Growing strawberries in MN, Nordic & fish-inspired paintings, falling in love with violin-making

Growing strawberries in MN, Nordic & fish-inspired paintings, falling in love with violin-making

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(bright music) (upbeat pop music) - [Announcer] "Postcards" is made possible by the Minnesota Arts and Cultural Heritage Fund and the citizens of Minnesota. Additional support provided by Margaret A. Cargill Philanthropies. Mark and Margaret Yackel-Juleen, on behalf of Shalom Hill Farms, a retreat and conference center in a prairie setting near Windom, Minnesota, on the web at Alexandria, Minnesota, a year round destination with hundreds of lakes, trails, and attractions for memorable vacations and events. More information at The Lake Region Arts Council's Arts Calendar, an Arts and Cultural Heritage-funded digital calendar showcasing upcoming art events and opportunities for artists in West Central Minnesota, on the web at

Playing today's new music plus your favorite hits, 96.7 KRAM, online at - We're going to Brouwer Berries. - The strawberries, you can't beat the strawberries.

They're so sweet. - They taste fantastic. - Every single one of them. - They're sweet and red and-- - Unbeatable. - They're amazing. And there's so many out there.

(upbeat pop music) - It was such a blast here. (upbeat pop music) We are a strawberry farm where families can come and pick their own strawberries, or if they don't have time we'll pick it for them and they can just buy them off the shelf. (upbeat pop music) (pickers chattering) I am not a farmer at all.

I am from Canada, and we got married back in 1994 and I moved to the United States and it was a complete switch for me, living in this tiny little town a couple hours south of where we are now. And I would take my husband back to Canada to visit my family in Canada and one summer we took him strawberry picking, because that's just what I had grown up doing. And he looked at that farm and he looked around and he thought, "This is something I can do. There's nothing like this where I'm from in Minnesota."

And so he talked with his mom and decided that he and his mom would start a strawberry farm. He came home one day and he said to me, "I bought some strawberry plants." And I said, "Well, how many?" And he said, "1500." And I looked at him and I said, "What for?" And he said, "We're starting a strawberry farm at my parents' house." We've been running this strawberry farm for 21 years now. (whimsical music) - To grow something from nothing.

It's a passion in me that enjoys doing that part of it. (whimsical music) I've always enjoyed being on a farm. That was, that's always been my passion, It's what I went back to school for. I was hoping to be a dairy farmer and realized it was, with a new family it was impractical.

So, went back to school, got a carpentry degree and did that and found a way to get back into farming through strawberries. (whimsical music) - We figure, if you're going to get strawberries you should also have fun on the farm. And so we've set up our animals just around the farm that people can play with. There's bunnies, the kids love to go in the cage with the bunnies and play with them.

Some years we have chicks. We have goats and a horse and lots of sheep. People love to see the animals, to interact with them. We've also set up a rye maze where pretty much the adults sit down in the shade because they're tired and the kids run off their energy through the rye maze and just enjoy themselves, just being outside. (playful music) We feel like a lot of people in this area have a farm background, but they don't have opportunities to be on a farm anymore because the grandparents have moved off the farm. A lot of farms have gotten so big that kids don't have a connection to those farms anymore.

And so this has become a really tangible way for families to show kids, this is something that's growing and you have to pick it when it's ripe. It's your job as the farmer. Right now, you're harvesting strawberries. And I love giving that opportunity to families.

(playful music) - I grow the strawberries and Sarah sells the strawberries. (playful music) After this past year, realizing with all the Covid and everything that's gone on, I think we've always had a desire for people to know where your food comes from, where your heritage comes from. And over this past year, I think people have a better understanding or want a better understanding of where their food comes from, realizing how difficult it is getting from farm to the table. (groovy music) - Putting my kids on the farm is the biggest blessing of this entire experience. I've seen each of my kids who are so different shine in different areas on the farm.

(groovy music) - The people who help me around the farm is mostly family. We have some current workers who will come and pick for us. (groovy music) - I have been working for Brouwer's Berries for four years now. This is my fourth year and I've been working since then.

