John Tanata

Vine Valley Farms

“When people think of a family farm, I think we pretty much fit the description,” says John Tanata of Vine Valley Farms in Stewart, Minnesota.

The Tanatas have been farming the rich loamy soil of central Minnesota for three generations. Founded as a traditional farm in 1946, John and his wife, Wendy, now dedicate their 550 acres to growing vegetables exclusively. Of their five children, three sons have degrees in agronomy, horticulture and business and take active roles. “Each of the boys has his place in the operation,” says John. “One is in charge of the fields, another leads packing and our third runs the business side.”

“Our family loves the lifestyle. Your work is your home. And you eat your meals with your family every day,” John says.

Members of the Food Alliance with a deep commitment toward sustainable farming practices, John and his family are most proud of their zucchini. “It’s what we’re known for,” says John. “Our soil is rich with clay so it holds a lot of moisture. When you grow zucchini on sandy soil, the ground acts like glass and scratches the skin. I like to think our zucchini is the best. We take a lot of pride in it.”

Being zucchini experts as well as enthusiasts, John and his family eat a lot of it. “We fry it in butter, make zucchini crisp, zucchini bread and zucchini cake. You can substitute zucchini in lots of recipes, especially those with apples,” says John.