Popular CSA Farming Operation: Juggling Family, Work Team and Farming
About the Farm:
Loon Organics is a 40-acre certified organic vegetable farm located in Hutchinson, 60 minutes west of Minneapolis, MN. Loon is co-owned and operated by Laura Frerichs and Adam Cullip and their young boys, Eli and Willie. Laura and Adam have been successfully farming since 2005 growing food for their community through a CSA operation, the Mill City Farmers Market, farm-to-table restaurants, and their local food shelves.
We’ve always held a lifelong love for the outdoors and a deep care for the Earth. Our farm name was inspired by a Boundary Waters canoe trip where the loons called deep into the night from lake to lake. In homage to Minnesota’s State Bird, we grow high-quality organic food for our local Minnesota communities. We bring an ethic of care to our land, ourselves, and our workers in the process.
Our mission is to nourish Mind, Body & Soil.
I worked with Loon Organics consistently for 5 years. Years 6 – 8 I’ve been available for consultation as needed.
Our relationship began at the 6 year mark of their business, through giving birth to 2 sons, navigating extended family illness and loss, while always upgrading their farm, continuing to train and stabilize good farm workers, and providing the best CSA and farmer’s market produce around. And now they are managing through COVID-19 and doing well, as a successful organic farming business and as a couple.
This couple sought help to integrate business development and family decision point after birth of first son:
- Where do we want to grow business after 6 years start-up?
- How stay connected personally, as a couple and family, while working together in our business?
- How do we make decisions as business partners? For ourselves and for our loyal customers?
- Can we attract, pay, and grow the right team to create long-term stability?
- Focused on connecting them as personal and business partners, separating their personal and business lives, but integrating. Boundaries. Young son.
- Needed a way to partner since couple and business partners and leaders together of a team
- Making decisions together that were strategic, growth oriented and maintained the lifestyle focus core to their values
- Assessment of needs and future vision
- Established core values, mission
- Gathered info on history capabilities what was and was not working
- A lean business model
- Taught basics of big picture partnering
- Worked on 1,3,5 year goals and strategized initial steps
- Job descriptions hiring issues were big deal
- Began and continued each year to improve — Develop and implement systems for culture, employee training, leadership and
Year 2 Implemented choices
- but not the correct hires so the problematic issues continued to surface
- Some stable employees who kept the focus and helped with systems
- Kept working through ways to bve flexible to meet business goals
- Continued to balance personal and business needs
Year 3 up and downs crisis management, birth of 2nd child, illness and death
- Pregnant with and birth of 2nd son while managing the farm
- Book contract needed to be fulfilled
- Teaching in addition to farming
- A team that was okay but not what they desired required monitoring
- Balancing family illness, changes in childcare needs, etc.
- Always planning for ways to improve operations for the next year
- Continued to work on balancing personal and business
- Keeping this couple well connected with one another and achieving their goals together
- All the while continued to develop the farm operation, smooth and institute systems
- I did consistent team meetings to review progress, needs, satisfaction
- Forced the couple leaders/owners to have to hand over more responsibility to employees
Year 4 Greater Stability
At end of 3rd year made decisions to…..
- Decisions to have no one live on farm for some separation of home and biz life
- Impacted hiring of new part-time people
- Had groomed 3rd year a manager and assist manager to stay on in 4th year and hopefully beyond
- Gave them more training and independence so Laura was freed up for family needs and book writing
- Put systems on paper for future employees
- Upgraded some equipment and
- Made important financial decision stabilizing the farm, family and keeping the business in a stable zone vs high growth zone – which is consistent with the values of this couple
- New hires have more experience in the industry
Years 4 and 5 are much more stable
- The team has been working well and is more consistent – though we continue to refine hiring
- Training of the team has paid off
- The owners continue to train staff and delegate so they can step back
- No workers live on the farm now so that makes family life a little happier
- The couple is working through decision-making farming direction while their son’s are young
- They are making choices for their needs as well as those of their loyal customers
- They are proud of their product
- Exploring ways to supplement workload and income in addition to farming
- Keeping things stable as we work forward
- Keeping the couple and business owners strong together and well connected
Years 6 – 8 Pivots for Family Integration and Current Covid
- With 2 young sons and a desire for more privacy, owners explored all options
- Made shifts to smaller staff off-site
- Made decisions to convert to market cards and increase local sales
- Adjusted budget to make desired changes
- Both owners explored other activities for fun, relaxation and additional income
- These shifts helped prepare them for Farmer’s Market social distancing measures
- Sales online and pick up at markets working well
- Coach/Consultant in their back pocket whenever needed
Jan has been an invaluable resource to grow, define, and sharpen our farm business. She is supportive, intuitive, clear, and creative. She has helped us vastly improve our hiring, employee management, and risk management processes, often with simple, creative strategies that make a big positive impact. She’s also helped us step back and look at the Big Picture, further defining our farm’s mission, values, and visioning for the future, and then grounding that vision in the present. Her blending of the practical improvement of systems with the creative visioning for the future has been an inspiring part of our work with her. With Jan’s help, we’ve been able to move our farm forward without sacrificing our quality of life and partnering goals.
– Laura Frerichs / Adam Cullip, Loon Organics Farm
Co-Business Owners, Married Couple
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