Specialty Crops Keep These Farm Kids Busy
At Rustic Roots Farm the Olberding kids, Leah, 12, and Blake, 10, already have a few years’ experience growing garlic - planting, cutting scapes, and harvesting the bulbs with their parents, Chad and Julie.
Growing garlic has proven to be an ideal crop on the rural Holmes City, Minn., property the Olberdings purchased in 2018. They planted the garlic that October for the following year, and production grows each year, using natural practices such as organic fertilizer and hand weeding instead of herbicides.
“Last fall we planted approximately 15,000 plants in a quarter-acre plot. This was up from 10,000 plants the year before,” says Julie Olberding. She credits membership in the Minnesota Garlic Project with the Sustainable Farming Association for helping to educate them about growing garlic and choosing nine varieties of hardneck garlic suited for Minnesota.
The varieties also work well in other states, and they have sold much of the harvest to growers in several other states, in addition to local consumers.
Garlic is a popular and successful specialty crop in Minnesota, and it fits in well with other crops, Olberding says. She and her husband have full-time jobs, along with their horticulture ventures. Garlic requires less maintenance than crops like strawberries, which they also grow.
Garlic cloves are planted in October, then mulched with straw when the ground freezes. Some weeding is necessary, but the Olberdings plant close together in rows a foot apart and mulch heavily. In June they cut off the scapes (flower stems) so the plants’ energy goes toward bigger bulbs. A month later the garlic is harvested and then cured for about a month before it is trimmed and ready to sell.
Hardneck garlic keeps up to a year and the varieties they grow offer different flavors. The Olberdings sell it for $10 to $20/lb., depending on the variety. Word of mouth, social media and being part of the garlic project helped with marketing in the past. This year they added a website, which includes photos and provides personal information about the family.
“The whole reason we bought the property (50 acres) is that we wanted the kids to learn a good work ethic, and about persevering and problem solving,” Olberding says.
It’s accomplished those goals and more.
“This year the kids came up with the project of planting pumpkin and winter squash,” she explains. Her husband prepped the ground for them, but planting, weeding, harvesting and selling will be up to the kids. They will also gain experience working with customers and in budgeting, dividing profits into college funds, costs for next year, and money they can spend for fun.
For information about the specific varieties they grow (subtypes: Purple Stripe, Rocambole and Porcelain) check out the Rustic Roots Farm website.
Contact: FARM SHOW Followup, Rustic Roots Farm, 9651 Grubb Lake Rd., Alexandria, Minn. 56308 (ph 320 834-3051; www.rusticrootsfarmmn.com; julie@rusticrootsfarmmn.com; Facebook - Rustic Roots Farm-MN).

  Click here to download page story appeared in.

  Click here to read entire issue

To read the rest of this story, download this issue below or click here to register with your account number.
Order the Issue Containing This Story
2021 - Volume #45, Issue #4