Two weeks ago I was out in the field planting, or rather mudding in, transplants. As I was doing that a helicopter from Minot Air Force Base circled overhead numerous times before darting off to the east toward Minot AFB.
It got me to thinking about the numerous people stationed at Minot AFB who have helped make our little vegetable farm that we call North Star Farms successful. It’s time they be recognized.
And honestly, as I look back to the first year that we had assistance from the base (2011), All of those years have been good for the farm, good for the farmers’ market and apparently, good for the personnel who have assisted us, or it wouldn’t keep happening.
We don’t normally solicit the assistance. Often times someone from the base will give us a call and ask if they can help when they’re off duty. Of course, we can always use help. But it isn’t just assistance, almost all the people who we have been affiliated with, know exactly what they are doing.
Karin Constable and Jennifer Rockwell 2011
Jennifer and Karin are spouses of former base personnel. Although it was unintended, they tag teamed on helping us out during a very difficult year, one in which a flood inundated nearly 50 percent of our cropland. But their assistance was paramount as we worked through a difficult season.
James and Melanie Hoffman 2012 and 2013
During the two years the Hoffmans were with us, we had some of our best success. In fact, 2013 remains as the highest yield we have achieved in the 18 years that we’ve been growing produce.
I used to say Melanie had the brain and I had the brawn. That’s how we were able to work so well together. It was Melanie almost all the time, but there were those occasions when James, who was a captain at the time, came out to assist.
We worked hard, we had a lot of fun and we succeeded. Had I been alone, there is no way I would have been able to take care of a CSA with 63 shareholders and attend farmers’ market every Saturday.
Robert and Joanna Saucedo 2014
This young couple came to Minot AFB from San Diego and Joanna often visited the farm to assist in the field. Growing up in a big city, she knew little about commercial gardening, but was always willing to learn new things and embraced the challenge. They were later transferred to Mountain Home, Idaho.
Brian Larson 2015 and 2016
Brian was an intern through a program called FARRMs. He wanted to learn about vegetable farming, telling me that he wanted to take over his grandfather’s farm in Michigan when he retired from the Air Force.
I could tell a lot of stories about Brian’s commitment to North Star, but one stands out in particular.
Early in the 2016 season I was planting onions by hand and my time window to plant was quickly running out. It was 38 degrees and pouring rain. It was one of Brian’s work days so he came out as expected. He got out of his car, walked into the field, promptly took some trays of onions and began planting.
He never complained, never said I was crazy. He didn’t even hesitate. He jumped in with both feet. There we were, Army (me retired) and Air Force, side by side, planting onions in pouring rain. I’ll never forget it.
In addition, his wife Sara, often assisted us at the farmers’ market during busy times. And just like Brian, she jumped right in to assist.
Unfortunately, Brian didn’t go back to his grandfather’s farm but purchased a farm in South Carolina and his family now operates a successful enterprise.
Brent and Sarah Reimers 2018
We had an intern from Florida in 2018, but Brent and Sarah were often available and weren’t afraid to dig in to some of the hardest work we have to do, namely erect pea trellises. That was the summer I was taking a cancer drug called cabozantinib and I was often sick. But, it was our intern Kathryn Halter and the Reimers who created the success in 2018.
Steve and Kacie Owen 2019 and 2020
In the fall of 2018 Steve helped me plant garlic, then he was shipped to Afghanistan. Kacie continued to help on the farm and when Steve returned, he was right out in the rows pulling weeds and picking melons. A skilled craftsman, he also did some critical maintenance for us, including welding.
Andy Bisek and Abigail Kinder 2021
Andy is an enlisted airman from Wisconsin. He called one day and asked if he could help out. As a result, he assisted with weeding and worked at the farmers’ market.
Abigail, whose spouse Konnor, is an airman, quickly became a critical piece of the puzzle at North Prairie Farmers’ Market. She was there every week without fail, always happy, always motivated and couldn’t wait to meet customers. Often times it was just Abigail and I and together we nailed it!
I could write a book about Abigail because of how important she has been to our farm. Again, a big city girl, this time from Indianapolis; we worked together so well, some customers thought we were father and daughter. In fact, I liked to tell customers she is my de facto daughter.
We had a lot of fun together working hard and assisting customers. Abigail has a new job this year so I don’t know if she will be able to help us, but I hope she does. That young lady was a godsend in 2021 and I don’t think the farmers’ market would be the same without her.
You can see why folks from the Minot AFB have been such an important part of our success. Thus, a re-tired Army first sergeant salutes those who have been and will always be a critical part of North Star Farms.