Capturing the buzz of communications—and organic farming


Debbie inspecting a hive

Harnessing the latest buzz is smart marketing, and we have the Queen Bee.

Debbie Morrison, who is based in our St. Cloud office, strategizes proven communications for a broad range of clients. Away from the office, she and her husband Jim live on and operate Sapsucker Farms, their Minnesota-based certified organic farm, which includes 12 bee hives, chickens, sugar maple trees, a vegetable garden and an apple orchard. She also contributes to the Simple Good and Tasty blog.

Sweet rewards

You know the colleagues who bring the best treats to the office? That’s Debbie.

Her passion for organic agriculture yields sweet results, especially honey and organic maple syrup. Besides our offices and homes, Sapsucker Farms products are enjoyed all over the world. Debbie ships anywhere: Just order here.

Debbie’s syrup in Jerusalem

Debbie’s syrup in Jerusalem

Accidental farmers

“We got into organic farming accidentally,” Debbie explains. “We bought 172 acres of land near Mora, Minn., in 1997, then built our house and moved in 2000. Our original goal was to restore the land to natural habitat. We started by restoring 40 acres of hayfields into native prairie. All of the prairie flowers inspired me to start beekeeping. A friend from Vermont saw our maple trees and suggested we tap them, so we did. Then we planted the organic apple orchard, which is 60 trees in 30 varieties, and I started learning about organic agriculture. The chickens were added last year. We’ve been certified organic since 2006.”

Jim and Debbie during maple syrup harvest

Jim and Debbie during maple syrup harvest

Do you know where your food comes from?

Watch how Debbie bottles Sapsucker Farms pure, organic maple syrup:

At the office, Debbie is, as she describes, “Director of Strategy and Lots of Other Stuff.” She consults and strategizes for various clients and industries, in part lending experience she gained while working for large Minneapolis-based agencies earlier in her career.

Get to know a Flintster: Q + A with Debbie

How does your passion outside of work fuel your career?
My passion for the farm stimulates my thinking in so many ways. Farming requires constant problem-solving, strategizing, creating, building, and continually forcing me to push beyond my boundaries and work outside my comfort zones. All of this helps me be a much more creative thinker, strategizer, analyzer, problem-solver, and leader in the work place.

What do you do on a typical night or weekend?
It depends on the season. This time of year, our farm chores are feeding, watering the chickens and collecting eggs, plus filling our outside wood boiler twice per day with firewood. In the summer, we feed and water the chickens, and collect all of the fresh, organic free-range eggs – about one dozen a day. On weekends, we inspect the 12 bee hives, weed the garden, cut firewood and basically spend about 12 hours per day of hard labor on the farm. We get dirty, get sore muscles and go to bed exhausted every night. And we love every minute of it. Autumn is harvest time and hunting season. I do as much as I can after work and indulge in both on the weekends. In the spring, during the maple syrup season (usually starting in March), after work I go out into the woods to collect sap, then on the weekends the sap is boiled to perfection to create maple syrup. Also in the spring, I start vegetable seeds in our greenhouse for the garden.

What’s your dream job?
I have it already: I’m an organic farmer.

What was your first job?
In the kitchen at a nursing home, where I served food in the dining room and washed dishes.

What is one thing you’d be willing to practice for an hour a day?
Target shooting with a bow, pistol or rifle.

What’s the best advice you ever got?
Empower the people who work with you and for you.

What sound do you love?
Frogs croaking, especially spring peepers in our pond.

What scent do you love?
The sweet scent of honey inside the honeybee hives.

Making a difference

“Obviously, I’m passionate about growing and producing fresh, safe, organic food, reading and learning everything I can about the food industry, agriculture, and organic practices.

“The earth is in peril, and needs help. By being a good steward of the earth’s resources, I believe I am making a difference,” Debbie says.

A bit more about bees

“Our farm is USDA certified organic, certified by MOSA. Organic certification is a LOT of work, with lots of paperwork, but it’s worth the effort.  The only thing that is NOT certified organic is the honey. While I do manage the bees organically, it is nearly impossible to have honey certified organic here in the lower 48 states. The reason why is because bees will forage up to four miles away, and if there are any conventional farm fields, golf courses or other landscapes that have been sprayed or planted with GMOs within that radius, a beekeeper cannot prevent the bees from foraging in those areas,” Debbie says.

“We are also expanding the farm considerably in 2012. We will be putting out 1,000 taps for maple syrup, and have opened up a new one-acre field for vegetable growing. Plus we have qualified for an NRCS (USDA Natural Resources Conservation Service) grant to add a high tunnel for vegetable growing. It will be 30’ x 100’ and will extend our growing season. Also in 2012, we will start a CSA (Community Supported Agriculture) offering subscriptions to people in our local area,” she explains.

Find Debbie and Sapsucker Farms on YouTube, Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn and the Simple Good and Tasty blog.

Pssst! Look for just one blog post next week. It will appear on Wednesday, with a little holiday love from us.

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