An Inspiring Story of Farming Change – Sleeping Cat Organic Farm

By Amanda Paa – Updated April 12, 2020

This post coincides with my appearance on the Fresh and Local Show, tomorrow, December 3rd at 8:00 am Central on 950 AM! I will be talking to food advocates and hosts of the show, Susan Berkson and Bonnie Dehn about an inspiring woman farmer from the Minneapolis Farmers Market, Mindy Desens! Listen to how she changed her farming practices to all organic in 1986, many years before its benefits had truly been brought to life!

Inspiration in my life comes from those I cross paths with who show tremendous care, dedication, and spirit to what they do everyday. What is wonderful about the Minneapolis Farmers Market is it brings many of these people together in one place, with a common bond, with a common love for building our community. What especially inspires me is seeing women succeed in this arena. One such woman whom I have been fortunate to cross paths with at the market is Mindy Desens of Sleeping Cat Organic Farm in Litchfield, MN, which is just south of the Twin Cities nestled in Meeker County.

Mindy Desens of Sleeping Cat Organic FarmsAccording to the U.S. Department of Agriculture, women now run 14% of the nation’s 2.2 million farms. What I find even more interesting and noteworthy is the way they raise their livestock and vegetables……22% of woman farmers do so organically! While talking to Mindy about the story behind why her and her husband Ron eliminated the use of chemicals in 1983 and became Certified Organic in 1986, I was touched and knew I needed to get her story into the community.

After taking over the farm from Ron’s father in the early 1980’s, the Desens were committed to converting the farm to more natural ways like when it was established in 1927. Much of the land had been overworked over the years, so they converted 2/3 of it to permanent woodland and were steadily going to move towards organic farming. Some of their land was being used to grow sweet corn and was being treated with chemicals due to a contract they had with a large corporate food business. This company was always supposed to let the Desens know when they were going to spray, but one fall day in 1982, Ron was doused with chemicals sprayed from one of their planes as he was out working in the fields.

There was no warning.

Ron ran in and showered numerous times, trying to remove the chemicals now covering his body. Of course, they were both very worried, but the company assured him that he would be okay. That winter Ron became very sick, needing hospitalization. The doctors were never able to really knock down what the cause of his illness was, but Mindy still believes it came from the chemicals.

At that point, the Desens ended the contract, which was shocking to some since it was quite lucrative. They moved full speed ahead, eliminating the use of all chemicals and pesticides by the end of 1983 and became certified organic in 1986. This was quite the feat, considering the difficulty and cost involved in getting that certification now, let alone 26 years ago!

Sleeping Cat Organic Farms

They never looked back and now Mindy raises grass-fed beef, pasture lamb, free-range organically-fed chicken, certified organic eggs from pastured hens. She does many things that are of note when it comes to raising these animals that I find quite inspiring. I feel strongly about supporting farmers like her who care so deeply about conserving the land and raising their animals humanely, which results in a healthier product for consumers. Here are the reasons why you should stop and see Mindy at the Minneapolis Farmers Market in stall 252, even through the winter during Market Saturdays:

1. The cattle are antibiotic and hormone free. They are not raised to grow as large as possible, they are grown to live freely on the farm. According to Mindy, ” The problem with ruminant animals that are fed grain is that their meat and milk products are less desirable for human health. Their meat has more of the “bad” fat that clogs arteries, and less of the “good” fat that enhances our health.” Additionally, grass-fed meat has  two to six times the Omega 3s than grain-fed meat.

2. Unlike most chickens who are processed around 6-8 weeks, Mindy’s free range birds are processed at 10-13 weeks. This leads to a much creamy texture and flavor instead of what comes from an underdeveloped bird kept in partial confinement. She refers to her practice as “Beyond Free Range”.

3. Her organic eggs come from pasture raised hens…..and seriously, once you eat one of these you will wonder what you have been missing for so many years. The bright yellow color of the yolk will stand out far beyond what you normally get from a conventional egg. This is a sign of the hens eating a diet rich in grass which is packed with essential vitamins. I guarantee you will even notice a difference in sound when you crack it because the eggs are stronger from more calcium in their diet!

Join the movement – support your local farmers, your local markets, and your community!

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December 2, 2011


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1 comment

  1. Susan Berkson

    This is inspiring. I learned things about Mindy I never knew.