Local Wholesaler Struggles Under Rough Weather
Not expecting early snow and heavy rain, Bjorn Solberg bought Hugh's Gardens this past spring
HALSTAD, Minn. — As a young entrepreneur, Bjorn Solberg was full of hope as he purchased his first business.
“I wouldn’t have bought this business if I didn’t see a potential opportunity for growth right away,” Solberg says.
He bought Hugh’s Gardens in Halstad, a decades–old organic produce supplier and storage plant, this past spring.
“Kind of right at the end of our last year, so I could kind of get some momentum going into this year. That momentum has now gone away, as we face the struggles that we did, just like every other farmer in this region.”
As a new business owner, an early snowstorm, heavy rain and fall flooding made for a tough first year for Solberg.
“It’s not ideal conditions to be digging potatoes when it’s super saturated in the soil. It just causes issues. Harvesting, but then also with storage and then the washing aspect as well.”
While he was expecting to work with 2.5 to 3 million pounds of potatoes, he says he only brought in 50,000 pounds of usable ones.
That’s 2 percent of the amount of product he was anticipating.
“Quite a bit of a shock, but just like any other farmer in this situation, we got to kind of assess it and then try to figure out what we can do to fight through it,” he says.
While federal aid programs are meant to relieve producers financially, Solberg says there’s not much help for suppliers like himself.
“I’m finding that since I’m not, you know, directly a farmer in my position, that there’s not much aid and support out there, so I’m kind of hoping that they would keep people like me in mind and our businesses.”
For now, Solberg is looking for a job in town to help him get by until next spring.
“My hopes are still to try and do as much growing as I can in the first couple years here. I still have the 50,000 pounds of specialty potatoes. They’re a purple variety, so I’ll be marketing those out as much locally as possible.”
Although struggling himself, Solberg says helping others is what he got into this work for, and what he’ll continue doing.
“What I want to do with this business is try and get prices low. I know a lot of families in general are struggling financially, so that was my goal, is having a direct hand in helping keep low prices for people.”
He says remaining optimistic and pushing forward are his only options.
Hugh’s Gardens works with four local organic farmers who say they’re done harvesting for the season.