Rhubarb in New Brighton

Jerry Bensing
New Brighton Area Historical Society Director

For the past 30 years, an interesting alliance has been underway. The alliance was started to keep an image alive, an image of a farm, and of rhubarb that grew and was harvested on that farm. The farm became New Brighton’s Long Lake Park. It was a matter of historical significance.

Long Lake Park is a Ramsey County park now, but in 1985 it was New Brighton’s park. It had been Joe Hipp’s Vegetable and Berry Farm where many young local residents held part-time summer jobs.

There was concern then that many of the farm, ice house and railroad foundations still in the park would be destroyed and that some of the area’s history would be lost.

On behalf of the New Brighton Area Historical Society (NBAHS), I met with Jeane Hunn at the “Keys on 5th Ave Restaurant” to suggest a way to help keep the farm’s image alive. A few members of the NBAHS and I would pull rhubarb, once each year, from a small field still growing in the park, and Keys would provide a monetary donation to the NBAHS equivalent to the value of the rhubarb.

The exchange was for 50 lbs. of rhubarb in 1984, then later 150 lbs. for “Keys on Lexington” after the 5th Avenue restaurant closed. Jeane uses about 4 tons of frozen 2-lb. packs each year, but for one week, they cut up and use 150 lbs. of freshly pulled rhubarb for their great rhubarb pies and marmalades. Now, Jeane’s exchange to NBAHS is trays of rhubarb deserts to be served at the Annual Rhubarb Fest.

The Rhubarb Patch in Long Lake Park is currently suffocating with tall grass and needs work, so NBAHS workers now pull rhubarb from a farm belonging to Dave Nathe, who worked for Joe Hipp as a teenager in the 1970s. Dave’s rhubarb roots were obtained from Joe Hipp in the 1980s as the Hipp farm became Long Lake Park. Joe had 40 acres of rhubarb then, Dave has 30 acres now and permits us to pull rhubarb as needed.

The rhubarb pull at Dave’s farm in Elk River this year will be on Saturday, May 31, from 9 a.m. to noon.

The Rhubarb Fest at the Depot in Long Lake Park will be on Sunday, June 1, from 1 p.m. to 4 p.m., featuring rhubarb roots, stalks, desserts with ice cream and either rhubarb or strawberry sauce.

 

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