by Deb Seminary
McGinness, along with her husband Brian, operates Riverbound Farm south of Mandan. They grow certified organic vegetables for their family and CSA members or share holders. CSA stands for Community Supported Agriculture. When people become members they share in the risk and the bounty of the farm. CSA has been around for about 30 years and was developed as a way to reinvigorate smaller farms.
The couple met when they were both in Arizona. Brian worked for a CSA there and then they moved to Vermont to be closer to his family. “Vermont is kind of the epicenter for small, diversified farms,” explained McGinness. “We educated ourselves there, then this opportunity came up to move back home.”
Home is the land they are now farming. “My great grandparents homesteaded this land,” she said. “My uncle owns it and we are leasing it from him. He had a vegetable operation here and a roadside vegetable stand for about 20 years. I worked for him for three years after I graduated from high school and that is when I fell in love with farming. Bismarck-Mandan has almost 100,000 people and no CSA’s around, so it seemed like a good opportunity for us.”
This is the third year Riverbound Farm is in operation. The first year they grew for 50 shares, last year was 100 and this year they will grow for 150. “At 150 shares we will be a sustainable business,” said McGinness. “With 150 members we believe we will be able to buy this farm, or another one, have life and health insurance, retirement, all of those things careers provide people. That is the plan.”
Why Food Matters:
You are what you eat. We have all heard it. But you know what? It’s true. The human body is a complex and beautiful piece of machinery. Trillions of atoms, making up trillions of cells every day reproducing and working towards one common goal: the function of the human body. We all understand this basic concept and how it is fueled, but I think it can easily be taken for granted. Put something in your mouth, chew it, and then poof, it is gone. Our miraculous system breaks down that food to a molecular level and distributes it throughout our body, fuel for this, medicine for that, storage for later. A simple concept, yet an extremely complicated process.
So why does this mean food matters?
Well I for one can appreciate the fleeting, somewhat tantalizing taste of a Twinkie for oh maybe 30 seconds. But once you stop and think about that Twinkie, which is about as far from whole food as you can get, breaking down in your system, being distributed and delivered to various organs, muscles and glands for use, you might not want that packaged, over-produced food-porn to enter your body at all. You might just maybe stop and think “hey, I deserve better. I am a system of complex organs and trillions of cells, I want to be strong, I deserve a functioning immune system, I want to taste real food again, that’s it. I quit!”
Eat your Vegetables
McGinness compared becoming a CSA member to joining a gym. “All of a sudden you have all of this stuff you don’t know what to do with. We want to help people use all of the vegetables they get from us.”
This year local foodies Karen and Duane Ehrens will be providing members with a ‘How To’ guide every week. It will feature recipes and tips, like how to prepare and store vegetables. This will help CSA members, who usually find they have to adjust their diets. All of a sudden they have three grocery bags full of vegetables. McGinness said she has had a lot of members tell her they have lost weight throughout the season and they feel so much better.
“I like for people to think about the fact the we have the power to change ourselves and society,” she said. “Buying a share in our farm could cause people to change their diet, the way they cook, even what they cook. They are supporting a local farmer and getting healthy food.”
This year they will be using horses to plow, plant and cultivate. They have a new team and new equipment. “We just ordered a transplanter,” said McGinness. “Brian will drive and our intern and I will sit in these seats dropping plants in divots made by the machine. I’m so excited because up until now it has been us, on our hands and knees, transplanting thousands of plants. This is our big mechanization!”
Angie’s thoughts, Why Food Matters Cont.
I can appreciate junk food as an occasional part of my diet. I can definitely dig in on a doughnut, chow down some cookies, and fight over the pint of ice cream. But you know what I think we all could use a little more of? The appreciation of real food. Reintroduction to the kitchen. Remembrance of farm fresh milk and eggs. A re-acquaintance with the divine pleasure of a healthy whole-foods-based diet. And, the empowerment of community-supplied, local food chains. We can grow a healthier community through food. Local artisan food producers are like artists. They master the art of baking a loaf of bread, or creating the perfect cheese, or producing the highest quality grass-fed beef steaks. A farmer who puts their heart and soul into their work means that we as customers are eating food prepared with heart and soul, food of the highest quality. High quality food also satiates more than just our ideals, it is more nourishing and can help us stop overeating and start paying more heed to the value of each bite and each meal. Local food is produced by our neighbors. It actually creates and grows jobs. It helps incubate beginning farm enterprises. Local food is food security, job security, and economic security for the communities that feed these systems through consumer purchases and entrepreneurial ambitions. I love local food production and I believe that we as a community can become what we eat through local foods: healthier, more secure, and vibrant.
It is called Riverbound Farms for a reason. Their land floods. They had a fear of flooding, hail, torrential rains. It all happened, regularly. They sump pumped their gardens, plowed up the horse pasture (to plant vegetables), and carried on.
The couple want to use their experiences to help other farmers. “I think we could travel the world giving growing advice to disaster areas,” said McGinness. “Someday when our kids are grown and our physical bodies are saying, ‘enough’, we would like to travel and do consulting for small, diversified farms.”
Their bodies get a bit of a rest in the winter, but it takes a lot of planning to run a successful farming operation. “We used to fantasize we would have a life in the winter and we do get to chill out and drink coffee casually, maybe go to town, in January for a few weeks,” she said. “But, we are always learning and adjusting. Brian has a lot of paperwork to keep up with and there are things in the house that get neglected during the growing season.”
McGinness admits they changed their whole lives to start farming full time. Because of their efforts with Riverbound Farms, they will change many other lives, too.
How to become a CSA member
Regular share – 12 items* per week $750.00 ($4.11/day)
Small share – 7 items* per week $600.00 ($3.29/day)
Members receive vegetables every week, for 26 weeks, June – December.
*an item could be a bag of baby mixed greens or a bunch of carrots
phone: 701.202.9834 website: riverboundfarm.com email: email@example.com