Farm Fresh

Farm Fresh

When a city girl embraces farming, her community eats well.
By Alvina Brueggemann

When Amy Doeun ’03 graduated from St. Kate’s with an English degree, she never guessed she would become a farmer. She lived the typical “city girl” life, complete with her pick of Twin Cities’ restaurants, vibrant nightlife and skyscrapers. She edited the newsletter in St. Kate’s English department, and wanted to become a writer.

However, in her junior year, Doeun’s life took a sharp turn when she met her husband, Proeun, a Cambodian immigrant in Minneapolis.

“We had a kind of whirlwind romance,” recalls Doeun. “We were engaged in 10 days, married 9 months later and had our first baby 11 months after that.” It was that child, a happy little boy with a love for garden plants and sunshine, who inspired their Crazy Boy Farm in Rush City, Minnesota.

Neither Doeun nor her husband had ever owned a farm. However, farming was in their DNA: her Minnesotan grandparents and Proeun’s parents were farmers. The couple attended the Minnesota Farm Association’s New Immigrant Farmer Training Program in 2009, and in three years learned how to turn backyard gardening into full-scale community-supported agriculture, or CSA, which connects urban dwellers to fresh produce and gives farmers a steady source of income.

Today, their 40-acre farm is alive and growing. It produces 50 types of fruits and vegetables. It’s home to goats, chickens, cows and sheep. “The sky is so blue here,” notes Doeun. “It’s total peace and quiet.”

As a farmer, Doeun’s two main goals are to help her customers eat healthier and to strengthen their relationship to the land on which their food is grown. “Some people don’t have the time to look up recipes, cook with greens or make healthy meals because they’re working two or three jobs,” she says. Doeun and her husband continually look for ways to make fresh food readily available to their community.

They post recipes on their blog, accept EBT food stamps and lead cooking classes at Seward Co-op. They also share their love for tilling the land and growing their own food by hosting St. Paul high school students each year through Camp Sunrise, a wilderness program that brings inner-city youth to farms and other outdoor locales.

“We believe that healthy farming produces healthy food, healthy people and healthy communities,” adds Doeun. “That’s why we are so passionate about what we do.”

While the St. Paul native didn’t originally set out to be a farmer, Doeun is flourishing in her new rural calling.

“St. Kate’s was an opportunity to begin my journey and to become who I’m supposed to be,” she says. “But, if you’d told me at the time that I’d become a farmer with six kids, I would have told you that you weren’t a very good fortune teller!”

— Writer Alvina Brueggemann is the coordinator of St. Kate’s Women’s Health Integrative Research Center.

Amy Doeun with a newborn piglet.

Amy Doeun with a newborn piglet.

 “...if you’d told me at the time that I’d become a farmer with six kids, I would have told you that you weren’t a very good fortune teller!”

— Amy Doeun ’03, St. Kate’s English major

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