Cedar Crate Farm is run by Dan and Lara Zimmerli. We grow sustainable, fresh, delicious, local produce that's sold through the Mankato Farmers Market and through our CSA subscription.
We met in 2016 and instantly hit it off talking about farming, food, life and all the important things. Some of our first "dates" were weeding and planting produce (folks, I have no idea why she didn't run away right there). We love selling produce together at our farmers market stand and planning for our next season. Lara has contributed several successful projects to the farm and currently is in charge of our beautiful flock of Australorp laying hens. She also added garlic to our crop list which has been a huge success! We got engaged in 2017 and were married in 2018. We are excited to pursue our passions for farming, sustainability, local produce, and quality food together!
My story begins before I was even born - I grew up in a family of farmers: my dad with the help of my mom runs a conventional corn and soybean farm in Southwestern Minnesota and my grandparents on both sides of my family were also farmers. As a kid, I was always fascinated with farming and gardening - I'd wake up early to help my dad do chores and I'd spend my summers helping my mom with her large garden. We canned and froze everything possible so we could have healthy, delicious vegetables all winter long.
When I was about 12 years old I decided I wanted to sell vegetables and sweet corn in my hometown of Wabasso, MN. My dad graciously let me use half an acre of his land to take on this task. With the help of both my siblings and my parents I sold vegetables and sweet corn for several summers as a kid - it was great spending money! We established good relationships with the community in Wabasso and frequently were told that we grew the best sweet corn around.
What I realized as I grew older is that most people didn't have the food experience I did as a child and still do today. I was blessed with being able to have produce fresh from the garden when in season and canned or frozen produce during the winter months - people call this "eating seasonally" now. It's just what I've always done. The difference in taste is astounding - canned corn, frozen peas, canned green beans and other preserved produce from the super market just don't compare in terms of flavor and nutritional content. They're bland and unappealing and need to be dressed up in fixings to taste like anything. And the "fresh" produce at the supermarket has a similar problem. The problem is that the varieties of produce you find in the super market are bred to be shipped, mass produced, and preserved which forsakes flavor and nutrition in favor of shelf life. Now, fifteen years later and considering the state of the supermarket I decided I wanted to sell produce so that people could experience the flavors of the fresh produce I remember from childhood.
When I was young my mom cooked a meal every night. We always had access to fresh food and some of my favorite memories include picking raspberries and strawberries at my grandma's farm. My mom kept a garden so we always had canned corn and tomato sauce all winter. I remember begging her to plant peas each year and never managing to bring many in for supper because I ate them so fast! In college I expanded my diet to include lots of fresh vegetables and fruit! Thanks to my roommate Ella for making sweet potatoes a staple in my diet! I have always been passionate about fresh produce, frequently picking my own berries to freeze for the winter or apples for sauce and pies. My idea of a lovely afternoon always includes a good meal. Ask Dan what my number one question is when planning our day (hint: what are we eating?). When I met Dan I couldn't believe how lucky I was that he was already farming produce, he was basically living out my dream. I am so excited to provide nutritious and delicious food to the people of Mankato!
Our goal with Cedar Crate Farm is to produce the highest quality produce in the area using sustainable methods. We believe that through the use of cover crops, companion planting and crop rotations there is little need for chemical fertilizers, pesticides, herbicides or fungicides of any kind to produce healthy, wholesome produce. Cover crops are amazing - they attract beneficial insects, scavenge nutrients from the air and soil to make ready for next seasons produce, help eliminate erosion and help establish healthy, living soil. Companion planting helps synergize the strengths and weaknesses of various produce and crop rotations, and ensure diseases that may be present don't affect future crops. By combining these strategies we seek to minimize or eliminate any need for chemicals and fertilizer and let nature do its work for us.
Food is important, we all need it to survive. It's our belief that food should be high quality, local, and sustainable. It needn't be overly dressed up or processed to taste good. That food should come from a farmer you know, one who will encourage you to visit their farm for a tour!