Story and photo by Grace Brogan
Dahlias, the bright, bushy flowers that grow taller than six feet, don’t scream organic farm to everyone, but learn the story of Two Pony Gardens and they will represent a colorful cornerstone to a woman’s passion for nurturing an understanding of the natural world at every turn.
Not half an hour out of the buzz of Minneapolis is a rhythm of a different kind. The road out to Two Pony Gardens subtly turns from blacktop to gravel, pulls up a small slope, around old woods, and opens up at a clearing host to a greenhouse, a garden, and two friendly dogs faithfully following Lisa Ringer, owner and gardener, everywhere she wanders. The dahlias are a holdover from Lisa’s former life as a landscape gardener and are available in over 100 varieties. This mid-April afternoon, they populate the greenhouse along with over 50 varieties of heirloom tomatoes, Two Pony’s other major crop, in addition to a plethora of greens that will be sold both here and at Midtown Farmers Market.
But this isn’t your run-of-the-mill dahlia and heirloom tomato farm, friends. In the past four years, Ringer’s relationship with the Southside Family School has built an education program that she is hoping will continue to grow throughout the City. The Youth Environmental Literacy and Law (Y.E.L.L.) Project is an after-school program for middle school students that touches on sustainable agriculture, natural history, environmental advocacy, career training, and health topics. The students venture out to the farm a few times in the spring and the fall, getting to know first-hand what all of these big topics are about, and they receive visits in the classroom as well. This year, with Lisa’s guidance, the students have ordered chicks for Two Pony Gardens, and will have the opportunity to watch them grow and produce, giving the children a unique and much-needed close encounter with the food system. Two Pony Gardens is bringing students closer to food, land, and nature, and hopes to expand its reach to educate people, young and old, about these vital topics.
One delicious way Two Pony Gardens reaches adults is through its periodic Harvest Dinners. Lisa opens her bright and airy home to long tables and hungry guests for an evening of local, creative, and sustainable eating made from food grown by local farmers and prepared by chef and filmmaker Daniel Klein (visit www.theperennialplate.com for more information about his Minnesota food documentary project). Email Lisa and Siri, her business partner, at twoponygardens (at) gmail.com for more information about this season’s Harvest Dinner dates. Proceeds from dinners go to the Y.E.L.L. Project. With chickens, a bread/pizza oven, and perhaps even visiting sheep on the way, summer at Two Pony Gardens will be an exciting season. Check out www.twoponygardens.com to learn more about this unique gem in Long Lake.