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Naturally grown farm to offer 43 vegetables this summer

BISMARCK -- Small lettuce plants and onions have started to poke through the soil in the greenhouse at Hillview Organic Farm. In less than a month, the radishes will be ready for harvest.

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Brenda and Richard Baumgartner have some plants already sprouting inside a greenhouse at Hillview Organic Farm south of Mandan. The couple plan to have a limited variety of produce available in April. (TOM STROMME, Bismarck Tribune)

BISMARCK -- Small lettuce plants and onions have started to poke through the soil in the greenhouse at Hillview Organic Farm. In less than a month, the radishes will be ready for harvest.

With a germinator keeping the young plants at 72 degrees and the mild spring weather, the farmers are aiming to have spinach and herbs ready for harvest and tomato plants going into the ground by April or May rather than waiting until mid-June.

Richard Baumgartner and Brenda Christophersen have taken over operation of the former Riverbound Farm, putting their spin on the farm’s Community Supported Agriculture operations and providing produce for the opening of the Bisman Community Food Co-op.

Cabbage, scallions, leeks, carrots, romaine and butterhead lettuce and tomatoes are just a few of the 43 vegetables the farm will have on hand for CSA members this growing season. Some of the produce will be ripe later in the season; some will be ready earlier.

“Like we’re not going to have tomatoes right away,” Baumgartner said.

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The couple is switching to a no-till operation. Their produce will be certified naturally grown, which isn’t organic but follows a lot of the same rules, Christophersen said. Should they continue the farm operations past this first year, they would like to seek organic certification.

Baumgartner, a Wishek native, grew up with a dozen siblings and the family grew its own food. When he lived with Christophersen in her home state of Wyoming for several years, he had 300 to 400 feet of raised beds.

“I basically turned the whole back yard into a garden,” he said. “To me, it’s a passion.”

When the couple returned to North Dakota, Baumgartner went to work for organic producer Thane Dockter.

When former Riverbound Farm owners Brian and Angie McGinness decided to pursue an opportunity in Hawaii, they wanted someone to continue what they had started in Mandan. Baumgartner and Christophersen, who had been CSA members, decided to seize the opportunity and signed a one-year lease for five acres of the farm.

“I’d rather be out here and doing what I love instead of wishing I was,” said Baumgartner, noting that cucumbers and tomatoes are his favorite. “I could live on them.”

He’s also looking forward to trying eggplants and parsnips, as well as heirloom varieties such as rainbow carrots, which come up in a variety of colors from red to orange to green.

Most of the couple’s seeds are from Prairie Road Organic Seed in Fullerton. Because they’re produced in North Dakota, they’re acclimated to the climate and the partnership allows Hillview to support another local grower.

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“We’re keeping things local as much as possible,” Christophersen said.

While the growing isn’t Christophersen’s expertise, she loves to cook. She said she plans to post recipes for their produce on the farm’s website, www.hillvieworganicfarm.com . She also would like to host on-farm workshops showing CSA members how to make things such as natural soaps with herbs.

When the McGinnesses were running it, the CSA had 200 members. Baumgartner said he plans to start with 50. Like with Riverbound, CSA members will be able to visit the farm on Saturdays or Sertoma Park on Wednesdays and take their pick of the available produce.

The couple also attended a local food growers conference in Fargo to learn more about the use of high tunnels. Baumgartner has spent the past couple months cleaning the tunnels and greenhouse, as well as building raised beds in the fields, preparing them for his personal touches and changes to the operation.

For example, he will plant multiple crops in the same row, so that as one becomes ripe the other, later-season crop starts growing. Visitors to the farm might see tomato plants coming up between carrots. The stems of the ripening carrots will protect the seedling tomato plants.

He also will make use of the ground space around the edges of the high tunnels and greenhouse, bringing in new soil for planting inside the buildings. This could allow him to keep producing items such as tomatoes through November.

“I could have (produce) year round; I’m going to give it a shot,” Baumgartner said.

Onions, carrots, radishes and beets will be the primary products provided by Hillview to the food co-op, which is on target for an April 21 opening, with a grand opening celebration planned for June 4.

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General manager Randy Joersz said the co-op has reached more than 1,500 of its 1,750-member goal. The coolers are set up inside the building on Sweet Avenue and the front windows are in. Painting and walls will be finished; then shelving will go up.

Hillview is one of 20 local producers contracted by the co-op. In addition to produce, there will be locally raised grass-fed beef, pork, lamb, eggs and dairy. Any other interested producers can contact the co-op online at http://bismanfoodcoop.com/ .

“We’ve got a lot of local producers working on ramping up production,” Joersz said.

Related Topics: AGRICULTURE
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