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feature || organic farm

Earth Bound
organization dedicated to teaching people to build a sustainable food system. Needless to say, Lisa Ringer is not short on inspiration. She is also not short on stamina. And she is not short on passion. But a farmer is always working against time. On the day we met, I pulled into the long, winding gravel driveway isa Ringer thought That Beauty is the normal state is shown hidden by trees and found her in dirty she would be a proper by the perpetual effort of Nature to attain it. jeans, a T-shirt, boots and a tool belt landscape architect. standing on the clumpy black dirt She recalls reading RALPH WALDO EMERSON of a vegetable garden. Her mass of Ralph Waldo silver wavy hair was pulled away from Emersons essay her face with tendrils spilling out, looking much like the vines of her Beauty in college. She grew up on Lake Minnetonka, forming a deep flowers. Im having a bad day, she said to me through the car window. appreciation for the sprawling midwestern landscape. She fell in love Im having an argument with a rototiller. with the gardens she tended for Sally McMillan, which showcased It made me laugh. She climbed in my car and we drove to the a vast expanse of flowers, including dahlias. Her friend and former house. (Homestead seems more fitting upon seeing it.) She was clearly business partner, Kim Knutson, a University of CaliforniaSanta Cruz frazzled and preoccupied, and had probably forgotten I was coming. graduate, introduced Ringer to Camp Joy Gardens, a small organic Still, she made me tea, served it in her grandmothers teacups, and set family farm run as an educational nonprofit organization in the Santa out a fresh pastry with cotton napkins in the kitchen while Ethyl and Cruz Mountains, which changed the way she thought about gardening. Theo, her two chocolate labs, wove in and out among our legs and the She was inspired by the work of the late English master gardener legs of the table. She began to tell me her story. Allen Chadwick, who was a leader of the organic- and biodynamicRinger and her former husband, Jim Hillegass, met in 1976 when farming movement in the U.S. She still follows the work of Will Allen, he discovered that the historic, crumbling and vacant Wolfsfeld a MacArthur fellow and founder of Growing Power, a nonprofit

Wayzata native merges an unbridled passion for the land with social responsibility. | by ALEciA StEvENS

photo caption CLOCKWISE FROM TOP LEFT A tumble of clay starting pots; the teepee - perhaps it reminds who originally belonged to this land; plants for sale - waiting for a trip to the city; Lisa with buckets of fresh spring tulips; the simple sign, made of twigs; friends take a trip through the garden to gather honey.
12 Artful Living

| Summer 2010 Artful Living

| Summer 2010


homestead, which had been donated to the Nature Conservancy and was under DNR

management, was for rent on 300 acres in Long Lake. He thought she might help him tame the landscape. Instead, they married and had two daughters, Katie Rose and Anna, both now living in New York City. After living this charmed life in this little house in the woods with our children, the DNR finally evicted us, she says. But we were able to buy 40 acres of the property. So, in 1992, we bought it 40 acres surrounded on 2 sides by protected woods, and built our home over two years. The home was designed at Lincoln Dell on the back of a paper placemat, and then drafted by a University of Minnesota architecture student. Stylistically, it merges a Shaker community house with a loft. The two-story, glass-walled entry has a concrete

floor with a drain. It had to be wheelbarrowaccessible, Ringer says. Above, on the second level, up a symmetrical pair of stairs worthy of Scarlet OHara, a wall of precise drawers and cupboards reveals the Spartan, but beautiful, Shaker influence. While her husband ran his own business in the city, Ringer began to imagine how to maintain her independence and spend her days in the country. She decided to raise dahlias. They are such happy flowers, she says. When I walk into the garden, it is like walking into a wallpapered room. She began to develop and build a business, selling both the plants and the flowers. Then, after learning about Camp Joy, I felt like I had a responsibility to grow food. So, I began to grow heirloom tomatoes and lettuces. My friend, Kim [Knutson] and I worked together and sold them to Lucia [Watson] for her restaurant in the 90s. She was one of the first to support local farming. Inquisitive by nature, Ringers mind and interests dart around like the bees that pollinate her flowers. She has dabbled in raising goats and still offers a goat-sitting service when her friend and goatherd, Louise, travels. Ringer produces a divinely delicate goat cheese for the pleasure of her family and friends. She struggles with maintaining a hive of bees, but swoons over her homemade lavender-honey ice cream. Although the geese didnt make it, she added chickens in the spring in a coyote-proof coop. And worms. Yes, she raises worms and they are for sale. A wood-fired bread oven was just finished, which will support her nonprofit organization, Youth Environmental Literacy and Law Project (Y.E.L.L. Project). Through Y.E.L.L., Ringer arranges to bring inner-city children

to the farm, where they work the soil, plant, tend and harvest a season of crops, a foreign experience to kids raised in apartment buildings with concrete parking lots. An hour passed in conversation. The rototiller was still angry and there was more than a days work ahead of her. Her horses needed to be fed. She has help now sometimes a blessing, sometimes a curse, she says. I am terrible at delegating. And I love being alone here. But I also love sharing the land. An assistant, Siri Knutson, digs in as if it was her own and organizes volunteers to come to work the farm on Thursdays. I have so much I want to do. I am awed by the CSA farmers who raise vegetables to feed people. Im awed by so many who are driven to educate people about this work and the earth, Ringer says. But farming is really challenging. Theres weather! And I am often just overwhelmed. But, she pauses and looks around the home, out the window, then smiles, and continues: This is still pretty good.

Two Pony Gardens Produce

available all summer by appointment only. Please call ahead. Lisa Ringer | Siri Knutson 763.473-0783, leave a message. E-mail: Link for driving directions: Check website for Harvest Dinners, Pizza from the Oven, update on Y.E.L.L. Project and other activities.

Home designed by Lisa Ringer and Jim Hillegass marrying a Shaker community house with a loft; Lisa, the beekeeper, checking for honey; dahlias decorate the entry to the Two Pony Garden market in the garage; Lisa at the two story glass entrance to the homestead.

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14 Artful Living

| Summer 2010 Artful Living

| Summer 2010


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