In a world where the buzz of creativity resounds in various corners, “CreativeMornings” stands out as a beacon for the global creative community. Founded in the artistic hub of Brooklyn, New York by Tina Roth Eisenberg in 2008, this free monthly breakfast lecture series has since expanded its roots to cities worldwide, celebrating expressions of creativity. Each gathering is more than just a lecture; it’s an ode to the city’s vibrant talent, an invitation to connect over breakfast, and a dive into diverse thematic conversations held in unison across the globe.
On September 29, the Fargo chapter introduced a unique voice to the symphony: Noreen Thomas of Doubting Thomas Farms. Located in the heart of North Dakota’s fertile landscape, Doubting Thomas Farms stands as a testament to sustainable farming and cutting-edge agricultural practices. With Noreen at its helm, the farm weaves a tale of nature’s bounty married with innovative thinking. As she takes the stage, attendees are not just in for a story of grains and greens but a narrative of nurturing the Earth and the community it sustains. In the true spirit of “CreativeMornings,” Noreen epitomizes the blend of diverse perspectives the series seeks to highlight, embodying both a farmer’s touch and a visionary’s dream.
This is the interview we conducted with her prior to the event
Q: What is your story?
A: Part of my life has been in the mountains of Flathead Lake in Montana. We grew commercial apples, cherries, apricots, and had all of the gardening and abundance of fruit around us. I was always interested in the flavors of food as well as the history of seeds, especially heirloom seeds. The stories of the seeds and how people ate various foods are still of interest to me. I remember my father digging up wild turnips and fishing for salmon that we would then smoke or grill. We had the best of food by default as they did not have a lot of money so instead of white store-bought bread, we had whole wheat and whole grain.
After college, I worked in various labs and wound up as a tea taster for Celestial Seasoning. Each batch of tea was tasted. I worked on product development as well. Later when working in the North Dakota Department of Health, I met my husband who was farming north of Moorhead. So I moved. At the time, I could not see the connection between farming and nutrition, but now, I can see it perfectly. We grow food for chefs, mills, and for our family to eat. Now, I feel as if we are part of the flavor of the region or “terroir.”
Q: What will you be speaking about at CreativeMornings?
A: Creative people and living more simply can sometimes go hand in hand. I am one of those trying to live simpler since I always create and have much going on. I have found some hacks and am still learning how to simplify. I do struggle to live more simply, as life is a project. So here are some hacks to help think about things in a different light.
Advice from Mom “Rachel.” She was one to think before buying anything. If you are an impulse buyer, here are some things that might help you out:
- Look at the cost of the items. For instance, a flashy new car might look like fun, but how many hours are going to have to work to get that car? 1,000 hours? Is that worth it?
- Walk away and think about it overnight. Reduce the pressure for impulse!
- Also, remember sometimes the new and shiny also own you. You have to maintain it and keep it running. What are you trading off for that commitment to the car? Not taking a vacation? Not seeing a friend far away?
I also think as you age things become much more clear and simple. You discard what does not work well. It’s very liberating! Also, find a mentor that can assist you, but do not make it a one-way street, help them as well.
Take time for the morning sun. Also, spend more time in nature.
Think about volunteering for something you believe in. It does not have to be such a deep commitment, but by volunteering and making change in the community, it can help you feel less helpless and less burdened. That way you are moving the community in the right direction. You also meet people on the same wavelength when you do this.
Every night before sleeping, be thankful for events and people in your life. Put those thoughts down on paper and put them in a jar. Mayo Clinic finds great healing in being grateful. It also changes any negative to a positive thought! Even having difficult people in your life can teach you something.
Watch what is happening around you. How are people treating others? A hack from someone that I know who works in IT security: When he is interviewing someone for a job, he always has the waiter or waitress slightly mess up the order. He tips them very well and he can then see how you treat others. Look at how people drive, treat a custodian, treat their pets—watching these things can help you see red flags.
Q: Tell us about your business
A: We grow grain crops used in nutrient-dense foods. We provide the area with a variety of rolled oats, 7-grain cereal, oat groats, buckwheat, and flours. We work with places like Bernbaum’s, Rosewild, and Luna, chefs on the west coast, and Author to match Chef Dan Barber at Blue Hill. We also export to Asian companies. I started because my husband said as long as I do something or work in town, that is all that matters. So since I had resumes to write, I created a job on the farm.
We also provide hands-on learning classes and events on the farm, so look at social media to keep in touch with us and what we are doing. We also provide space for another seven farms, a beef producer, USDA research, a beekeeper, an herbalist (Kanji Naturals, Lynn Park), a French Chef, hay production for Organic Valley, and our daughter-in-law, Mel.
We also work with White Earth to grow rare seeds, to help reclaim their native varieties.
Q: How do you want to improve the FM metro?
A: I really want to see more local food in the market. I want to see events, business meetings, and Church meetings serving local food as well as more in schools. It seems odd that we are smack dab in a rural county and serve things from out of the county when we have great food right here. I also want a storage facility for all of the goods so schools and businesses can use them year-round rather than in abundance in summer and not in winter. And finally, I want more access to machinery for shared farms.
Q: What are some things that you think help you be creative?
A: Being creative came naturally to me. During my childhood in Flathead Lake, there were always things to do and create. I could be found either in the orchards, hiking the mountains, or down by the stream. Hiking the mountains was always an adventure, especially during huckleberry and cherry season. If any of the huckleberries would make it home, my mom and I would make a huckleberry pie. Playing in the streams with my cousins is a memory I often share with others. We didn’t have fishing poles, so we were good at catching the fish with our bare hands. I look back on these times with a smile on my face and remember that there is beauty in simplicity. I have tried to instill this in my children as well. Letting them explore the farm and the woods, as they please. I let them create worlds around them and for them. Creativity to me is my connection to nature.
Q: Is there anything else you would like to say to our readers?
A: Yes, support local food by following them, going to their events to events, and asking for local food when planning an event.
Want to see Noreen’s full speech? Head to creativemornings.com/cities/far/talks