Main Street Project to Develop 100-acre Demonstration Farm on Newly Acquired Land

Rocky Casillas news

The team at Main Street Project is ready to dig in—literally. The organization announced today that it has purchased 100 acres of farmland near Northfield, a significant step in expanding its poultry-centered regenerative agriculture system through the region and changing the way food is produced around the world. The farmland is on Mud Creek, located on the northeast side of Northfield, in Dakota County. It will showcase the organization’s replicable, scalable system and provide a more expansive space for education and training programs for new and established farmers.

When Main Street Project’s farm is completed it will demonstrate the organization’s highly efficient, livestock and perennial-based agriculture system. Chickens will range in paddocks designed to mimic their natural habitat. They provide meat, eggs and natural fertilizer. Hazelnuts and elderberries are planted inside the paddock to provide cover for the birds, and outside of the paddock to provide cash crops for small farmers. Annual edible crops, like beans and garlic, are planted between the rows of perennials. The farm shows what is possible for the future of agriculture: a biodiverse system of symbiotically connected livestock and perennials, with no chemical inputs, that create the potential to build soil, retain and clean water, and deliver economic benefits to the community.

Julie Ristau, Main Street Project chief operating officer, who led the acquisition of the land, explained, “Launching the farm is an important milestone. It will significantly accelerate our mission to promote farming practices that are designed to have a measurable impact on local economies and promote the well-being of farmers. We’re grateful for our many partners who have made this tremendous vision a reality.”

Through creation of this innovative agricultural system and the organization’s work to restore the land, the farm will regenerate qualities of the farmland that have eroded over time, most notably nutrient-rich soil and natural wetlands.

Al Singer, land conservation manager for Dakota County, said, “Through its work, Main Street Project will transform the land—protecting productive farmland, natural areas and water quality. From restoring the natural hydrology of the land to protecting the creek from non-filtered runoff and expanding and improving wildlife habitats, Main Street Project’s farm will provide valuable insights into addressing many of the inherent conflicts occurring in rural landscapes.”

The Dakota County land on which the farm is located has been family-owned for three generations, most recently by Craig and Linda Wasner. After hearing of Main Street Project’s regenerative agriculture system, the Wasners’ passion for restoring the land, developing a small-scale diversified agricultural plot and reintroducing animals on the land made Main Street Project an ideal partner. It also gave the Wasners the opportunity to give back to local farmers, helping to mitigate some of the challenges they face when starting out in business.

In addition to the Wasners, Main Street Project’s farm has been made possible by the generosity of the husband-wife team of Tom Loretto and Najwa Bukhari of Northfield and their passion for addressing environmental, social and economic injustices to create a better world for future generations.

With the engagement of Craig, Linda, Tom and Najwa, the Main Street Project team secured a vision for its future. The vision wouldn’t have been realized, however, without assistance from Iroquois Valley Farms, collaboration from Dakota County and support from Greenvale Township.

Dave Miller, CEO of Iroquois Valley Farms, an Illinois-based organization that provides mortgage financing for sustainable agriculture, said, “We’re thrilled to partner with Main Street Project. The organization’s research-based system has proven its potential to produce healthy, nutritious food while providing an economic opportunity for area farmers. We look forward to seeing the organization’s impact multiply in the years ahead.”

Greg Langer, chairman of the board of Greenvale Township, said, “It’s a privilege to collaborate with Northfield’s own Main Street Project on this important endeavor. There’s no doubt this world will be a better place because of its mission-driven pursuit for high quality, locally produced food that uplifts the community and restores the environment.”

Main Street Project’s poultry-centered regenerative agriculture system, engineered by Chief Strategy Officer Reginaldo Haslett-Marroquin, has already taken root in communities across the United States, Mexico and Guatemala. The Main Street Project team has helped train more than 70 agripreneurs in the poultry-centered regenerative agriculture practices.

Haslett-Marroquin said, “This is a system that makes sense. We’re advocating for a farming approach that has been trusted for hundreds of years. It’s good to the people who farm the land, it’s good to the land itself and it offers countless benefits to the community of people around it.”

Main Street Project’s poultry-centered regenerative agriculture system has triple bottom line (economic, ecological and social) benefits—one element of which is offering comprehensive training and education programs for farmers to ensure the model can be taught and replicated across the world. A key component of the farm’s mission is its research and development work, which earned a special distinction from the Minnesota Department of Agriculture (MDA) as a research farm. This designation enables Main Street Project to create a robust research platform where the effects of the farm’s operation will be carefully monitored, especially its impact on the soil, water, farmers and economy.

Main Street Project Chief Executive Officer Niel Ritchie said, “Today is the beginning of a new chapter in Main Street Project’s story. We’re extraordinarily optimistic about our future and our ability to influence change.”

Main Street Project will host a grand opening ceremony on the farm this September. Until then, the team is planting a cover crop, perennial trees and shrubs, and beginning the hydrological work of restoring the land’s natural wetlands with their partners Ecological Design and Zumbro Valley Forestry and Prairie Land Pro. The farm’s progress is marked on Main Street Project’s website and can be followed on Facebook.

Watch the story unfold.

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