When Val Jorgensen opened an organic farm on Walnut Street in northern Plain Township in 2002, she wanted to create a business that not only produced local food, but also taught people about it.
Jorgensen, who grew up on a dairy farm in Webberville, Mich., combined that history with elements of her nursing career to found Jorgensen Farms. Today, she sells produce to individual consumers as well as central Ohio restaurants.
"With my background, it was such a natural thing for me," said Jorgensen, a mother of four. "When two of the boys graduated in 2000 and 2001, it was a natural for me to start."
Jorgensen is now a full-time farmer but maintains her nursing accreditation, keeping updated with classes on alternative medicine.
Her nursing background provides the basis for at least one of the farm's standing events, My Time, a program in partnership with Mount Carmel Health System and St. Ann's hospital designed "to create on-farm opportunities for exploring ways that the beauty and rhythms of nature support optimal wellness," the farm's website states.
But it's her farming background and love of the land that made her certify the farm as organic in 2002, she said.
"It was important for me to farm with a healthy farm environment for the land, animals and even the insects," she said. "There's a natural balance in farming and organic farm practices provide that. It's the best way to grow food and the most healthy."
Several local businesses agree with Jorgensen's practices. She said she provides 50 varieties of heirloom tomatoes to three Northstar Cafe locations and she's providing Jeni's Splendid Ice Creams with mint for its backyard mint flavor.
Jeni's was represented at the farm Sunday, July 20, for Mint Day, in which 200 or more people learned about growing the plant in the farm's three-acre mint plot and got to taste the end result in the ice cream.
Jorgensen said this is the second year the farm hosted Mint Day and it will become an annual event.
"Jeni's backyard mint ice cream originated with Jeni and I working together to give her the mint flavor that she wanted. We tried several varieties before she chose a variety called Robert Mitchum mint," Jorgensen said.
The flavor was available at Jorgensen Farms on National Ice Cream Day, July 20, and will be released in Jeni's shops Aug. 8, Jorgensen said.
Jorgensen said central Ohio's food scene has changed since she opened the farm.
"We're realizing that people are finding value in buying local produce," she said.
"When we opened in 2002, the only farmers market was in Worthington. With the increase in farmers markets, there's definitely more local awareness and there's much more interest from the public and consumers to buy local food, whether it's at a local farmers market, a retail store or a restaurant. We've increased production to meet those needs."
Northstar founder Kevin Malhame said the restaurants are ordering more and more produce from the farm, and he enjoys dealing with Jorgensen.
"We love working with her," he said. "She cares about quality. She's a terrific person and all the food she grows is delicious."
Jorgensen Farms sells produce at the New Albany Farmers Market, held from 4 to 7 p.m. every Thursday through Sept. 4 at Market Square, and at the Worthington Farmers Market, from 8 a.m. to noon every Saturday on the Village Green on North High Street.
Jorgensen said her work became more satisfying when two of her four sons decided to join her full time, bringing the farm into its second generation. David Karikomi, 25, and Matt Karikomi, 33, now work at the family business. Michael Karikomi, 31, and Dan Karikomi, 24, live in California, she said.
For information about farm programs and events, go to jorgensen-farms.com.