The Weather Factor: Minnesota’s farmers face its weather.

The Weather Factor: Minnesota’s farmers face its weather.

The Weather Factor: Minnesota’s farmers face its weather.

The 2022 growing season was the most recent extreme weather battle our farmers and growers wrestled with. Last April was especially cold, wet, and muddy delaying planting in fields; the delay decreases growing times and yields at harvest. The cold and wet conditions also make it harder to keep livestock healthy. And then there is the mud to navigate; it gets on and in everything. Bedding the livestock and keeping them clean and dry is a daily struggle. Getting a tractor or skid-loader stuck in the mud…can make for a very stressful and challenging day. After getting hit with the cold wet Spring, 2022 dealt another blow to farmers with extreme drought conditions across a large swath of the state. September 2022 was the driest on record for the Twin Cities. These extreme weather conditions had a significant impact on our farmers and growers reducing yields and profit. It also reduces the amount and variety of fresh produce we have available at our markets.

Checking in on one of Livestock Farmers: After a long day of plowing snow, Craig Fischer of Sleepy Bison Acres graciously took the time to share some thoughts on Wintertime farming in Minnesota. Craig’s farm is located outside of Sleepy Eye, a small town in rural Brown County with a population of 3,428. Roughly a two-hour drive Southwest of Saint Paul. The Fischer family has been farming the area for 5 generations. On his farm, Craig’s pasture raises Bison, Pigs, and Poultry. The recent storm has found Craig spending a lot of time in his skid-loader plowing and piling snow. While the Sleepy Eye area didn’t receive the heavy dump we got in the Metro, there is plenty of blowing and drifting to contend with in the area. 

When I asked Craig how his Bison get by during the Winter, he said they are uniquely adapted to the climate in Minnesota. The Bison are a native keystone mammal that has roamed America for millions of years. Their thick wooly coats are the perfect armor against bitter-cold winds and blowing snow. Under cold stress, a Bison’s metabolism slows to conserve energy and minimize nutritional needs. Craig supplies supplemental nutrition to the Bison while their grazing pastures are covered in snow.

Craig reminded me of the good that the snow brings. Moisture for the topsoil to ward off drought and fuel re-growth. Craig’s pasture raises his animals and skillfully cares for the health of his soil. He incorporates sustainability practices such as rotational grazing, no-till, and the use of cover-crops which leads to nutrient-dense food for the livestock, and nutrient-dense meat and eggs for the consumer. Craig also shared an interesting and important positive side to the Winter snow: as the snow falls it collects atmospheric nitrogen, and when the snow melts the nitrogen naturally fertilizes the soil, how cool is that!

Craig’s work ethic, passion, and intelligence are on display in the beautifully crafted products he brings to the Saint Paul Farmers Market. You can find him on select dates at the Downtown Winter Market or order online at their company website

Ben Bicknese

View all posts by Ben Bicknese

Executive Assistant/Marketing Manager for the Saint Paul Growers Association (The non-profit that facilitates the Saint Paul Farmers Market). I work to continually improve the market experience for our vendors and customers.

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