My mom is here, also my brother and some of my friends. We came from Thailand, Thailand slash Burma. (groovy music) You get to see a lot of different type of berries when you're here, because before I worked on the berry farm, I didn't really know there was different type of strawberries. And then working with Sarah, she's really nice, and her family is really welcoming. (groovy music) - One of my sisters will just stay at the front desk helping out new pickers. And then my other sister usually does things that I do, which is just helping people and telling them where to go.

(playful music) - Working on the farm with our family is crazy during the three weeks of strawberry season. Cause we get, what, 10,000, 11,000 people through in three weeks. Personally, I'm out in the field most of the day, just telling people where to go, leading people. And I'm always working at the front desk up there.

So I'm managing people flow. So then the people come to me, I do all the transactions, and then I also direct them where to go out to the field. And then obviously when we're off season, it's a lot of going out into the field. Like every single one of these rows have to get weeded and that's a lot of work. So that's basically what it's like.

It pays for college, that's what we like most. We just kind of understand each other and how we work. So I'm the more social one, she's the one that hates people.

And I'm like-- - I don't hate people. I'm just an introvert. - She's an introvert. So she has her social limits like maxed.

And so I see that she's crashing, I'm like, all right, "Heidi, just go take your break." - I like working on the farm because it's fun. And I get to do fly swatting and some pretty fun stuff. - We try to keep him busy.

- Yeah, he doesn't do very much. - Yeah. - Fly swatting, I go around on roller blades, roll around and then fly swatting if I see any flies. I like strawberries because they're tasty, sweet and sour. (calming music) - Growing strawberries has taught me that nothing comes easy, that it's all hard work. People might see the customers flowing in and just think, "Wow, you've got it easy.

You just have the customers flow in and they pick the strawberries and they give you money." But the five years of preparation to get that berry is like nothing I've ever seen and it's taught me to handle risk differently and to see the weather differently. - Starting off in the spring, it's always a joy, it's something you look forward to every spring, when everything gets started getting on. And it's always a joy to put everything to bed in the fall and to be done and just have a rest and get through winter and start all over in the spring again. (inspiring music) - I think the best part about having a farm is the people that I meet.

We have, give or take, 10,000 people that come to our farm. And yet I know a lot of them, I know their faces and they tell me their stories. And that's what keeps us going on the hard days with strawberry farming is remembering the people and how this reminds them of their stories and connects them to their past. (inspiring music) - That little "Frogs for Sale" sign. (laughing) It's just nuts. My brother and I, one spring, we decided that there was frogs all over, it was like the plague of frogs.

So we went out and we started catching frogs because we certainly of course thought that if you're on a major highway and you're close to Lac qui Parle, which is 30 miles away, by the way, people must want to fish with frogs. So we're going to sell frogs, right? So we had this 250 gallon water tank. I bet we had 300 frogs in there. We waited, you know, about a week and had nobody coming up. And then at some point we thought, well, God, we better start feeding 'em, what the hell do frogs eat? So then we start digging some worms and well, they didn't eat no worms.

So we had the barrel, the water tank and we kicked it over and watched 300 plus frogs hop away, ba bum, ba bum, ba bum. (rustic fiddle music) I paint a lot of abstract trout and salmon. It starts playing out here, the pinks and the rose colors and the darker pinks and yellows. You start getting some kind of nice little shapes working in there. (groovy fiddle music) In 1976, I made a ceramic bowl and I called it a fish bowl and it turned out it was all fish. And then from there, I just moved on to making more fish.

But when I first started farming, I kind of lost track of fishing and lost track of doing art. (warm country music) Back in 1986, I started back painting. And so I guess it's painting that really is my first love. I do some painting of Fjord horses, I call it "Nordic Design". (warm country music) Some of the boutique has moved from being paintings of Viking ships and Fjord horses, and those are the workhorses of Norway and Sweden for hauling up on the fjords. (warm country music) People say, "Well, is it relaxing?" I say, "Well, no."

Painting for me, making my art is pretty intense because you've got to pay attention. Craftspeople that pay attention usually are going to have good quality stuff. My father was living west of Canby, Minnesota. They got kicked off that farm. I suppose they lost the farm, couldn't pay the bills. And Frank and Helga got the kids up in the morning, in 1933, told the children, "Take what you can carry.

If you drop it, leave it." They were leaving that farm site. And then the next day they walked up here to this farm place and started farming in 1933.

