By Adam Austing, University of Minnesota Extension
On behalf of University of MN Extension and the Wright County Farm Family of the Year selection committee, it is my honor to announce that the Neaton family of Sweet Beet Farm is the 2020 Wright County Farm Family of the Year. The Neatons are a young family of four: Nick and Amelia, and two young sons named Albin (4) and Hugo (1).
It all started in 2009, when Nick and Amelia grew far more food than they could use themselves. They used this opportunity to start a small community-supported agriculture (CSA) farm. They rented land for 4 years, until finding a good spot to call home in 2013. Their farm still operates mainly as a CSA, but they also sell food in wholesale markets and farmers markets. In addition to a wide variety of vegetables, the couple also produces herbs, cut flowers, and fresh eggs.
Nick and Amelia Neaton share a passion for sustainable farming on their small plot of land near Montrose. In their minds, taking care of the land comes first and all the other aspects of farming comes second. Some of their sustainable practices include rotating crops and using a variety of cover crops to help maintain soil health. They also farm using organic practices.
Nick and Amelia are very involved in their local farming community. They are members of the Crow River chapter of the Sustainable Farming Association and support the Land Stewardship Project. They are also involved in nationwide programs, such as the National Young Farmers Coalition, which works to ensure the success of America’s young farmers.
The Neatons live just down the road from Nick’s parents’ homestead, where he spent his childhood under the wing of his parents, Paul and Holly, who also received this award in 2011. This closeness helped build Nick and Amelia’s love for the local community. They want to contribute to a healthy local food system and help open doors for other young farmers who also want to contribute. “We want Sweet Beet Farm to be something the community can call their own. In hard times, people look to their neighbors for help,” Nick explained.