BENSON — As a registered dietitian for more than 40 years — and as a partner with her husband, Luverne, on their family-owned farm for nearly as long — Mary Jo Forbord is passionate about strengthening the link between good food and good health.
The Forbords raise 150 head of grass-fed, half-blood Lowline Angus beef cattle on their 480-acre certified organic farm, located between Benson and Starbuck in southern Pope County.
They also raise certified organic fruits and vegetables.
For a number of years the Forbords sold their Prairie Horizons Farm grass-fed beef to customers in the Twin Cities, as well as the Stone’s Throw Cafe in Morris, Pomme De Terre Foods in Morris and Kadejan Market in Glenwood.
Now they’re making it even easier for people in west central Minnesota to access the food they produce by selling locally produced organic beef and produce at their on-farm store, located at 31008 state Highway 29.
The fifth-generation farmers want to raise “good food and have a community to share it with,” Forbord said.
Equipped with coolers, freezer storage and shelves for displays, the Prairie Horizons Farm store is a warm and attractive setting to buy food and have a discussion about Forbord’s favorite topic of food, health and connecting with people.
It’s not about “bushels and price” but about relationships and food security, Forbord said, while giving a tour of the farm, which includes an experimental fruit orchard that contains apples, pears, plums, grapes, hazelnuts and aronia berries (similar to chokeberries).
The orchard is named after the couple’s son, Joraan, who started the orchard in 2006 when he was 19 years old. Joraan died of cancer in 2010 when he was 22.
Their mission is to “build a farm-based system of healthy food production, processing and distribution that is economically sound, environmentally responsible and beneficial to future generations.”
Forbord said another goal of Prairie Horizons Farm is to provide a real-life demonstration of how farmers can stay on the farm by providing good food to people who live in their community.
The end result, she said, will be healthier farmers and healthier food consumers.
During a recent talk at a member meeting of the New London Food Co-op, Forbord drew the link between poor food quality and the increasing rates of obesity and diabetes in Minnesota. She said there is a difference between quality food and food that’s made to be cheap and fast.
“The bottom has dropped out of quality with our food supply,” she said. “Are we feeding our community well?”
Food that is grown in another state or another country and is “built to ship” can “take a toll on flavor,” Forbord said.
“It’s been a blast,” Forbord said of having the on-farm store, which is open from 9 a.m. to noon Saturdays, and by appointment.
But there have been challenges.
Heavy rain and high water this year has made it difficult to get to the Prairie Horizons Farm store off of its main access on Highway 29. However, the store can be accessed through a back-entrance on the Forbord’s property.
Their beef is for sale year-round at the store. Produce is available seasonally, however Forbord preserves and sells jam, salsa and other items under her food handler cottage industry license while — available while supplies last.
For more information, or to confirm access to the store, contact Prairie Horizons Farm at 320-760-8732