By Ramey Vachal and Elijah Herbel
Farms across southeast Nebraska participated in the Dig Deeper Farm Tour Sept. 18, inviting customers to see their facilities, shop for fresh produce and learn more about local agriculture. Farms in Fremont, Plymouth, Raymond, Firth and Lincoln participated in the tour.
Ruth Chantry, co-owner of Common Good Farm near Raymond, said the tour provided an opportunity for people to see where their food is grown.
“Southeast Nebraska, [and] all Nebraska, has a really large diversity and capability of growing a lot of food and I don’t know if people always realize that,” Chantry said.
Common Good Farm had many activities available, including a general farm tour, a session covering the uses of biochar in soil, a scavenger hunt and a chance to feed old apples to pigs. Chantry’s husband and Common Good Farm co-owner Evrett Lunquist explained that biochar is created by burning wood to create a charcoal substance which is then used to improve soil. Chantry and Lunquist were also available to answer questions about the farm-to-table process.
Chantry said her process starts with the purchase and planting of seeds. Once the produce is in season, she harvests according to what customers have ordered that week. Chantry then washes and packages the produce before driving it to her buyer. She also said Common Good Farm has been offering pop-up produce sales and grab-and-go orders.
Lincoln resident Lyndsey Mart visited Common Good Farms with her family for the tour. Since her children are too young to be vaccinated, she said she was looking for anything to do outside. She said it was important to her that they learn about gardening, produce and patience.
“It’s mostly for the kids,” Mart said. “Mostly just to get an initial orientation to what life is and what a farm is.”
Just down the road from Common Good Farm, Gary Fehr owns and operates Green School Farms near Raymond. He said his process mostly involves the four components of watering, weed control, pest control and fertility to keep the farm going. Fehr said his weekly schedule consists of working at the farmers’ market on Sunday, harvesting on Monday, delivering on Tuesday and catching up on everything else until Friday.
Fehr formerly interned at Common Good Farm and now cleans out their chicken coop in exchange for manure. He said the community of growers in the area is very supportive.
“We all know that we’re all shooting for the same thing. We all have struggles and questions and so we share knowledge with each other,” Fehr said. “It never really feels competitive.”
Fehr’s land includes a vegetable garden, an alfalfa field, and a restored prairie. He said the prairie is what he’s most proud of, as it provides a habitat for Nebraska’s native wildlife.
Fehr sells his produce at the Hub Café Micromarket, the Fallbrook Farmers Market, the Sunday Farmers Market at College View and a few grocers in Lincoln. He also partners with Pius X High School in Lincoln as part of the Nebraska Department of Education’s Farm To School Institute. Fehr said the name of his farm refers to his desire to have healthy food in schools and teach students about healthy eating.
Once a software engineer, Fehr quit his desk job around 15 years ago to start his farm, a decision based on ethics and his own personal values. He said he believes that there is a culture of taking from the earth and thinking that its resources are inexhaustible.
“We’re starting to see that the earth isn’t infinite as we think,” he said. “I want to do my part to be responsible in how we approach consuming.”
The Dig Deeper Farm Tour was a collaboration between Open Harvest Co-op, the Nebraska Sustainable Agriculture Society, Buy Fresh Buy Local Nebraska and Sunday Farmers’ Market at College View.