Bryndlewood Gardens was named the 2019 Itasca County Farm Family of the Year by the Itasca County Extension Committee on Tuesday, during a regular meeting of the Itasca County Board of Commissioners. Conley Janssen, Chair of the County Extension Committee, presented the award to Brynden and William Lenius, as well as provided background concerning the program, which has existed for nearly three decades.

“It takes more than just being a farmer to be Farm Family of the Year,” said Janssen. “It takes commitment to community, and the environment, and the larger picture of agriculture.”

Each year throughout the state, each county completes a selection process of finding a farm family to represent them, Janssen explained. All of the honored families selected across the state have made significant contributions to Minnesota agriculture and their communities.

After graduating from college in 2011, Brynden returned to her hometown and familiar area of Horseshoe Lake Road, just four miles from downtown Grand Rapids, where her parents and grandparents have lived and gardened for many years. A grant from NRCS allowed for the construction of the first high tunnel greenhouse on the property. She and her husband, William, began growing and selling produce at the Grand Rapids Farmers Market in 2012 and eventually purchased the adjacent property which allowed for further expansion with additional high tunnels and outside gardens.

Currently, the family farm offers a number of items, including fruits, vegetables, plants and cut flowers, as well as produces chicken eggs in four high tunnel greenhouses and many outdoor gardens. The farm uses sustainable practices to provide clean grown produce. The high tunnels allow the family to extend their growing season, and their chickens enjoy the tunnels during the cold winter months while allowing for natural fertilization of the soil.

Owners Brynden and William complete the majority of the daily operations on the farm. However, both of their parents contribute during much of their free time, completing tasks such as planting, weeding, harvesting and more. The next generation of growers arrived in February of 2019 with the addition of a baby girl.

In addition to preparing for the upcoming growing season, the Lenius family hosted their third Annual Spring Open House and plant sale in May. They are also strong supporters of the local co-op.

In October 2015, the Free-Range Food Co-op was established with the goal of moving toward a community owned grocery store that exists to serve its owners and community. They are currently in stage 2B and have over 600 members with the goal of having a retail outlet for local growers. Brynden and William have been strong supporters of this movement and hosted a “Grow Up” Event in August 2018 with food and music to promote and bring awareness to the co-op.

“It’s because of motivated families like [the Lenius family] at the Farmers Market, and the new co-op we’re trying to put forward, that our community in general has access to fresh garden foods, and that’s a very important thing,” said Janssen.

Bryndlewood Gardens will join farm family honorees from across the state to be recognized during ceremonies on Thursday, Aug. 8, 2019 at the Gilfillan Estate near Redwood Falls at the Wick Building Farmfest Center on the estate grounds. During the Itasca County Fair, the Lenius family will be honored on Friday, Aug. 16 at 11:30 a.m. at the Trailhead Building on the Itasca County Fairgrounds in Grand Rapids.

In other business, the board:

• Approved the minutes of the Tuesday, June 18, 2019 county board work session.

• Recognized the following county employees: Dennis Larson, whose last day of employment as a Mechanic/Welder, Road and Bridge Division, Transportation Department, will be June 30, 2019 after more than 20 years of service; and Jackson Purdie, who has accepted a job transfer from Office Support Specialist, Health and Human Services Department, to Administrative Assistant, Land Department, effective June 16, 2019.

• Approved commissioner warrants with a check date of Friday, June 28, in the amount of $17,873,373.55.

• Approved Itasca County Health and Human Services (ICHHS) warrants for June 2019 in the amount of $1,405,997.28.

•Heard a presentation of the Minnesota Safety Council Governor’s Award for 2018 to Itasca County. The Minnesota Safety Council awarded a Governor’s Safety Meritorious Achievement Award to Itasca County for its achievement in workplace safety and health efforts in 2018. Itasca County is one of 294 employers honored through the awards program, coordinated by the Minnesota Safety Council. Since 1934, the annual. Governor’s Safety Awards program has honored Minnesota employers with exceptional safety performance. Applicants are judged on several years of injury data as it compares with their industry’s national statistics, and on their progress in implementing a comprehensive safety program. This award is presented to organizations with incident rates that are better than the industry average for at least three years and a score between 50-74 on a 100 point safety program evaluation scale. There were 170 Meritorious Achievement Award winners for the year 2018. Five Itasca County employees were in attendance at the conference and awards ceremony. Those attendees were Jason Alstad, Josh Lewins, Jeff Garlock, Tyler Kasper and Duane Dockter. This award is a direct result of Itasca County employees making a choice to be aware of their surroundings and work safely each and every day, explained Itasca County Auditor/Treasurer Jeff Walker, who presented information concerning the award to the board on Tuesday.

• Approved an educational plan presented by Lisa Marinucci from Nuch’s in the Corner of Grand Rapids. Marinucci received her third tobacco citation. The county ordinance requires the licensee to appear before the county board to present a plan of mandatory staff training, staff changes, technology changes and/or physical environment changes. Following the presentation, discussion was held regarding potentially amending the ordinance requiring licensees to appear directly before the county board to present their plans. Seeing no direct changes to the “plan that failed three years in a row,” Commissioner Ben DeNucci voted against approving the plan presented by Marinucci.

• Adopted a resolution regarding the RFP for proposals to provide health care services to recipients of families and children and MinnesotaCare.

• Heard an Itasca Economic Development Corporation (IEDC) presentation.

Following the regular meeting, the board went into closed session to consult with its attorney in reference to pending litigation in the matter of the ERP Iron bankruptcy litigation.

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