile of Northland farms and the people who support them. If you have one to recommend, email Melinda Lavine at [email protected] or call 218-723-5346.


Farmer Britt Johnson speaks from the ground as she closes the electric fence on her property near Moose Lake on Monday afternoon, November 29, 2021. Jed Carlson / Superior Telegram

Farmer Britt Johnson speaks from the ground as she closes the electric fence on her property near Moose Lake on Monday afternoon, November 29, 2021. Jed Carlson / Superior Telegram

Find the Polish farmer

polishfarmer.com

facebook.com/polishfarmermn

If you are going to

Britt Johnson will be attending this upcoming event.

What: Local art fair and local gifts

When: 10 a.m. to 3 p.m., Saturday, December 11

Or: Peace United Church of Christ, 1111 N. 11th Ave, E.

Cost: To free


Britt Johnson explains how she modified her wood chipper to thresh her beans Monday afternoon, November 29, 2021, on her farm outside of Moose Lake.  Jed Carlson / Superior Telegram

Britt Johnson explains how she modified her wood chipper to thresh her beans Monday afternoon, November 29, 2021, on her farm outside of Moose Lake. Jed Carlson / Superior Telegram


Farmer Britt Johnson points out some of the fields on her property outside of Moose Lake during a visit on Monday afternoon, November 29, 2021. Jed Carlson / Superior Telegram

Farmer Britt Johnson points out some of the fields on her property outside of Moose Lake during a visit on Monday afternoon, November 29, 2021. Jed Carlson / Superior Telegram


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