The Start of Pork & Plants (1967-80)
Edward and Joyce Kreidermacher purchased the farm just outside Altura, Minnesota in 1967, shortly after their marriage. At that time, they raised mainly dairy cows, but soon they expanded into raising hogs. Joyce was always very interested in nutrition and dietary research, particularly in growing specific vegetables that were promoted to be better for certain vitamins or nutritional aspects. When she wasn’t able to find these specific vegetables at nearby greenhouses, she researched how to get seeds and grow the plants herself. Eventually Joyce was growing all her own vegetables (and a few flowers of course) and being asked by family members to grow a few extras for them. One room of the old farm house (which was considered the office, sewing room, etc.) was always lined with hog mats and florescent lights (from the hog barn of course) for the many trays of seeds to be germinated in the early spring.
In 1972 a “lean-to” was added to the south side of the small hog barn, so that the small seedlings could be grown to maturity before being transplanted to the garden. At this point, word of mouth had spread from family members and neighbors to others in the area, who would come to buy vegetables or flowers from Joyce. It didn’t take long for Joyce to outgrow the “lean-to” and put up her first real greenhouse.
Year after year, word of mouth spread and more people came to buy plants. The Kreidermacher family also continued to grow and each of the 4 children spent much of their childhoods helping with the small plants in the greenhouse, making change for customers out of a yellow tackle box, and spending the summer gathering vegetables in the gigantic garden.
For many years Joyce’s hobby was really not considered a full-fledge business and customers just visited “Kreidermachers” for their vegetables and flowers. Finally around 1985, Ed and Joyce accepted the fact that they needed to really expand and make it official by coming up with a business name. Their oldest daughter joked with them one day, “You know Pork & Beans, just call it Pork & Plants!” As luck would have it, her joke resonated with the rest as it encompassed the entire farm, which by that time consisted of 2 large hog barns and the greenhouses.
In 1986 the greenhouse was moved (and more greenhouses constructed) on the current site. It seemed that every year there was another greenhouse being put up, since we were sold out of everything early the year before. Most of the original buildings on the farm have disappeared, even the old farm house and barn to be taken over by greenhouses.
There were several years that Pork & Plants even tried selling pork (bacon, pork chops, roasts, etc.) through a freezer in the greenhouse, but the seasonality and consumer demand for certain cuts over others made this extremely hard to predict and thus was discontinued.
The Current Pork & Plants
In 2002 all of the old production greenhouses were dismantled in order to construct a new greenhouse range that would be more efficient and produce better plants, since the roof peaks open up to direct sun and cool temps. With this new construction the whole site covers approximately 1.3 acres. Three of the old greenhouse structures were reinstalled on another part of the farm for additional space, particularly to grow cool loving crops like pansies & petunias.
Over the years, each of the children have spent their school years working in the greenhouse and even helping when home on vacation or visiting for the weekend. In 1997 Ed and Joyce’s son, Eric, returned to the farm to partner with them on the farm and greenhouse. As the hog market bottomed out shortly after his return, Eric & Ed sold off the traditional hog herd, so they could help Joyce concentrate on growing plants. Naturally the greenhouse has grown while the hogs become a minor part of the farm. Shortly after Eric’s return to the farm, his wife, Ann, joined the family and although her passion is horses, she found a natural talent in working with the family business.
Eric took over more of the business responsibilities, so that Ed & Joyce could enjoy what they really like to do, as well as spend more time with their 7 grandchildren. As the business continued to grow, Eric tried to convince his sister, Maria, to return home. After 10 years of working for PanAmerican Seed, an international flower seed breeder/producer, Maria decided to take him up on the offer Spring 2007.
Now, Maria runs the business side of the greenhouse, so Eric can devote more time to his other endeavors into organic farming, raising heritage animals with Ann to sell to restaurants & consumers through the greenhouse once again, and the newest family business Alternative Energy Solutions LLC, which helps other growers and farmers save on heating costs through bio-mass boilers and pellets we use to heat our greenhouses.
People that have frequented Pork & Plants over the years know that everything is grown on site and we are known for quality and selection. We remain mainly a family run operation with only 1 or 2 full time employees beyond the family (Ed, Joyce, Maria, Eric & 3rd generation in training), along with friends & neighbors that work part-time during the spring.
A few years ago an older gentleman showed up at the farm, and looking very puzzled, commented to Joyce that he was retiring from his job of taking pictures of local farms and had a photo of what he thought was this farm back around 1969. Well, his puzzled look made sense since not one building in the photo he held still stood on the farm. Other than a few trees, the driveway to the house was the only thing the same.
Now, nearly 40 years later, Pork & Plants has come full circle again: Dad’s experience of farming sustainably is continuing with Eric’s passion in Pork & Plants Heritage Farm, along with Mom’s love of growing plants, particularly vegetables, being passed down to Maria & the 3rd generation!