The Whitcomb family of J.Q. Fruit Farm has been named Mille Lacs County’s “2020 Farm Family of the Year” by the University of Minnesota.
J.Q. Fruit Farm is a Century Farm. It’s been in the family for five generations. Daniel and Carol, along with their four children, have grown specialty crops – blueberries, apples and raspberries – for 33 years.
The farm consists of six acres of blueberries, over 400 apple trees and an eighth of an acre of raspberries. The fruit is sold at farmers markets, through CSAs, and wholesale. The family also sells to customers who come to the farm to pick their own fruit.
Daniel and Carol run the operation with seasonal help from their daughters and grandchildren. Family members help with harvesting, selling and cleaning up the fields.
The Whitcombs’ youngest granddaughter is the farm’s model in its apple advertisements.
The farm also provides yearly employment opportunities for area residents.
The Whitcombs support their local food shelf by supplying fresh fruits to Princeton Pantry. The family has picked and delivered thousands of pounds of fruit over the years.
Daniel helped establish the Minnesota Farmers Market Association and served as the group’s chair. He organized the Princeton Farmers Market and served as market manager. He’s also been a director with the Minnesota Fruit and Vegetable Growers Association. Dan worked to get the “Pickle Bill,” the state’s cottage food law, through the Minnesota legislature.
Carol served as web designer for the MFMA and MFVGA and for 22 years was the coordinator for the Princeton Farmers Market.
Though COVID-19 has forced cancellation of the annual Minnesota Farmfest, where the awards are presented each August, this year’s honorees will be celebrated in an online video tribute. The recognition, led by University of Minnesota President Joan Gabel, will be available at 1 p.m., Aug. 6 at mnfarmfamilies.cfans.umn.edu.
Honored families are chosen, one per county, by local University of Minnesota Extension committees based on their demonstrated commitment to their communities and to enhancing and supporting agriculture.
“We’ll miss the face-to-face ceremony for the 2020 Farm Families of the Year, but nothing diminishes pride we take in celebrating their accomplishments,” said Extension Dean Bev Durgan. “These families represent the best in agriculture. They’re innovative and dedicated to their communities; they are stewards of the land.”
A complete list of the 2020 Farm Families of the Year will be available at mnfarmfamilies.CFAMS.umn.edu.
Along with Farmfest, University units sponsoring the recognition event include University of Minnesota Extension, Minnesota Agricultural Experiment Station, the College of Food, Agricultural and Natural Resource Sciences, and the College of Veterinary Medicine.