For the love of farming and family
Richard Traugott already had a college degree and his own successful nurseries, garden center, and landscape design and installation business before coming to the University of Minnesota to pursue his master’s degree in horticulture.
So, why return to school with that much experience and an already profitable career? Traugott wanted to take a different route in his master’s program (through the College of Continuing Education) by focusing on sustainable farming, rather than the conventional, chemical-based methods he learned as an undergraduate and used in the past. His short-term goal is to develop an organic fruit and vegetable farm to pass down to his 17-year-old son, Joel.
“My preference would have been for Joel to have my same love for ornamental horticulture, but he has a passion for organic farming. He is on the autism spectrum, and this farm will be owned and managed by him,” Traugott says. “(It) will give him the ability to support himself. I have some physical limitations but have a background in marketing and management. Joel, on the other hand, excels in thinking up innovative ideas and provides the energy and muscle.”
The duo aims to produce food for about 100 local households around the farm's site in Foley, Minnesota. They will offer fruits, vegetables, eggs, specialized meats, and seasonal crops such pumpkins. They anticipate selling through local farmers’ markets, weekly shares, and a "pick your own" option for vegetables and fruit.
After he establishes the farm, Traugott thinks he would like to work in education, extension, production, or sales. “My perfect job would be to work with others who are passionate about sustainable production alternatives,” he says.
For now, though, he is content with being “the silent partner for Joel's farm.”