The place that we're sitting in right now is called a chicken house. It used to be a hog house, remodeled into a chicken house, and then I remodeled the whole thing a couple of years ago into, I call it kind of a man cave, but I don't have any television or any that kind of stuff down here. And I do a lot of painting here.

It's got some history and I'm kind of a person who likes the history of things. It's been a pretty good place to live. (laughing) Yeah, I fish. I tie flies and I have developed a fly called the Clouser fly, which was developed by somebody else but I've got some variation to it. And I go fishing for northerns in the spring and I've got eight, nine pound northerns in these small little cricks around Lac qui Parle and not very far from the house actually, which is kind of fun. The northerns are a good fight.

They're a flashy fish, they're a strong fish, much like salmon but not quite the same. So we kinda, we do a lot of fishing in these smaller streams and that's kind of fun. I've got some paintings that I've been working on. I've got some abstract stuff, I've got some realistic fish stuff, but I tend to want to paint more in the abstract manner. I take my inspiration from fish colors, and trout and salmon are so vibrant. You know, northerns and walleyes are fine but there's nothing like a rainbow trout or a coho or a sockeye salmon to kind of get one's imagination moving.

And so I take the inspiration from those fish and I kind of translate it onto paper or paint, pencil, chalk, kind of just about anything's okay. I found if you stick with only one thing, gets kind of boring after a while. To me, art is really personal, personal to the fact that I'm putting part of myself into it and that's okay, you know. And the criteria for me in art is the making of things well, no matter what it is, make it well. There'll be different forms, different shapes, different colors. I really like working with colors, I like to move color around.

It's just part of life. It's just, things aren't static with art. Things move, things are colorful. It opens up possibilities for people. It makes some people think, but a lot of people look at it and say, "Ah, it's abstract. I don't care much about that."

Well, I'm not really painting it for you, I'm painting it for myself, so that's the personal piece of it. If other people like it, well then that's the reward. (emotive rock music) - This is the pile of wood right here that's going to end up being this violin. So we have a little work to do.

(stately string music) A long story, how I got into violin making. I took a music degree from St. Cloud State College then, and taught orchestra down in Mankato. In the summer, I would go off to Banff, Alberta and they had a music school there.

And one of the violin teachers there said, "Well if you come to London, I'll take you as a student." So I decided, "Wow, I'm not going to pass this up." So I went to London, studied with him. Then I did come back to the States and I taught another year down at Mankato.

And I thought, "I want to see more of the world." So I quit my job there, went over to the middle of Europe, a little country called Luxembourg. And I toured through Germany, France, over to Salzburg, Austria, way over to Vienna, and from Vienna, I went down to Venice, Italy. Now in Venice, Italy, I had planned to take a boat to Israel.

I got to the dock and I said, "I want to go to Israel." And he says, "No, you're not." And I said, "What do you mean?" He says, "War just broke out in Israel." (dramatic music) - [Announcer] The Israeli aircraft striking simultaneously at targets in Egypt, Syria-- - So I thought, "Oh boy, what am I going to do now?" And I knew from my reading that the little town of Cremona, Italy was where Antonio Stradivari, the greatest violin maker ever, lived and worked.

And so I thought, "Well, I'll go over there." (festive music) And I remember I arrived on a Sunday afternoon and met this American in the center of town, the plaza there, who was going to this violin making school. I didn't know anything about it. He says, "Why don't you come visit?" So the next Monday morning, I went to visit him and the maestro says, "Do you wanna come make violins?" And I said, "Well, sure." (festive music) So I did a year thinking I would return to my teaching but I just fell in love with the violin making.

And I decided to do another three and a half years, I did four and a half years. It wasn't all schooling, I did three years of schooling with a very, quite a famous modern violin maker. His name was Francesco Bissolotti. And while I was there, I also collected my woods over there. A friend and myself went over to Yugoslavia, where the maple is kind of like Minnesota, really. Beautiful, big huge maples.

Maybe one out of 200 maple trees has this curl in the wood, it's a figure in the wood that we use for violin. And we finally ended up shipping four and a half tons of maple and spruce. (festive music) Over here is a spruce that I brought back from Italy.

