Since 1855, on the National Register of Historic Places. Now celebrating 168 years.
In 2021, the torch of the farm that had been in continuous family operation for 166 years, was passed forward. David and Mary Stennes were approached by Marie and Matt Raboin, founders and owners of nearby Brix Cider to inquire about the possibility of buying the farm. Learning of the Raboin's background and plans to continue the restorative work that had already begun on the farm, Donald Farm became theirs. We are proud of the longstanding community presence, and the deep local history of Donald Farm. And we look forward to seeing what's next as Marie and Matt continue their hard work. www.brixcider.com
David Stennes took the research and inspiration from their work at Donald Farm to create Minneapolis-based Arcola Farms. www.arcolafarms.com
The Arcola Farms Origin Story: David Stennes has been developing his passion for horticulture for decades. It started early, in junior high school, when Stennes rode his motorcycle to his first outside summer job as groundskeeper for a Lake Minnetonka estate, in the shadow of the Arcola Bridge. In high school and college, summers were spent learning about plants and trees, working to treat Dutch Elm Disease, with the cure his uncle, Mark Stennes, created in his Masters of Plant Pathology research at the University of Minnesota. Mark became a renowned plant pathologist, scientist and researcher, who’s later work included the discovery and creation of the Dutch Elm Disease tolerant and resistant St. Croix Elm.
In 2018, with a lifetime of passionate interest in plants, trees, gardening and farming, David and his wife bought out her family’s interest in her grandmother's 1855 Wisconsin farm. With research, David developed working relationships with federal, state, and local agriculture departments to create a project farm that became a showcase for regenerative organic agriculture. It was there that he got hooked on agriculture and sustainability.
The farm had declined from generations of heavy herbicide, pesticide, and fertilizer abuse in the typical Midwest corn and soybean crop rotation. In Stennes’ first season, he couldn’t penetrate a shovel into the ground in the middle of the eroding corn field. With a bold approach to regenerating soil health, he stopped planting rotation crops and planted a field with a cover crop of buckwheat, to draw the last remnants of RoundUp (Glyphosate) from the fields and create rich, nutrient dense soil for planting for food to sell locally. In the next season, Stennes went to the field mid-summer with the shovel, to discover soft earth and soil filled with earthworms. A remarkable regeneration of the soil had been accomplished in just one season.
The process of farm research and learning led Stennes to study 3 critical things in American farming. 1) Sustainability in food production 2) The damage of chemical inputs to farms, to our food supply, and the dramatic increases in childhood health problems associated with food. 3) The health of the planet, and our need to feed far more people in the future.
Lightbulb Moment: In 2019, Stennes saw a National Geographic article on Dutch glass greenhouse technology. The Netherlands is #2 in world exports of food, growing chemical free food year round, in large scale indoor farms. Standing in their farm field in September, David asked the question, “What if we could grow great quality, chemical free food, sustainably, not just in June through early September? What if we covered this whole field with a modern greenhouse, to keep the crops coming?” He knew what everyone in the northern part of the country knows. You can’t get a great BLT after September. More importantly, the vast majority of vegetables and fruit America eats comes from chemically treated fields in Mexico and California.
In 2021, with their Wisconsin farm located a long 6 hours from home, they passed the baton of the farm to an organic apple orchard farm, who continues the work of organic regenerative agriculture. David’s lifetime of work to create Arcola Farms was born.
Now, in 2023, join us on the journey as we prepare to build the first indoor farm.
1972 Wisconsin Highway 92, Mount Horeb, Wisconsin 53572. Telephone 612-840-2796
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