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Minnesota organic farms team to provide eggs

CLINTON FALLS, Minn. (AP)--Last year around this time, Katie Felland didn't know much about community-supported farming.

But then she got to know John Ostgarden and Lowell Gordon, owners of Clinton Falls Farm, a certified organic farm located in Clinton Falls.

As a Community Supported Agriculture farm, Clinton Falls Farm sells crop shares to clients who share in the risks and benefits of farming in exchange for a locally-grown variety of fresh produce and flowers.

"People are really receptive to local sustainable farming," Ostgarden said, "and I believe mentoring a beginning farmer is really important for our community. I think there's a real growing interest for beginning farmers in organic."

Felland bought into the shares and volunteered on the farm to learn more. She also enrolled in the Farm Beginnings Class sponsored through the Land Stewardship Project, which is led by farmers, for those who are starting their own farm for the first time or returning to farming after leaving the business.

This year, her farm, O-Wata-Farm!, will share its organic fresh eggs with shareholders of Clinton Falls Farm. She will also grow fresh sweet corn, strawberries and raspberries on her 10-acre farm north of Owatonna.

As part of the CSA, clients can buy direct shares of organic eggs produced by Felland's nearly 150 chickens.

Not only are Felland's eggs certified organic, they are also from chickens kept in a pasture and not ones locked in a coop.

"They're outside all day, foraging from the green pastures. They won't be confined at all," Felland said.

Although Felland will supplement the pasture with organic feed, University of Minnesota studies have shown organically grown chickens produce even healthier eggs than those produced in commercial operations, with organic eggs containing one-half less cholesterol, one-fourth less saturated fat and two-thirds more vitamins.

However, keeping the hens in pasture means more work for the Fellands.

It is a family effort. Felland's three children, Lucy, Olivia and Max, help move portable electric fencing and the portable coop around the property to best use the available grass for the hens.

At a hen's full productivity, it can lay an egg every 25 hours. Felland's kids help collect the eggs, but she also encourages clients who buy shares to stop by and collect a few eggs as well.

"Kids are more open to trying something when they can see where it comes from," Felland said.

Her husband, a local doctor who specializes in family medicine, is also involved. Not only does he help on the farm, but he also keeps up on research of organic foods and recommends organic products to patients.

Not only will Felland's eggs be included in shares of Clinton Falls Farm, individual egg shares can be bought which offer a dozen fresh eggs per week. A half-share is a dozen eggs every other week.

In a time when the economy is struggling and fresh organic food can be considered a luxury by some, Gordon, Felland and Ostgarden said the cost is much less than trying to buy through a regular grocery store.

"Actually, because of the economy, people are cooking a lot more instead of going out, and this is perfect for that, with the fresh food and herbs," said Gordon. "And we have a lot of members who are canning and preserving their shares."

Gordon added that Clinton Falls Farm hopes to hold community classes this summer on topics such as how to preserve or can foods.

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