When Jadell Cavallin started a small vegetable garden in her front yard on Waldo Road in 2006, she didn't expect her efforts to grow into a little farm. But her dedication to farming, agriculture techniques, food production, honey bee care and research has earned her Little Waldo Farm the title of University of Minnesota Lake County Extension Farm Family of the Year.

"It's a very nice honor," Cavallin said. "I learn so much from my various gardens and fellow farmers market vendors from year to year."

Derrick Passe of Lake County Soil and Water presented Cavallin with the award Tuesday, July 23, on her family's farm. The family — Jadell and her husband, Joe, and 3-year-old AJ — will represent the county at Farm Fest, a celebration of Minnesota farming in Morgan in August.

"Each year, the Extension committee chooses a Farm Family of the Year. Each county in the state does it," Passe said. "The Cavallins were chosen because of their commitment and passion for growing produce, plants and more here in Lake County."

Inside the Little Waldo Farm's high tunnel garden, plants that need a longer growing season thrive. Building the high tunnel is what owner Jadell Cavallin credits for the farm's continual expansion. "From there, we just exploded," she said. (Teri Cadeau/News-Chronicle)
Inside the Little Waldo Farm's high tunnel garden, plants that need a longer growing season thrive. Building the high tunnel is what owner Jadell Cavallin credits for the farm's continual expansion. "From there, we just exploded," she said. (Teri Cadeau/News-Chronicle)

After Cavallin started her first garden, she started looking into what flowers she should plant around the vegetable garden to support the pollinators. As she continued to research gardening methods, she decided in 2013 to build a high tunnel — basically an unheated greenhouse — to extend her growing season in the spring and fall.

"And that really just exploded things," Cavallin said. "That same year, I looked into becoming a honeybee keeper and took some classes and then that following summer we became honeybee keepers. And then I started volunteering with the Lake County Master Gardeners. Things really took off after that. We just keep expanding."

Today, Cavallin's farm contains the high-tunnel garden, a hugelkultur (a raised garden bed made of compostable biomass plant materials), hay bale gardens, a rain garden, pollinator gardens, a woodland garden, the apiary and her main veggie and fruit garden in the front.

AJ Cavallin rides his tricycle around the Little Waldo Farm front vegetable and fruit garden on Tuesday, July 23. (Teri Cadeau/News-Chronicle)
AJ Cavallin rides his tricycle around the Little Waldo Farm front vegetable and fruit garden on Tuesday, July 23. (Teri Cadeau/News-Chronicle)

Each section has a different focus. For example, the hay bale gardens work particularly well for growing gourds and pumpkins due to the fertilizer the hay provides, whereas the high-tunnel garden houses plants that need more heat and a longer growing season to fully develop.

Cavallin also teaches classes with community education on various aspects of farming and gardening and received her master gardener status in 2015. She also likes to give back to the scientific community by participating in seed trials with the University of Minnesota. Last spring, she received six envelopes with seeds labeled in such a way that she didn't know what variety of peas and golden beets she planted.

"So you know that they're peas or beets, but you don't know what variety they'll be when they grow, or even if they'll grow," Cavallin said. "You grow each variety and taste test them. Or report back if you were even able to harvest because sometimes you get some that just don’t do very well. Some that get super munched by pests, some that do really well."

More information on the Little Waldo Farm can be found at littlewaldofarm.com. The farm is also a vendor at the Two Harbors Farmers Market at Cedar Coffee Company on Saturday mornings.

Honey bees visit the Cavallins' apiary. (Teri Cadeau/News-Chronicle)
Honey bees visit the Cavallins' apiary. (Teri Cadeau/News-Chronicle)