And this spruce is special. In fact, I got this spruce in the same valley that Antonio Stradivari would get his spruce, Val di Flemme or Valley of Flame. And the grain is very nice and tight and even all the way across. And that's what we want for violin making. (plaintive string music) I love to go to all my wood supply and look at the different pieces, you know, and say, "Oh, now this would be nice, or this would be nice," or whatever.

So that is a luxury. A lot of violin makers have to order their wood from a dealer somewhere and whatever they get, they get, you know. So I brought home all the wood I'll ever use, and my kids too, but. And then I have found beautiful woods in Minnesota maple, beautiful maple, too. And of course, maple is my favorite tree. That's what we use for the violin.

And if you look outside here is a lot of maples. And so every spring we punch holes in that maple tree and we make maple syrup. (plaintive string music) I came back to Minneapolis and opened up my shop right near Orchestra Hall down there. Then I met my wife (chuckling) and we moved back up here to the homestead. My Grandpa Anderson came with his family. Well, no, he came with his dad, my great grandpa.

They moved to America. And they ended up down in Lyon County near Marshall, southern part of the state. They were farmers and the Andersons lived on this farm and next door where the Wunderlys, German family. And I think three of the Anderson boys married three of the Wunderly girls and my grandma Anderson, who was a Wunderly, got TB.

And the doctors back then, he said, "Take her up to the north woods where the air is clean and fresh." I don't know if there's anything to that scientifically, but, and he did. (plucky violin music) I work by myself and didn't want to give away all my secrets, you know, (laughing) violin making secrets, ha. But then I had other people that were repairing violins and whatnot were interested.

And I thought, "Why not?" So I showed them how to make a violin. And then now I have these kids that are doing very well, the ones that are serious about it. They're playing, you know, and I thought, "Wouldn't it be neat if they could make their own violin?" And that's what they thought too. So I have nine kids now studying.

And I suppose in the past, I've taught another 10, 15 people. I have, one of my students is here today and she's doing a good job on her violin. This is her first violin, it's right over there on the bench. When she finishes her violin, hopefully it'll be wonderful and she'll have made her own violin and she'll play her own violin.

(flourishing violin music) - I started playing violin in Arnie's orchestra in fifth grade. I wasn't planning on playing violin but my friends were all playing. So I was like, "Hey, I want to go with you." (saw creaking) It's been cool to see my work come together.

Like when we started, it was, "Is this actually going to be a violin? Or is this going to be something that's going to kind of be put on the back burner and I'm not going to get finished?" But it's been kind of rewarding to see it take shape. And just, he opened up his home and his shop to us to come out here and work on the violins and play with him weekly. (lighthearted music) My orchestra, my kids are, actually there's adults in it as well. I think there's around 70 of us. And that was when I was young and ambitious.

And I'd teach all these kids, had half hour lessons every week. And then we put them all together on Tuesday nights and played concerts. They were all little rascals, every one of them.

Where are you, Natalie? Are you in this one? - [Natalie] I'm not in those yet, that was the year that I joined. - Oh, okay. Well then it got better as the year went on. (lighthearted music) To date I think I've made 380 violins, and some cellos, and violas, whatnot. So violin has been my life. It's been my livelihood.

It's been my fun, especially with our Scandinavian music. So I'm happy I chose to be a violin maker. But funny, life makes circles because now I spend more time teaching violin, I've got 30 kids I'm teaching to play violin. This is a Swedish march and a very popular one. In fact, even today it's used, if the wedding party is going to the church a lot of times the fiddlers will precede them and play these marches on the way to the church. And this is one of those.

(speaking Swedish) (joyful fiddle music) - [Announcer] "Postcards" is made possible by the Minnesota Arts and Cultural Heritage Fund and the citizens of Minnesota. Additional support provided by Margaret A. Cargill Philanthropies. Mark and Margaret Yackel-Juleen, on behalf of Shalom Hill Farms, a retreat and conference center in a prairie setting near Windom, Minnesota, on the web at Alexandria, Minnesota, a year round destination with hundreds of lakes, trails, and attractions for memorable vacations and events.

More information at The Lake Region Arts Council's Arts Calendar, an Arts and Cultural Heritage-funded digital calendar showcasing upcoming art events and opportunities for artists in west central Minnesota, on the web at Playing today's new music plus your favorite hits, 96.7 KRAM, online at (upbeat pop music)

2021-02-27 06:53

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