Welcome back, Janna!

Local farmer returns to the office with mostly clean hands

Audio Articles on Hometown Focus is sponsored by Rock Ridge Public Schools.
Janna Goerdt says she loves playing in the dirt—she operates Fat Chicken Farm near Embarrass—but is excited to rejoin the HTF editorial staff. Photo by Marlise Riffel.

Janna Goerdt says she loves playing in the dirt—she operates Fat Chicken Farm near Embarrass—but is excited to rejoin the HTF editorial staff. Photo by Marlise Riffel.

EDITOR’S NOTE: Janna Goerdt was one of Hometown Focus’s earliest staff writers and has been a longtime contributor about health, agriculture, and sustainability topics. Although I am writing this on her second day in the office, I can tell she will be a great addition to our editorial team because of her can-do attitude, easy-going personality, and mastery of the written word. She’s already working on a great feature story for our October 29 edition— don’t miss it! —Tucker Nelson, Editor

It feels great to be back in the office again!


This time of year, I’m usually still pretty dirty and distracted. For the last 12 years, I have operated a small vegetable farm in Embarrass called Fat Chicken Farm. And for the last nearly eight years, I’ve been a pretty-much full-time mom to twin boys, Milo and Jasper.

But now, I’m sitting in an office with (relatively) clean hands, dressed in (mostly) clean clothes. I’m focused on one thing—that would be writing this column—rather than working on four different home and farm and family projects at once.

Whoo-hoo, this feels great!

I am re-joining the staff here at Hometown Focus as an editorial assistant and staff writer. During my earlier working life, I spent many years at local and regional newspapers, including a year at Hometown Focus shortly after the paper was founded. Now, I will be working part-time in this office (with my clean hands) and out and about in the community (in my clean clothes).

This will definitely be a change for me. I have loved raising my boys and loved playing in the dirt on my farm each spring and summer. I’ll still do both of those things, of course—mothers will always mother, and farmers will always farm. But as my boys have gotten older, there’s a little more time for me to do other things. Writing and reporting has been a joy to me for many years, though I just haven’t had the mental energy to spend on it lately.

I grew up on the Iron Range and have lived here most of my life. I truly love and cherish this place and the people who live and work here. I have always thought of the Iron Range as a place, rather than a suburb of another place, or a clump of homes and buildings plopped on a piece of land. This is a place. These are my people. This is my home.

I went to school in Eveleth, then to college in Duluth, and back home to the Range to live. About 20 years ago I bought a fairly neglected farmstead in Pike Township that my husband, Tim, and I cleaned up and turned into a home.

Then came the chickens, then the vegetable fields, and then the children. There is always something to do on a farm, even in the middle of an Embarrass-area winter, so I am never, ever bored.

Since our boys were born almost eight years ago, we have been engaged in raising them well. We are always outside— even in these Embarrass-area winters—and always active. We play and grow food and explore the woods and the Pike River, which flows just yards from our back door. Jasper loves to read, and Milo loves to cook us lunch when we are home on the weekends. When they aren’t practicing football in the back yard, or carrying around their pet chicken, Mango, the boys like digging huge holes to see what they might find. Boys do adore dirt, you know, and I encourage playing in the dirt.

It does feel strange to have been sitting in this chair, at this desk, for the last couple of hours while writing this. I am not used to sitting down for so long; my usual day is filled with constant motion. But to watch the words unspool on the computer screen in front of me also feels good. It feels full of potential. Who can say who I will get to interview in the months to come? Who can say whose stories I will get to edit? Who can know what words will make their way onto the pages of Hometown Focus?

These are the things I love to write about. Hometown Focus offers a way for people to tell their stories, and I am delighted to be back to help those stories find their way onto the printed page. I’m looking forward to meeting you in the near future, a notebook in my (mostly) clean hands once again.

Janna Goerdt lives and runs a farm near Embarrass. She grew up playing and eating out of her mother’s garden, and she still loves to play in the dirt. When she isn’t working on the farm, mothering her twin boys, or writing, she likes to prowl the new non-fiction shelf at the Virginia Public Library. She can be reached at

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