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Sweet Top Farm’s specialty: fresh, healthy produce; deep community connections

Megan and Adam Greeson in their greenhouse with year-and-a-half-old daughter Edith, who Megan notes “is very much out there with us” at Sweet Top Farm during the growing season. (Hudson Star-Observer photo by Chuck Nowlen) 1 / 3
A sample of some of the top-quality, chemical-free vegetables grown at Sweet Top Farms for its CSA members and Hudson Farmer’s Market customers. (Submitted photo)2 / 3
The Greesons also grow chemical-free, seasonal, local-variety flowers, which are also available for both CSA members and farmer’s market customers. (Submitted photo)3 / 3

Megan and Adam Greeson don’t just grow some of the freshest, most delicious, most naturally produced vegetables and flowers around.

Their 12-acre Sweet Top Farm goes much further than that.

As part of the Hudson area’s Community Supported Agriculture network, the Greesons also grow deep personal connections among their customers to the chemical-free methods that make their farm’s bounty possible — and to the land-stewardship ethic that guarantees a sustainable future.

“It’s gratifying to see all the community support we get from our customers because it is a lot of work,” notes Adam. “This is our living here; it’s not just a hobby for us.”

The cornerstone of Sweet Top Farm’s CSA business is the grocery-bag-sized boxes of freshly picked, chemical-free vegetables and flowers that the Greesons deliver to their customers weekly or bi-weekly at six pick-up locations in Hudson, River Falls and Stillwater.

“A lot of people say it’s like Christmas every week,” Megan says.

The farm’s 30-50 CSA members –- who account for about 75 percent of the Greesons’ business — sign up for membership shares, then get regular vegetable deliveries from mid-June through mid-October.

On-farm pick-ups are also possible, as are 10-week seasonal flower-bouquet shares with deliveries from mid-July through mid-September.

Sweet Top Farm’s CSA delivery mixes vary from week to week, depending on which varieties are in season and how each variety fared as it was being grown.

In all, the Greesons grow about 75 varieties of vegetables and flowers each year, so no matter how the growing season goes for some of them, there’s always a steady supply of fresh, healthy produce for their customers.

Here’s an early season sample: lettuce, radishes, scallions, spinach, broccoli, salad mix, kale, sugar snap peas, turnips, napa cabbage, potted herbs and garlic scapes.

Mid-season vegetables include green beans, cherry and slicing tomatoes, cucumbers, peppers, eggplant, salad mix, potatoes, summer squash, carrots, beets, kale, chard, onions, melons, herbs, garlic and fennel.

A typical late-season mix: tomatoes, cauliflower, broccoli, peppers, melons, cabbage, winter squash, spinach, arugula, salad mix, kale, chard, carrots, onions, potatoes, celery, turnips, leeks, herbs and garlic.

“By harvesting and washing vegetables as close to delivery as possible, flavor and freshness are at their peak,” according to the Community Supported Agriculture page on Sweet Top Farm’s website  —  www.sweettopfarm.weebly.com.

“We use sustainable, chemical-free farming practices because we believe in being good stewards of the land and value safe, healthy food.”

Building community roots

But CSA is about “more than a box of vegetables,” the Greesons note. It’s about connecting people to the hows and whys of their farming methods -– and to the farm itself.

Deliveries, for example, include a newsletter with details on each box’s contents, Sweet Top Farm updates and events, recipes for each week’s vegetable mix and even storage instructions.

The Greesons also encourage CSA customers to visit their Deer Park farm — which they bought this year after three years on rented land in Hudson — for personalized tours and “volunteer days.”

Two Sweet Top Farms “worker share” memberships are still available this spring as well. These allow customers to work on site for four hours a week in exchange for their vegetable and/or flower boxes.

The idea of all of it, says Adam: “We’re building connections to our farm where our members can see the farm grow for themselves and hopefully become a part of that. … It’s very gratifying for us when our members can see first-hand the kind of challenges farmers face and how they can affect everybody.”

He adds: “It’s been really important to us from the beginning to stay as local as possible.”

Sweet Top Farm has been part of the Saturday Hudson Farmers Market on Carmichael for the last three years. As of last year, the Greesons were the market’s only CSA representatives.

For more information –- or to become a Sweet Top Farms member — call (507) 923-6251, email sweettopfarm@gmail.com; or check out the website, where you can sign up online.

Megan and Adam will also be part of an annual CSA Fair Sunday, April 19, at River Falls’ Whole Earth Grocery Cooperative, 126 S. Main St.

Dirty-hands learning

Interestingly enough, neither Adam, a native of Rochester, Minn., nor Vermont-born Megan has a farm background, although both have extensive experience with environmental and outdoor education. Megan once worked on a CSA farm in North Carolina that served the local farmer’s market as well.

The couple was living in Colorado, where Megan was a natural-foods grocery produce manager, when the idea of getting into sustainable farming started to take serious root in 2010.

“We wanted to get more into the growing part of things,” Megan recalls.

That led them to Minnesota for the Land Stewardship Project’s farmer-led “Farm Beginnings” program, a 12-month training session that helps beginning farmers clarify their goals and strengths, establish a strong business plan and start building their operation. The course uses a mix of farmer-led classroom sessions, on-farm tours and an extensive network of established growers.

Megan and Adam also worked at two CSA farms near Osceola in 2011 and early 2012 as part of their pre-start training.

“Several of the farmers we worked for were some of the first CSA farmers in this part of the country,” Megan explains.

The Greesons opened Sweet Top Farms in the spring of 2012, getting additional tutelage all along from other Hudson-area and western Wisconsin growers.

“There have been CSA vegetable farmers in this area for 25 years,” Adam notes.

“They’ve seen everything, and they’re always willing to help in whatever way they can because this isn’t the easiest thing in the world to do, especially without a farm background.”

By now, of course, the Greesons are well-rooted as sustainable-agriculture vegetable and flower producers.

Daughter Edith was born Oct. 10, 2013, to become the third member of the core Sweet Top Farm team.

She’s already a part of day-to-day production activities, which start in earnest every March in the greenhouse and out in the fields.

“It’s very rewarding to farm as a family,” Megan says. “Edith is very much with us out there. We want her to appreciate how we’re bringing her up.”

Chuck Nowlen

Chuck Nowlen joined the Star-Observer team as a business, township and general-assignment reporter in April, 2014 after a three-decade career in newspapers and magazines, and as a newsroom-management/business-planning consultant.

(715) 808-8286
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