Keeping Our Community Healthy
By Megan Poehler Featured in Make It Minnesota's Spring 2015 issue.
As the winds of winter die down, spring is making its colorful debut. For most, this means walks outside, riding bikes, and finally putting away the ice scraper. For Bill Brandt, it means the start of the growing season. He grows plants and produce with his family on their farm in Lakefield, Minnesota. This may be the start of the growing season, but Bill does so much more than just grow produce.
Brandt Gardens and Greenhouse was started by Bill and Rhonda Brandt in 2000. It originally began as a family project for their sons, Matthew, Nathan, and Aaron, to teach them responsibility and work ethic. Now a seasonal business, Brandt Gardens grows plants and vegetables to sell at local markets. They sell annual and perennial plants, as well as a wide variety of vegetables. Currently, they sell at three local farmers’ markets, in Spirit Lake, IA, Windom, MN, and Jackson, MN, as well as four local businesses. They also sell directly from the farm, and just started an online ordering system to reserve plants and produce for local pickup.
Bill believes it is important for everyone to have access the fresh fruit and vegetables. That’s why he partnered with the Statewide Health Improvement Program (SHIP) to focus on improving nutrition in local communities. Brandt’s mission is to grow healthy nutrient dense vegetables for its community at an affordable price.
To do this, Bill makes several trips a week to local businesses to sell to their employees. He says that employers play a vital role in the health of their employees. Healthy employees are more productive, use less sick time, and reduce healthcare costs.
“It’s important for everyone to have access to fresh foods”, Bill says, “because it tastes better than what you can purchase at a grocery store.” Fresh food will also be more nutrient dense, and healthier than the options found in a store. The most important reason, however, is that by buying fresh foods, you are supporting local growers. Bill says it’s important to support these local growers because they pay local property taxes and support local schools, health care businesses, and other local businesses promoting a healthy local economy as well.
Bill has lived in Minnesota is whole life, and his favorite thing about living here is the harvest season and the changing colors in natures. He enjoys growing all things. It’s rewarding, relaxing, and real. The most popular produce he sells are sweet corn and tomatoes, “because they taste GREAT!”.
Bill’s vision for rural Minnesota is one of hope that his business and business like it will be successful so that young people can stay or return to rural Minnesota, and live comfortably and happy with fresh and local goods.
To view the wide selection of plants and produce, from flowers and herbs, to fruit and vegetables, go to www.brandtgardens.com and place an order. If you are a local business, or want your employer to set up a worksite produce market with Brandt, call Bill at 507-662-5631.
To learn more about the Statewide Health Improvement Program (SHIP), visit www.health.state.mn.us/ship.