Ep. 9: Eric Sannerud - Hops Farmer, Speaker, & Entrepreneur


It's been a crazy month y'all!  Your boy just got promoted at work AND has had the case of bronchitis (correlation, but no causation) so it's been a challenge recording this episode without devolving into a coughing mess!  This time around, we're speaking with one of the most interesting and accomplished people we've met on the show.

Eric is a fourth-generation back-to-the-land farmer.  Eric grows hops under his company Mighty Axe Hops and is selling to top breweries in Minnesota from Fulton Beer, Day Block Brewing, and more.

Inspired by the ideas of educators/farmers Eduard Lindeman & Wendell Berry, he designed a first of its kind cooking and food systems course and contributed to a Food Systems Major, among the first in the country while he was studying at the University of MN.  During these experiences at University, Eric was a founding member of Urban Oasis, a sustainable food center, which won a competitive $1 million grant award to bring cooking classes, an incubator kitchen, and locally-sourced catering to Saint Paul's East Side communities.  He then started Sandbox Center for Regenerative Entrepreneurship, a beginning farmer incubator to address America's need for new farmers.  He currently serves as a Vice Curator of the Minneapolis Hub of the Global Shapers, facilitator of Minnesota Young Food Professionals, and board member at Environmental Initiative. He is a TEDx Speaker, Minneapolis Saint Paul Business Journal 40 Under 40 Honoree.

His first book, "A Collection of Sorts", which explores the complex beauty in the life of a young farmer, is in progress.

We cover: his current operations in hops, how he got started in farming, creating a major while he was in college, the need for there to be more (and younger farmers), and much more.

If you want to see just how much one person can accomplish in such a short period of time (and love beer/farming), this one's for you!

It is a stark fact that our farmers are aging - and not many are replacing them. Eric is a fourth-generation back-to-the-land farmer. A University of Minnesota grad, he is breaking new ground to keep his family farm in business.


6:20 - What are hops?
9:00 - Perennial plants
11:40 - Community-Supported Agriculture
14:40 - the Surly Bill
16:20 - AB InBev
19:00 - Higher Education Consortium for Urban Affairs
25:00 - UMN Student Organic Farm
26:10 - Food Systems Major at UMN
35:00 - Sandbox, the incubator + TEDx Talk (link below)
41:00 - The loss of farmers, other trends, and the risks of modern farming
46:45 - Rural vs. Urban and the need for multi-geographical societies
49:30 - An important metric when considering agricultural policies
52:50 - Farming's "reward path"
56:00 - Who you should really be angry with when it comes to the food system.  Hint: it's not the farmers
59:30 - The intersection of farming, public health, and food justice

Rapid Fire:
Influential people: Fred Kirschenmann (Stone Barns Center), Jenny Breen (Healthy Foods, Healthy Lives Institute), Bob Dean, Mary Jo Forbord (Prairie Horizons Farm)
Fave Beers: The Modern IPA (Evil Twin), Bourbon County Brand Stout (Goose Island), Das Homeguys Helles (Bauhaus Brew Labs), Pils (Fair State Brewing Cooperative)
Book: A Sand County Almanac by Aldo Leopold

Website - ericsannerud.com, mightyaxehops.com
Twitter - @EricSannerud, @MightyAxeHops
Facebook - MightyAxeHops
E-mail - ericrsannerud@gmail.com