Ewetopian Farms brings more local foods to the table
Bjorn Solberg and Nicholas Wiens didn’t always see themselves as farmers. The two became friends while attending Concordia College, where Solberg majored in education and Wiens in biology. With a shared sense of entrepreneurship, the pair knew they wanted to start a business. Their education and experiences in the foodservice industry helped them find a cause.
Solberg, whose family has owned the land where Ewetopian Farms is located since 1871, formed an interest in locally sourced foods in part during sociology classes in college. Though quality food is vitally important to a quality life, there is a lack of public knowledge about how food makes it to the table.
Likewise, Wiens, who grew up around ranching operations in Billings, Mont., was awed by the lack of accessibility to quality foods and the price difference between quality food and that which most people rely on.
“Cheap food is not very healthy,” Wiens says. “That’s something we wanted to promote in particular: getting some options out there for decent, healthy, local food.”
Two years ago, when the opportunity to use the Solberg family farmland presented itself, the business idea clicked into place, and Ewetopian Farms was born.
On a cold January morning, on the Solberg farmstead a few miles south of Fargo, chickens huddle comfortably inside a repurposed 100-year-old granary-turned-chicken coop. There are a few more renovations planned for the coop, and Solberg jokes that it will soon be more “chicken palace” than chicken coop. The old structure is shelter for the egg-laying chickens owned by Solberg’s mother, who sells eggs under the Solberg Farms banner. The renovation came after a third of Wiens’ and Solberg’s meat chickens unintentionally became food for a score of non-human consumers during their first year of business. Portable pens were brought in and were moved about the yard regularly, allowing for a safer, yet still natural lifestyle for the remaining meat chickens.
Sheep — Polypay, Rambouillet, and a Polypay-Suffolk mix — move in and out of the adjacent barn through pastureland running along the Wild Rice River. Along with defending their animals from nature’s meat-eaters, Wiens and Solberg say introducing lamb to a customer base unfamiliar with the meat has also been challenging.
“It’s an intimidating meat to a lot of people,” says Wiens.
The intimidation stems from unfamiliarity, as lamb is a staple of diets in countries in the Middle East and Africa, as well as in Australia and New Zealand. Recently, as a way to introduce lamb to those who’ve never had it, Wiens and Solberg had lamb bratwurst made, consisting of 70 percent lamb and 30 percent pork with Greek seasonings. Wiens adds that lamb roast and lamb chili are excellent and relatively easy to prepare, as well.
In 2016, Ewetopian Farms participated in the Red River Market in downtown Fargo, where the interest in locally produced food was high. In fact, Wiens and Solberg sold 200 chickens in just a week. Due to state food inspection regulations, customers must pick up orders directly from the farm, which presents the learning opportunity that Wiens and Solberg truly value.
“We’re trying to educate people on how their food is getting to them,” says Solberg. “When they buy from us, they know where the meat is being raised and know [the animals] are being taken care of.”
Together, Wiens’ knowledge of biology and Solberg’s passion for education results in a clear goal for Ewetopian Farms.
“People should have more ownership over their food, more knowledge of food,” says Wiens. “It wasn’t long ago when, if you didn’t know about your food, you could die when you ate it.”
The friends have been busy outside of Ewetopian Farms, too. In the near future, they plan to take over ownership of Hugh’s Gardens, a processing and distribution facility for organic produce, located in Halstad, Minn. Hugh’s Gardens currently specializes in organically grown potatoes. Though Solberg says they’d love to combine the two businesses for one “meat and potatoes” operation, he says the coming market season will help determine whether that is possible, or whether their focus should shift more to one side.
Produce from Hugh’s Gardens is primarily distributed throughout the Twin Cities region, along with a few Fargo restaurants. Solberg and Wiens hope to sell their products at Prairie Roots Food Cooperative, which is expected to open this June in downtown Fargo, and plan to further expand distribution in the Fargo area.
To learn more about Ewetopian Farms and place orders, visit facebook.com/ewetopianfarms, email firstname.lastname@example.org, or call 701-793-6830.