Farmers’ market fave featured during garden tourThe work of “Farmer Doug” Hoffbauer, no stranger to our area's myriad farmers' markets, and his wife Lois will be featured during Spirit Valley Days' Western Garden Tour Aug. 7.
By: Alayne Hockman, Budgeteer News
One of Spirit Valley Days’ main events is the annual Western Garden Tour Aug. 7, which will again shine a light on local green-thumbed enthusiasts’ creations.
Two of those enthusiasts are “Farmer Doug” and Lois Hoffbauer, who work long hours to maintain their farm and their gardens.
The 40 acres the Hoffbauers sustain are mostly dedicated to Doug’s passion for Christmas trees, with about an additional eight acres being dedicated to raising flowers and vegetables, tomatoes, raspberries and free-range chickens.
Clearly, such an amount of land comes with its fair amount of upkeep.
“I guess what’s made it work is that I’ve been pretty handy,” Doug said, describing his workmanship. “A lot of my equipment I’ve either made — or made work.”
Doug explained that farming equipment for two- and three-row farming has been outdated for about 50 years. That is, more updated machinery is typically designed for larger jobs.
“You don’t do this for money, you don’t do this for something to do,” Doug said. “It has to be a passion, and it is.”
And a passion it must be, as he has been farming since 1977, when he and his wife purchased their home in rural Proctor.
Originally, Doug’s family helped jumpstart the cultivating of the land, giving him some pointers.
“My relatives in the southern part of the state came up here and said, ‘Here is what you need’ … and next thing you know, it’s evolved,” he said, pointing to a nearby field.
Doug has an undergraduate degree in forestry and a graduate degree in greenhouse ceiling production. After retiring, he couldn’t quit the farm.
“I had too much invested in it,” he said.
Still, one issue that presents itself is wild animals predating on the vegetation. A seemingly heightened deer population in the area surrounding the farm, combined with local coyotes, is causing some problems for crops, apple trees and chickens.
“I don’t trust the coyotes won’t come, because they have in the past,” Doug said, referring to their conflict with the chickens. “That’s minor, though; the deer are a bigger problem. It’s kind of a battle I can’t win.”
To help with the issue, Doug placed a deer fence around the tree farm — which he works in conjunction with the University of Minnesota, doing studies and research for the school.
Doug’s website, www.farmerdoug.com, broadcasts “apples to zucchini with Christmas trees in between.” That slogan helps to portray how productive this couple is.
Doug and Lois have various projects throughout the seasons. Doug makes maple syrup in the spring, tapping about 300 trees each March using the equipment he has “made work.” Lois works on balsam wreaths from the end of October until mid-December, selling them online and helping organizations raise funds, including the hockey team their oldest son coaches.
Somewhere between their range of projects, the Hoffbauers do find a little time for rest and relaxation, traveling to Jamaica on vacation in the winters.
“Farmer Doug” brings truckloads of produce to farmers’ markets in the Twin Ports, including the ones at Minnesota Power, Saint Mary’s medical center and occasionally at the University of Minnesota-Duluth.
“I like to work out of the back of my truck to keep everything organized,” he said. “I don’t know; it gives me a sense of security, I guess.”
His main outlet, the Duluth Farmers’ Market, is open every Wednesday and Saturday from 7 a.m. to noon. It is located at 14th Avenue East and Third Street. (Don’t like to plan ahead? Find out where Farmer Doug is at any given time on www.farmerdoug.com.)
The Western Garden Tour is set for Aug. 7, with stops at notable gardens around the Twin Ports area, including the Hoffbauers’ spread.
NEWS TO USE
The Western Garden Tour, which is put on by Norton Park United Methodist Church, will be held Aug. 7 in conjunction with Spirit Valley Days. Stop by the church (at 436 N. 79th Ave. W.) between 9 and 11 a.m. to eat breakfast and pick up maps to the featured gardens. Then, from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m., take you and yours on a self-guided tour of said plotted displays. Cost is $8.
Two Harbors freelance writer Alayne Hockman last covered National Candy Month for the Budgeteer. She can be reached via firstname.lastname@example.org.
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