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Assessing & Planning

Setting Up Shop

In 2005, Gardens of Eagan owners Martin and Atina Diffley offered to rent the fledgling farmers two acres of land (Figure 3). Adam and Laura went into business as Loon Organics. The rented land, combined with an opportunity to borrow equipment from their mentors and to continue working part-time for the Diffleys, provided several advantages.
Laura and Adam in beanfield

Figure 3: Adam and Laura standing in front of the green beans on their rented land during their first year in business, August 2005.

It was a low-risk financial situation, allowing them to make mistakes, get feedback from established farmers, earn off-farm income, and find out if full-time farming was a good choice for them. Laura described their mentorship in the first of a series of articles about their first season, now archived at the New Farm Web site.

Gardens of Eagan and Loon Organics maintained a written agreement each year. It outlined rental fees for greenhouses, equipment, and farmland. It also included expectations that the Diffleys had for Laura and Adam, such as achieving and maintaining organic certification, carrying liability insurance, and keeping weeds under control. Rent was $200 per acre for the certified organic acreage. Gardens of Eagan charged less than the going rate for organic farmland rental because Laura and Adam were beginners with low capital access. Educator’s Perspective: Resource Tip

Leases and Contracts

Whether it’s an opportunity to rent land or the need to understand rules and regulations, farmers often find themselves in need of legal documents or services.

Free rental agreement lease forms are available from Iowa State University.

The Farmers’ Legal Action Group is a nonprofit law center dedicated to providing legal services to family farmers and their rural communities in order to help keep family farmers on the land.

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Educator’s Perspective: Resource Tip

Organic Certification

For Laura and Adam, growing vegetables organically was a commitment from the outset, as indicated by the name of their new enterprise (Figure 4). While farmers can use organic growing methods without getting certified, certification was an important part of the agreement between Loon Organics and its mentor farm, Gardens of Eagan. The following resources provide good baseline information on organic certification:

What is Organic Farming?

Minnesota Guide to Organic Certification

Organic Certification of Vegetable Operations

MOSES Organic Certification Guidebook1

Minnesota Department of Agriculture Organic Division

University of Minnesota Southwest Research and Outreach Center


ATTRA Organic Farming

1MOSES also has a Farmer Transition hotline at 1-888-551-GROW (4769) for questions about soil building, weed and pest control, livestock, and certification paperwork.

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Adam and Laura initially focused on wholesale markets but quickly transitioned to a predominantly direct-marketing strategy, as described in a New Farm article written by Laura at the end of their first season. Their decision to emphasize CSA and other direct sales is explained further under Marketing Models. Certified Organic Produce

Figure 4: Adam and Laura agreed to achieve organic certification as part of their agreement with Gardens of Eagan.

An important part of the mentoring relationship with the Diffleys was the purchase of certain crops from Gardens of Eagan so that Adam and Laura could offer customers a more complete CSA box each week. The purchase of product for re-sale is described further under Finances.

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