Melissa Driscoll’s Story
While attending Farm Beginnings classes, my husband and I started looking for a good farm. We needed good soil, a decent house, internet access, and to be located 1 hour or less from our main market (Minneapolis and St. Paul). We spent two and a half years, but finally found our 7 acre farm in southeast Minnesota and moved out here on February 13th, 2010. I say “we” but this is really my dream – to support us by growing excellent-tasting heirloom organic vegetables, garlic, berries and eggs, to sell to neighbors and friends.
The farm infrastructure consists of a barn, a granary, and a hoop house. We saved the 1890 barn from collapsing by getting it roofed and sided with metal. We were also able to put a new roof on the granary, but could not afford to fix the inside of the barn. This year I harvested almost 3000 bulbs of garlic and was hoping to create a garlic curing area in the hayloft of the barn. Since there is no stairway to the hayloft, or even any kind of built-in ladder, I ended up curing the garlic on racks on the first floor. This is unsatisfactory because the first floor would be put to better use as a packing shed, and because of the floor itself — the previous farm owners used the barn to store their household trash. Luckily the bank (this farm was a foreclosure) paid to get much of the trash cleaned out, but a great deal of old manure mixed with pieces of trash (think diapers, batteries, fingernail polish bottles, etc.), and pieces of broken concrete make walking on the ground floor of the barn a bit treacherous, and at the least, uninspiring. I invited friends to help clean the barn last April and after a lot of work we were able to remove a significant part of the manure/trash mixture but of course the concrete pieces are just too big for us to lift. We have a bid for replacing the concrete on half of the first floor of the barn for $4,000. We estimate prepping that half of the first floor of the barn for the concrete will cost $600. Replacing two support posts (to support the hayloft) will cost $400.
We estimate it will cost about $700 to install a simple but wide stairway to allow us to safely use the hayloft for curing garlic. In addition, some of the hayloft floor is rotten from the sad shape the barn roof was in when we arrived. We estimate it will cost $500 to replace a number of floorboards in the hayloft, so that when we are curing garlic we would not fall through! Our total request is for $6,200, but a grant for any part of those expenses will help us better utilize the barn. When not curing garlic or storing other crops, we plan to show movies, host barn dances, and hold other community-building events in the hayloft.