Twin Organics owners and brothers Jacob and Andrew Helling are the proud new owners of the former Gardens of Eagan land, previously owned by TCCP. They work hard growing high quality, organic produce for many of the best local restaurants. We interviewed them to learn a little more about their story and what they have planned for the future.
What inspired you to grow organic vegetables for Twin Cities restaurants? Before starting Twin Organics we worked with Greg Reynolds at Riverbend Farm. Part of his business model was working with chefs in the Twin Cities and providing fresh, quality produce to their restaurants. We liked how much care the chefs took in creating recipes and serving dishes that highlighted the beauty and taste of the produce; it’s fun to be a part of that process.
Tell us the story behind Twin Organics. Did you grow up farming? We grew up on seven acres outside of a small town in eastern South Dakota. Our dad runs a small, organic fruit and vegetable operation there and helped to start a farmers market in the community over 40 years ago. We helped our dad with growing and selling at the market, spent countless hours running around and playing outside in the garden, and exploring the prairie wilderness surrounding our property. Our grandfather worked hard to buy his own land and start a farm in an even smaller rural community in South Dakota a few hours from where we grew up, where our uncles still live and farm today.
Farming was also in our mother’s side of the family going back generations in rural Indiana. Growing food is part of our family’s history and what we know and love.
We started Twin Organics four years ago. The two of us have been working together most of our lives; it comes as second nature to us. It was only natural to form a partnership in farming.
What brought you to the former Gardens of Eagan (GOE) property? We had been looking for land to buy for two or three years while farming on rented land in Wisconsin. GOE was listed on the Land Stewardship Project website. When we visited we saw a place that many people had poured an extreme amount of work and care and thought into. Our goal became to buy the property and continue producing organically while preserving and honoring the land’s intended purpose.
The soil here is incredible; it’s rich and healthy and full of potential, and we intend to keep it that way for as long as we possibly can.
You purchased 11 acres of the farm last fall, and recently expanded your farm to include 100 additional acres. What is your vision for the future? We needed more acres for growing than just the 11 that came with the original purchase, since most of that is buildings anyway — greenhouses, office/ pack shed, shop/machine shed, a house — not a lot of tillable space. We don’t yet need 100+ more acres for our own operation, though, so we are also renting land to other organic growers — four vegetable farmers and one grain farmer this season. We are also renting space in the greenhouses, cooler and pack shed to several farms — some who are just beginning — and plan to expand in that capacity and serve as a resource in this way. It’s nice to have a community of farmers, and we’re grateful for the relationships we’ve been able to enjoy as a result.
Do you have plans to expand your produce sales to retail businesses in the future? For now we plan to focus on making our current relationships as strong as they can be.
Enjoy Twin Organics’ produce at the following restaurants: The Kenwood – Young Joni – The Bachelor Farmer – Nightingale – Spoon and Stable – Travail – Alma – Tenant – Surly Brewing Co. – ninetwentyfive – Corner Table – Birchwood Cafe
The History of Gardens of Eagan
After seven years of operating Gardens of Eagan, the Wedge Co-op harvested its last crops in 2015 and sold the land to Twin Organics in 2017/2018. We are very proud of Garden of Eagan’s accomplishments and truly appreciate the support of our customers and the community over the years.
Many wonderful things came from owning this land, including:
• Protecting 116 acres of farmland, transitioning it to certified organic land through a three-year investment in soil restoration and environmental enhancements such as shelter belts and improved wetland management.
• Enrollment in the Dakota County Land Conservation Program, which helped preserve a total of 7,341 acres in agriculture easements. This means the land will remain in agricultural production in perpetuity.
• Supporting four new, successful farm businesses through the farm incubator program — including Humble Pie Farm and Bossy Acres.
• Training fellow organic farmers in production methods through the support of a Sustainable Ag Research and Education grant, allowing them to break into wholesale markets with a new crop.
• Selling over two million pounds of certified organic produce, almost all of it within the metro area.
• Selling the land to young, independent farmers committed to growing organic produce.