February 1, 2019
By: Climate Generation

Jerry’s Climate Story

Jerry and Sue Untiedt’s farming adventure began in 1971, when, after college they moved west to Waverly, Minnesota. They purchased a small piece of farmland and established Untiedt’s Vegetable Farm. Jerry recognized the ramifications of climate change long ago and reacted by changing farming practices and adopting new technologies, specifically “high tunnel production”, which has allowed them to sustainably produce a constant flow of high quality small fruits and vegetables for their markets, retail stands, and high quality supermarkets in the Twin Cities area.  

As a youngster, I was privileged to spend parts of summers working with my grandfather on his Southwestern Minnesota farm.

The farm was a farm of the early 1950’s and such was very diversified into both livestock and crop enterprises, unlike the monocultural behemoths of today. It was here that the seeds of passion for growing were planted. To my grandfather, I owe a huge debt for some of my most basic loves and appreciations.

Susan and I encountered and purchased a small farm near Waverly in 1971. A piece of land so different from the sprawling farms of the Minnesota Prairie Country, but blessed with a wonderful and challenging diversity of soils, topography, wetlands, and other flora and fauna.

For the past 48 years we have had the opportunity to watch and engage with our climate and its effects nearly everyday. This, of course, is notably different from the observations and habits of our many city and suburban dwellers who often may be quite disconnected from agriculture and climate. We live it every single day. This fact of daily experience and observations has allowed us to live the many climate changes that are occuring, some being subtle and some not so much so.

Back in the early 1970’s, we began our growing adventure on a very small scale. With a farm located in less than prime agricultural country, we were forced to be innovative to survive.

We grew with our experiences, with failures often outnumbering successes, but our expertise continued to grow back then and today. So there you have it, our passion continues to fuel our growth each and everyday. We are always learning, truly seeing ourselves as an integral part of our ecosystem. We do take regular notice of songbird and waterfowl migrations, the dates of frost and last frosts, the freeze up dates of local lakes, the ice out dates, the rain amounts, new and invasive insects, and so much more.

We are living with what now is now referred to as “climate change”.

We have experienced the increased occurrences of hail, episodic and intense rainfalls, and soil erosion as an effect of these rainfalls and more. Because we live out of doors in this changing environment, we work the land, this is our livelihood and our love, and we are so very concerned!

As a result of this lifestyle and the passion in our souls, it has allowed us to blend our well honed survival skills with others; listening, learning, sharing, and molding. We are growers of very high quality specialty crops that nourish people and support small businesses in a sustainable way. We do this by implementing innovative solutions, such as high tunnel complexes, which create protected microclimates to reduce the risk that the unpredictability of climate change brings.

Over these many years of growing, observing, and surviving, there has rarely been an “a-ha” moment. More aptly, I would call our experiences of observations to be subtle but sustained.  Yes, changes were and are marching along. It’s perhaps like the farming equipment, or depreciation in accounting, you might not see devastating changes everyday, but it is for darn sure real — and we need to be prepared. The rainfall patterns, a shortage of garden variety thunderstorms, and a surplus of episodic events, cooler and later springs and sometimes later and milder falls. Of course, our winters are not nearly the Minnesota winters of the past.

The changes have forced Untiedt’s to be more innovative with many new and exciting technologies to mitigate the damages.

I believe there is hope in both the slowing of the rate of climate change and learning to live with the changes already here.