With 132 years of history, the Peterson Farms is among the oldest commercial enterprises in Eden Prairie. The founder, Sever Peterson was drawn to the location along the Minnesota River by the rich soil and shelter it offered. They started growing food and still do.
But the history of this family business has been one of innovation and a willingness to enter into new ventures.
The latest chapter in the Peterson family story is Verist, a full line of farm-crafted CBD remedies. CBD is an acronym for cannabidiol a chemical found in the hemp or cannabis plant.
CBD should not be confused with THC an acronym for tetrahydrocannabinol, a well-known psycho-active substance known for its intoxicating effects when the hemp plant is consumed.
Peterson Farms is now in the hands of Nicola and Aaron Peterson. Aaron, the great-grandson of the original Sever Peterson, and Nicola are an engaging married couple, both are graduates of Eden Prairie High School and the parents of four young children. Aaron and Nicola met when Nicola started working on the farm as a Summer job when she was a young teenager.
Growing ‘the legal kind of hemp’
Growing hemp was legalized by the U.S. Congress with the passage of the 2018 farm bill, which was signed into law on Dec. 20, 2018. The new law did many things, including legalizing the growing of hemp under certain circumstances. Under the law, CBD hemp must contain less than 0.3% THC.
The Petersons started growing the legal kind of hemp in 2019.
Many believe that CBD products have a broad range of health benefits. It is used to help with mood, sleep and pain management as well as the reduction of inflammatory skin disorders. The Peterson Farms hemp is grown without using chemicals or insecticides.
The United States Food and Drug Administration (FDA) takes a somewhat more conservative view of the potential health benefits of using CBD products. Although the FDA does not directly regulate CBD, it is currently illegal to market CBD by adding it to food or labeling it as a dietary supplement, and the FDA states it only has limited data on CBD safety. For more information see fda.gov. The Sate of Minnesota takes a different view, and legislation has now been passed and on August 1 it will be legal in Minnesota to buy food and drinks with CBD and some THC in them. For more information see https://www.revisor.mn.gov/statutes/cite/151.72.
According to Aaron, after the 2018 Farm Bill passed, many farmers thought hemp would become a lucrative new cash crop, but it hasn’t been that simple, he said. There was not the infrastructure in place to sell the hemp as there is with food crops. So Aaron and Nicola went back to the Peterson “farm to table” business model, and developed a full line of CBD products.
At first, they sold their CBD line by direct sales and at their Fall Festival under the brand “River Valley Hemp,” then realized they needed to expand that business. In March 2022, they launched Verist, their full-spectrum CBD product line. Verist is sold on their own web site shopverist.com as well as brick and mortar retail locations.
132 years of Peterson Farms
Peterson Family Farms was founded in 1890 by Severin (aka Sever) Peterson. The farm was taken over by Sever’s son, also Sever, in the 1920’s. Sever Peterson II operated the farm until the late 1960s, when Sever II became ill and died.
The farm was taken over by his son – surprise – another Sever and his wife Sharon. Sever III and Sharon are Aaron’s parents. When asked why Aaron is not also a Sever, Nicola said, “his parents had originally planned to name him Severin Herman Peterson IV, but then his mom decided the tradition should end and instead he was named Aaron Severin Peterson.”
In addition to growing food, the Petersons have sold that food directly to consumers through a network of roadside stands and the beginning of the corn maze which has morphed into an annual Fall festival.
The Farm has always grown food crops and continues to do so. For many years it was what was commonly known as a “truck farm,” meaning they would grow food and transport it somewhere else.
They would send the food not only to the Twin Cities but to places as far away as the Dakotas and Canada. It was a wholesale business model. In the mid 1990’s Aaron’s parents, Sever III and Sharon, decided they would do better selling their food directly to consumers. They set up a network of roadside stands.
That eventually grew to 25 locations throughout the southwest metro area. When they realized their growth opportunities lay elsewhere, they sold the roadside stand business to a competitor in 2015.
Currently, the farm grows hemp, wheat, soybeans, sweet corn, field corn, pumpkins, squash, apples, and they also have beehives. But the focus of the business has shifted to the Fall Festival and now, they hope, to CBD.
The first Sever corn maze opened in 1997, and for the first two years was located in Eden Prairie. The corn maze was the brain-child of Aaron’s father, Sever. The Petersons have participated in a University of Minnesota program for over 60 years and as a result have had exchange students from all over the world.
Students from England told Sever about the Mazes of Europe and how popular they were. That gave Sever the idea to do a maze out of a corn field. The Peterson’s thought they were the first corn maze in the U.S. but later found out someone tried it in Pennsylvania in 1996.
Sever’s idea to do a corn maze was initially met with a fair amount of skepticism. According to Nicola, “When Sever would tell others he was going to do a maze in a corn field, the almost universal reaction was, that’s crazy who would want to pay to walk through a corn field.”
The rest, as they say, is history.
The corn maze has evolved into something much bigger, a Fall Festival that runs weekends from September 17 through the end of October. The Fall festival is now held on a 100-acre site the family owns in Shakopee.
The Fall Festival’s annual attendance now runs between 80,000 and 100,000. They still have a corn maze, but they also have 30 vendors and events including magic shows, a tire mountain, zip lines, a petting zoo the list goes on.
They also sell food from their farm including their farm-grown roast corn. There is also a fall light festival in October, and a holiday light festival from Thanksgiving through New Year.
Fore more information, visit seversfestivals.com.