Tour highlights Elm Creek Veggies
FAIRMONT — Dean Maschoff grows a little bit of everything on his fruit and vegetable farm, Elm Creek Veggies. A walking tour of the farm, located at 1846 190th Ave. in Fairmont, took place Tuesday morning. Maschoff led the tour along with educators from the University of Minnesota Extension program.
The tour was done in collaboration with the University of Minnesota Southwest Regional Sustainable Development Partnership, from which Maschoff received a grant.
Gary Wyatt is an educator with the University of Minnesota Extension program, which discovers science-based solutions, delivers practical education and engages Minnesotans to build a better future. Wyatt specializes in agroforestry, of which he said there are five brackets, one of which is forest farming which includes edibles from the woods.
Wyatt said the tour was the education outreach part of the grant. Maschoff also got some more plants with the grant money as well as some signage.
Maschoff said he started out with a roadside trailer selling some vegetables, including asparagus and tomatoes around 2012. The small operation started out as a hobby for Maschoff after he retired from Aluma, the business he founded and owned in Bancroft, Iowa.
Now, Elm Creek Veggies has turned into a full-fledged business for Maschoff.
“I still see pleasure in it, even though it’s busy,” Maschoff said.
His operation now spans over 77 acres, including a large area of prairie land.
Maschoff worked with the Martin Soil and Water Conservation District, as well as the Natural Resources Conservation Service in Martin County to plant the wild grasses and flowers.
The prairie land attracts pollinators and wildlife and it also protects the soil and water quality resources.
Maschoff specializes in asparagus, tomatoes, garlic, and cucumbers. He has built several passive solar greenhouses that he uses to start some of his plants.
For his corn, beans and squash, Maschoff follows the three sisters method, which he said the Indians created and practiced.
“In an open area or prairie, they would plant a couple rows of corn. Then they’d wait a few weeks for the corn to grow and then plant the beans alongside it so the corn would act as a climbing place for the beans,” Maschoff explained.
“Then they’d plant the squash to act as a weed control because it shades the ground.”
Another interesting method Maschoff uses is that, around the base of most of his plants, he puts cardboard down and then he puts wood chips on top of it. He does this because it stops weeds from coming through and also worms collect under the cardboard to help aerate the soil. Worm castings also work as a fertilizer.
“I use very little commercial fertilizer. I use a lot of organic fertilizer, horse manure and worm castings,” Maschoff said.
While Maschoff has hundreds of vegetable plants, he’s really focusing on his nuts and fruits right now.
He has many shrubs and perennial plant varieties producing fruits and nuts, including hazelnuts, Josta berries, Goji berries, honeyberries and Aronia berries, or chokeberries.
Maschoff has about 20 Aronia berry bushes. He says they’re semi-sweet, but the birds don’t eat them in the summer months, which allows them to grow. The bush has white flowers in the spring which turn red in the fall. The berries themselves are a dark blue color.
“It’s one of my favorite jellies,” Maschoff said.
Maschoff strictly sells from the stand on the side of the road. He uses the honor system and says that has been successful, which is why he keeps it open 24 hours a day, seven days a week.
He donates some of his yieldings to Heaven’s Table Food Shelf as well as to some of the area parochial schools.
“The Cup N’ Saucer in Sherburn buys a lot of my stuff, mainly asparagus,” Maschoff said.
He said some people will buy his stuff and then re-sell it at the Fairmont Farmer’s Market, which he doesn’t mind.
Maschoff likes learning and teaching others and said he wants to see other people get started with fruit and vegetable gardening because there’s a need for it.
“I want people living in town to know if they plant one row of anything, they could make a couple hundred bucks,” Maschoff said.
Maschoff said his favorite thing about his operation is meeting all of the good people that come by.
“I enjoy seeing someone down here and getting to talk to them,” Maschoff said.
The University of Minnesota Extension program is talking about coming back to do another tour of Elm Creek Veggies in the fall.