Ryan Pesch finds his mission in the land

Ryan Pesch, Lida Farm

When the Red River flooded in 1997 and caused billions of dollars of damage to cities in Minnesota, North Dakota and Canada, Ryan Pesch watched his hometown of East Grand Forks, Minnesota, and the people who lived there, go through lots of changes. The response to the flood is what led him to develop an interest in community development.

Ryan spent his early life in the rural northwestern region of Minnesota hunting, camping and gardening. After the flood, he attended Gustavus Adolphus College where he earned a Classics degree, then apprenticed at Foxtail Farm in Wisconsin to learn the craft of vegetable production. He married his wife, Maree, in 2001. After working at the Mississippi Market Food Coop in Minneapolis for a few years and completing graduate school, Ryan and Maree moved to Otter Tail County when Ryan began working for the University of Minnesota Extension Office. Ryan works throughout the west central Minnesota region to educate communities and businesses about economic community development. He also does research, leads workshops for small businesses and trains commercial vegetable growers on marketing and business management.

Ryan’s interest in environmentalism and self sufficiency combined with his knowledge of growing vegetables helped him start Lida Farm in 2004, a certified organic vegetable farm near Pelican Rapids. He and Maree built their business from the ground up, selling to more and more farmers markets and Community Supported Agriculture customers as they grew. “Our neighbors and local residents have really responded not just to what we sell, but our greater mission of growing great food while building community around the farm,” he said. The farm grows between three and four acres of vegetables a year and sells to farm stands, CSA customers, and the Detroit Lakes Farmers Market.

While Ryan was brought to the area officially for his job with the U of M, he believes that west central Minnesota is “a wonderful mix of everything great Minnesota has to offer.” He enjoys the small town feeling, the “authentically Minnesotan” people, and the natural beauty of the area mixed in with the big city amenities, arts and culture. He was brought to the region for those experiences and has chosen to stay and raise his family here, which now consists of Ryan, Maree and their three kids Sylvia, Willem and Graham.

Steve Henning