Founded in 2018 by Lakisha Witter, Live Organically is a certified organic farm in Oak Grove, Minn., that uses sustainable, ethical and organic practices to cultivate food. Look for her vegetables and herbs at the co-op this summer, and learn more about her farm below.
Tell us about your journey with farming and how Live Organically got its start.
I didn’t grow up with a farming background — my pathway in life was education. I have a doctorate in educational leadership; I work in higher ed where I train teachers who are getting their master’s degree in special education; and I have an educational consulting firm where I work as a special education director and oversee charter schools in the Twin Cities. In addition to all that, I also get the joy of farming and providing quality food to the community.
I started farming to take control of what I was eating. I didn’t want to just be a consumer; I also wanted to be a producer. I figured I’d start with something small, grow in my backyard in a couple of pots, and then next thing you know, I have a whole farm. I wanted to provide that same joy and the life-changing experience I had with food to other people.
How are your values reflected in your farming?
Live Organically Farm has five acres of land in Oak Grove, and I give a portion of my acres to emerging and immigrant farmers. They each get a quarter of an acre to grow any organic produce they want to feed their community. I’ve learned so much from having them on the farm because there are things I would think are weeds that they say, “in our culture this is a vegetable. We cook it like this; we eat it like this.” It’s been a great learning experience.
I also do a lot of work with youth. Through our partnerships with schools in the inner city, I teach farm lessons and we do a summer program where we bring the kids out to the farm. For many BIPOC students, it’s good for them to have a representation who can show them that even in farming, there’s representation; there is hope that you can do that. I may be young now, but I’m going to get old one day. And when I look back, I want to make sure I poured light, knowledge, and resources into the next generation.
I’m very inclusive and intentional about making the farm a home for individuals with disabilities and individuals who may not have been born in America. I prioritize hiring and advocating for those with disabilities and creating a community. People on the farm don’t look like one another or have the same beliefs, but we’ve all learned how to work together and value each other as humans.
What is your vision for the future of your farm?
I want to extend our reach in being an educational farm and also create ways where people can come out in nature to get healing. When I think about the future, I’m not necessarily looking for greater markets or a bigger expansion; I’m looking for ways to be impactful. I want to make sure that 10 years down the line, we’re growing in our reach of who we’re being able to educate, teach and train about farming, especially when working with immigrant farmers and youth.
What are your favorite ways to enjoy the produce you grow?
Sometimes our markets might turn down an item because it’s too big or looks a little different. So I take those imperfect foods and I cook with them. Often, it’s just cutting them up and putting them in a Crockpot. We did an activity where we let the kids make zucchini bread out of some large zucchinis. Last year we had a lot of tomatoes, so we taught the kids how to can. Nothing goes to waste on the farm.
How can co-op shoppers best support you?
Try our produce! When people buy our produce, they’re also buying our values, our brand, and what we stand for. In addition to buying locally and the monetary value that it brings, if they pick up the concept of doing good in the world, that’s a way of supporting us. We want to be an organization that makes people feel at home, that makes people feel loved and welcome.
Take a class with Lakisha!
Canning 101 | Thursday, Aug. 25