Our Farm Story
First Things First... Introductions
Since we have several new members and followers, we thought it would be a good time to re-introduce ourselves and share our farm story with our growing community. Even those who are familiar with our story might learn something new, so do read on!
We (Emily & John Beaton) moved to our farm in December of 2016, The farm was owned by a vegetable farmer who wanted to pass on her legacy to the next generation. Our farm philosophy resonated with her values and so we all agreed with a handshake to move forward with the farm transition. We were able to rent from her until we purchased the farm in 2017 with Emily's parents (who now make their home here as well). We are honored to be carrying on the torch, so to speak, on this very special piece of land with a rich history of community.
Fairhaven Farm is located 25 miles north of Duluth, Minnesota on a beautiful 27-acre organic farmstead. We grow fresh vegetables, herbs, microgreens and flowers. We also bake bread and pizza in our wood-fired oven. Through our livelihood, we aim to gather, nourish and inspire our surrounding community.
Scroll down to learn about our individual stories and how this farm dream came to be.
Good farming starts with good food.
By John Beaton, Founder, Director and Co-Visionary of Fairhaven Farm
I grew up on the prairie outside a little town called Glyndon, Minnesota near Fargo/Moorhead. In middle school my family relocated to Detroit Lakes where my folks built a home on the site of our family's resort (and Fairhaven Farm's eponym), Fairhaven Resort. My grandpa bought this derelict resort dating back to the turn of the century and restored it the 1980s and my family has been "going to the lakes" there ever since.
For the past decade, I've spent my time in two places; kitchens and vegetable fields. I got my start working as a prep cook at my hometown fine dining restaurant. There I had a great chef who taught me that from-scratch cooking, is the only kind of cooking.
I became interested in farming when I moved to Duluth for college in 2008. While studying anthropology I was assigned several research projects dealing with the local food system. I also worked for Community Action Duluth's Seeds of Success Program where the seed of my farm dream was planted.
The farming dream continued to grow while I spent a season in Colorado making snow and climbing mountains with my best friend. I returned home after that experience determined to start my own business.
I spent three seasons working at Northern Harvest Farm learning how to grow great veggies. My last season there, in 2014, I planted my own garden, launched a CSA with seven members, and Fairhaven Farm was born. The next season I operated my CSA on borrowed land closer to Duluth while also working as a baker at Great Harvest bakery. Those experiences, followed by a solid stint as a prep cook at Northern Waters Restaurant, influenced my passion for good food and good farming.
It’s been a huge effort to get where I am today. I’ve worked as a baker, cook, snow shoveler, and a carpenter to support my farm dream. But I've made it. I’ve been full-time on the farm for two years now. And while we face a never ending stream of challenges and have come to know the struggle of operating a growing business, I wouldn’t trade this life for anything.
I couldn’t do any of it without Emily. She’s the other half of the business and everything galvanized when we met selling at a farmers market in 2015. Within two years we had bought a farm and got married. For our wedding we hosted 200 people at our farm and served pizzas baked in the wood-fired oven we built. That was one of the best days of my life.
In fact, our wedding symbolized everything we’re passionate about, feeding people THE BEST food and sharing the love we have for our land and our community. That’s really why we do what we do and what has driven Fairhaven Farm since its inception.
Good food starts with good farming.
By Emily Beaton, Creative Director, and Co-Visionary of Fairhaven Farm
My farm story began in the Northwoods near Bemidji, Minnesota. I grew up surrounded by lakes and trees and lived a wild, creative life in the country. I consider my childhood to be part of my agricultural training — whether it was helping my mom in the garden or just digging in the dirt making mud pies — I was getting early lessons in agriculture and forming my value of being connected to nature. I feel very blessed to have grown up in an environment that allowed and encouraged outdoor play.
After high school, I parted from my rural home to enjoy artistic pursuits in the big city, while my nature-y instincts simmered on the back burner (yet still spilled out in themes of my artwork). I graduated from the Minneapolis College of Art and Design with a BFA in Graphic Design and Illustration in 2005 and worked various graphic design and art jobs, before shifting my focus back to the dirt. Living an urban lifestyle and working at a desk in front of a computer screen, created a deep longing within me to reconnect to my rural roots and get my hands dirty again.
I became very eco-conscious and embarked on a personal mission to live a more self-reliant and low-impact lifestyle. To me, this meant getting closer to my food source, making my own natural and non-toxic cleaning products, learning traditional folk arts and crafts, riding my bicycle, making my own clothes and connecting with other like-minded friends at weekly potlucks. Some of these friends were interns on an organic CSA farm and they brought dishes prepared with their farm-fresh ingredients. Eating those meals felt like tasting food for the first time! Those gatherings marked a turning point in my life and instilled in me a passion for good farming and good food shared among friends. I yearned to try my hand at growing my own nourishing foods, but after a few failed attempts at indoor urban gardening, I knew I needed to gain more expertise if I wanted to be an effective gardener.
So, in 2009, I took a leap from my urban life and dove back in to rural living. I completed a full-season farming internship at a small-scale organic, off-the-grid, CSA farm (DreamAcres) located in Southeast Minnesota where I gained a thorough understanding and love of the farm’s process from seed to harvest. I also got to learn amazing, time-honored folk skills such as farming with oxen and horse power, timber-framing, stone masonry, wood-stove cooking, and rug weaving. After this experience I knew that farming would be the counterpoint to my creative livelihood.
I moved to Duluth (where my family had relocated) with the dream and intention of saving money to buy farmland. I got a job working in the produce department at the Whole Foods Co-op which allowed me to have access to fresh veggies and get connected to the local farming and food scene.
In 2011, I completed the Lake Superior Sustainable Farming Association's Farm Beginnings course (now offered through the Land Stewardship Project), where my farming dreams continued to take shape.
In the midst of my farm dreaming, I was preparing myself for another full-season farming internship, this time at Food Farm in Wrenshall, Minnesota. I was also planning on starting my own small-scale CSA during this time. Those plans were halted when I was diagnosed with thyroid cancer and I chose to hang on to my day job for a while longer in order to stay on my health insurance plan. What, at the time, seemed like a major setback in my trajectory, ultimately allowed me to slow down and refocus my vision for my farm business.
Despite the health challenges (and not having access to farmland), I launched my "micro" urban farming venture in 2012 — growing microgreens, herbs and edible flower garnishes for the Duluth community. Named for it's small size, Pocket Farm operated on just 300 square feet of vertical growing space in the south-facing windows of my apartment.
My microgreens deliveries where made by bicycle and I used 100% bio-degradeable packaging to stay true to my goal of living a low-impact lifestyle. Pocket Farm allowed me to try my hand at farming on a small-scale without needing to invest in a lot of infrastructure, but ultimately my farm vision involved living rurally again on a farm where I could put down roots.
I met John in 2015, while selling microgreens at the Lincoln Park Farmers Market (our booths were next to each other's). Not long after we teamed up we realized we had a common vision for a farm: It would be a community gathering place where we would grow and produce the best food possible and build a livelihood in accordance with our values. Our plans quickly coalesced into what Fairhaven Farm is today.
2020 marks the 4th growing season on our farm and we're excited about our vision for the future. For those of you who may be wondering, "What ever became of Pocket Farm?" That little big dream of mine has been in hibernation mode since we've been settling in at Fairhaven Farm, but there are still dreams in the works for continuing Pocket Farm in a different capacity. Stay tuned for that!