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Organic Farm Ravaged By Disease Seeks Funds To Stay Operational

RUSHFORD, Minn. (WCCO) -- An organic farmer in southeastern Minnesota says his farm is in a worst-case scenario.

Wet weather and disease wiped out dozens of acres of crops at Featherstone Farm. Now, the owner of the farm that provides fruits and vegetables in the Twin Cities says the 20-year-old farm may not survive.

He's now turning to his community for help.

"It's risky, that's the basic nature of it," Jack Hedin said.

Hedin knows about risk.

For 20 years he has owned Featherstone Farms in Rushford, Minnesota. He sells his organic fruits and veggies throughout southeast Minnesota and in stores in the Twin Cities -- but not this year.

"This year, 2016, the big issue is disease," Hedin said, "crop disease."

Hedin said waterborne diseases killed his crops. More than $370,000 worth was destroyed by the summer's constant rain.

"Unfortunately there is no crop insurance for the crops that we grow," he said.

When Hedin learned there was a problem he said he began cutting as much as he could.

"We had to lay off a lot of people early," he said. "Seasonal employees left early, six weeks early. We cut costs in every possible way we could. Tightened up some of our projections through the winter, made some changes."

The extent of the loss is so great he cannot make it all up. He needs $150,000 working capital during the winter months to keep Featherstone Farm open. He hopes the friends and families he has fed for years can help.

"We would like the help through purchase of CSA shares and buying our crops in stores, but also through our GoFundMe campaign," he said.

"The communities around here expect this. They want good, quality food and they don't want it shipped from across the country," Kay Bernard said.

Bernard lives next door to Featherstone Farm. She is also a customer. She said she knows the value of quality food and hopes people dig down deep to help keep this farm growing.

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