Charles Johnson Family
Charlie and Carol Johnson purchased their farm in the rolling hills of Washington County in 1972. They named the property Whistling Well Farm because of the whistling sound made by the well when east winds traveled through rock fissures on the shores of the nearby St. Croix River. The original farm consisted of cattle and row crops but in the late ’70s the Johnsons, along with their sons, Chad and Neal, began transitioning to produce and apple trees.
Sales of the farm’s produce started at the end of the family’s driveway, then grew to include a store on the farm and selling at several farmers markets. On-farm cold storage was added and the Johnsons bought processing equipment. Today, the family grows primarily apples, pumpkins, gourds and hay. The operation has grown to include 20 part-time employees who grow, harvest and market the farm’s produce.
The farm is run by Charlie and Chad. It is home to over 16,000 apple trees on multiple farm sites. The most popular varieties are University of Minnesota developed apples: First Kiss, Sweet Tango and Honeycrisp. The apples are grown using integrated pest management and drip irrigation.
The farm hosts several thousand guests each fall who enjoy picking their own apples. Apples also are sold through farmers markets and local co-ops. The family’s farm store also markets several related locally grown or made items.
Conservation is important to the Johnsons. Whistling Well Farm recently earned Minnesota Agricultural Water Quality Certification and the family was awarded the Washington County Conservation District Outstanding Conservationist Award in 2013.