OAK CENTER, Minn. - People may sew slimmer pickings at their local spring farmers market as a wet summer season and brutal winter dealt its worst to area farmers.
Steven Schwen owns Earthen Path Organic Farm. He left traditional medicine over 40 years ago to get into organic farming.
"This isn't the kind of medicine I wanted to do, I want a more holistic approach," Schwen said.
Schwen has been bringing his organic produce to the Rocehster Farmers Market for decades, but was unsure if he could come back at this year's summer market.
"It was a series of factors that led up to making this the worst winter that I've every experienced. It threatens my whole ability to continue doing what I've been doing," he said.
The winter took down his two biggest greenhouses and the operation he spent decades bulding like solar infrastructure and high tunnels where he grew cucumbers and tomatoes.
"The stress of this winter has taken a toll on me, physically, health-wise, and emotionally," Schwen said. "I see a whole lot of work ahead."
With only eggs and minimal plants to sell, it's the people that pushed Schwen to still sell at the Rochester market this season.
"It's not only important for me income wise, it's been my sense of community," he said.
And it's the community that's helping Schwen get back on his feet. A GoFundMe page has already raised over $3,000 to help him get his farm back up and running.
"It lets me know there are some friends out there, so it makes me feel good," Schwen said.
While grateful for the help, Schwen doesn't know if it's enough to help him rebuild from square one.
"It doesn't just take money, it will take years. And I don't know how many years I have left," he said. "I'm at a loss. I have trouble sleeping at night wondering what to do."
Schwen will be at the Rochester Farmers Market this summer season. The last indoor market is on Saturday, April 27. The first outdoor market will be on May 4.
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