Who says you need a lot of land to be a great farmer?
If you know what you’re doing, as few as five acres can be enough to get you honored as Anoka County’s Farm Family of the Year.
When Larry and Sandi Golyer first moved to their property in Oak Grove in 1972, they started a garden, like many people do. Busy working and raising four kids at the time, the Golyers probably would never have dreamed that over the next 40 years their little garden would expand into a full-service nursery growing annuals, perennials, shrubs and vegetables. They also probably wouldn’t have predicted that in 2013 they would be named the Anoka County Farm Family of the Year.
But those things happened.
The University of Minnesota honored Larry and Sandi Golyer as the Anoka County Farm Family of the Year Aug. 8 at the annual Minnesota Farmfest near Redwood Falls. They were among 75 farm families to be recognized for their achievements.
The Golyers have operated their Lone Wolf Nursery for 29 years, growing and marketing annuals and perennials. The business grew and grew over the years and when Larry retired four years ago from his job as an elementary school teacher, they expanded their business further into growing vegetables.
Those vegetables include a variety of peppers, tomatoes, European-style cucumbers, squash, green beans, zucchini and melons. They are also starting to experiment with growing strawberries vertically, and they are considering experimenting with grapes in the future.
The Golyers have three greenhouses, one of which is a high-tunnel greenhouse that helps extend their growing season. They grow their plants to sell at area farmers markets, and they also grow research plots for the University of Minnesota when they need to control plants with a prescribed protocol.
Larry does most of the “hands-on” work in production research, and development. Working 14-16 hour days during the busiest part of the season, Larry says it takes discipline to get up by 6:30 every morning, but that’s what he has to do to get everything done. The watering alone takes two hours.
Sandi works on promotion, bookkeeping, marketing and technical support, and still finds time for her part-time job driving a school bus.
The Golyers are leaders in the farmers market industry, with Larry serving as market master of the Ramsey market and president of the Anoka County Growers Association, for which Sandi is the secretary. They are also active in the Minnesota Farmer Market Association.
Larry may be technically retired from teaching (he does still substitute teach from time to time), but his passion for helping others learn is as strong as ever. He loves to take time to teach his customers about plant selection, soil preparation and plant care. In fact, helping others be successful with their plants is what he says he enjoys the most about what he does.
Larry’s parents and aunts were very good gardeners and Larry had grown up helping his parents with the garden and eating fresh, homegrown vegetables. He’s hoping to pass his appreciation and love of locally grown, healthy food to their five grandchildren. He’s got them helping him to pick strawberries, only a few of which actually make it into the basket instead of their mouths.
“But that’s how you get ‘em hooked,” he said.
The Golyers sell their produce at a variety of local farmers markets. On Saturday mornings and Tuesday afternoons you’ll find them at St. Timothy’s Church in Blaine. Mondays they are at a small market at Crestview Senior Center in Columbia Heights. On Wednesdays they are at Mary T’s in Coon Rapids and on Thursdays they sell at farmers markets in Anoka and Ramsey.
Running the nursery and selling their produce is lot of work, but for Larry it is “fun work.”
Sandi finds the work very rewarding, too. She recalls a recent instance when a customer was considering buying one of their perennial plants; the woman was still a bit undecided when suddenly a hummingbird appeared out of nowhere and landed on the plant right before her. That sealed the deal.
The Golyers are very thankful to the community for supporting their nursery and the local farmers markets. They are also very grateful for the hard work of the many other local farmers. It takes all of them — with all of their various specialty crops — to work together and come together to build a successful farmers market bringing communities a variety of high-quality, locally grown and delicious fresh foods.