College showing interest in having ag facility at local farm

Steve Jones, director of professional and workforce training at Anoka-Ramsey Community College and Anoka Tech, and college horticulture instructor Emilie Justen have expressed interest in Anoka-Ramsey having a facility on the Doug

Doug Marshall
Doug Marshall

Marshall farm that sits adjacent to the Princeton airport.
Anoka-Ramsey is looking at having a hands-on facility at the Marshall farm for coursework in urban and rural sustainable organic food production, Jones said this week. Anoka-Ramsey would start with a continuing education course and, depending on the interest that develops, the college could have a for-credit undergraduate course there, Jones added.
Marshall, 70, is a soft-spoken farmer who supports organic farming and sustainable agriculture in which the land supports the occupants’ needs. Marshall’s other main business is bookkeeping and tax filing work out of his home.
It was during the June 13 Princeton Economic Development Authority meeting when the idea became public that someone from Anoka-Ramsey had been looking at the Marshall farm for having a hands-on educational facility.
Anoka-Ramsey employees must have been able to see around what may seem to some a certain amount of disorderliness at the Marshall farm yard. Piles of thin lumber strips lie about in the grass, which is tall next to the driveway, and barrels and other things are scattered on the ground. The college representatives must have instead taken stock of what all that is involved in it.
It turns out that the wood strips are cast-offs that Marshall gets from an area cabinet maker, and he uses barrels for heating the strips to turn them into a charred product that he says make good fertilizer. Out on the pasture beyond his yard are fences that break up most of his 53-acre farm into grazing plots.
“The cows are my lawnmowers,” Marshall said. He explained that he allows grass to grow in a particular plot until it goes to seed, and then he herds the cows to that plot to eat it down. That’s the most efficient use of the grass because it is at that point that it has reached its maximum potential, and the cows, in the process, drop fertilizer, he said.
Princeton Community Development Director Carie Fuhrman talked about Anoka-Ramsey’s interest in the Marshall farm during the June 13 EDA meeting. She said that she had met with Marshall and a few people from Anoka-Ramsey about Anoka-Ramsey’s interest in the farm for education.
Princeton could benefit from that since Anoka-Ramsey doesn’t have any presence in Princeton now, Fuhrman told the EDA members. Anoka-Ramsey has college campuses in Cambridge and Coon Rapids, and the college is now aligning with Anoka Technical College to be under one president, according to news reports.
Marshall also said he would like to someday have a country store in the Aero Business Park that lies along the eastern border of the Marshall Farm and just north of the Princeton Airport.
Marshall, in an interview at his home, said he once owned the land that Aero Business Park sits on but lost it when he had to come up with attorney bills to pay for defending himself. He was defending against claims by the state that he was doing something illegal through his business. The courts found Marshall not guilty of the charges but Marshall says he still feels his name in Princeton has been damaged by the charges.
Marshall admits that some of his endeavors have not all panned out, saying something about one and 20 attempted projects working out. Recent back problems have not helped him either, he said, yet he continues to express optimism about his ideas. Students from at least one agriculture class at Princeton High School have been out to his farm to look at his livestock that now includes cows, sheep and fowl.
He said he has slaughtered on his farm to process meat and mentioned the idea of having a building at Aero Park someday that could have organic goods to sell in the front and a facility in the back that would “eviscerate” livestock as part of meat processing.
A model that he often points to when explaining the kind of agriculture he believes in is an enterprise located on 3 acres inside the city of Milwaukee, called Growing Power. Its website states that Growing Power was founded in 1993 and has six greenhouses, year-round hoop houses and farm animal pens at the Milwaukee site.
Growing Power describes itself as a “leader in integrated, diversified agriculture and a center of innovation of learning and inspiration.”
Marshall claims that a facility like that can feed 11,000 people year-round. Marshall, who retired from the Navy as a warrant officer specializing in electronics, has talked about having a project on his farm to teach military veterans how to run a business. He said that he first attempted to sell the Veterans Affairs on the idea of establishing a Growing Power place on the St. Cloud VA campus.
Marshall said the VA ended up telling him its difficult to get the OK for such a project on government property and suggested that something of the same nature might be done at his farm. Marshall said he tried to get a project going like that, which would involve Marshall and the University of Wisconsin campus at River Falls, with each splitting the revenue. But that fell through as well.
Marshall said he made one more attempt at starting a Growing Power project, and that was last year at the Blossom Run recreational property between Princeton and Milaca. Marshall said that didn’t work out because he couldn’t afford the price of the property.
Marshall notes that Anoka-Ramsey has expressed a desire to establish a horticulture facility on his farm by sometime this coming fall.