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Amenia woman's Farm Sweet Farm cookie business cut out to be sweet success

From a dream kitchen inside her Amenia, N.D. farmhouse, Miranda Lindstrom pipes with precision, frosting elaborately-design cookies for her cottage bakery, Farm Sweet Farm.

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Miranda Lindstrom shows off a tray of Forum newspaper-themed cookies from her home in rural Amenia, N.D. Lindstrom makes intricate cookies like these under her Farm Sweet Farm cottage label.
David Samson/The Forum
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AMENIA, N.D. — If Miranda Lindstrom is good at anything, it’s details.

She’s a former neonatal intensive care nurse, which required monitoring every vital and executing every procedure on her tiny, fragile patients with vigilant care.

It helps to explain why now, when Lindstrom is involved in the wholly different world of cottage baking, that every cookie is piped with precision.

Dimensional roses — their lifelike petals made of icing — bloom atop her sugar cookies. Every ribbon and strap on a carousel-horse cookie is captured. A heart-shaped box of Lindstrom’s design not only contains tiny iced hearts inside, but the box itself is a carefully constructed stack of cookies.

Lindstrom makes creations like these under her Farm Sweet Farm label, based out of the kitchen from the farm where she lives with husband, Erik, and their two young daughters, Ellie and Olivia.

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Lindstrom’s kitchen/dining area is like a dream kitchen, with two granite-topped islands, a massive farmhouse table and a sweeping view of the Rush River, which threads through the farm that has been in Erik’s family for four generations.

It's from here that Lindstrom painstakingly produces little edible masterpieces.

“I’ve never said I’m artistic, I always say I’m crafty,” Lindstrom says. “I can’t pick up a paintbrush and paint something and I have atrocious handwriting.”

Still, somehow, Lindstrom has found a way to bake cookies that people love.

From registered nursing to royal icing

Lindstrom had already shifted to part time nursing at Essentia after she and Erik had their first baby, Eloise. When she became pregnant with Olivia, Lindstrom developed hyperemesis (severe nausea and vomiting throughout pregnancy), which made it even harder to work. While her mother-in-law, Malinda Lindstrom, had been able to watch Eloise so Lindstrom could still work part time, Malinda had her hands full when her husband was diagnosed with cancer and was no longer able to babysit the girls.

A class she happened to take while pregnant with Olivia changed everything. It was led by Jolene Johnson of Jolene's Cakes and Cupcakes in Moorhead and Lindstrom loved it.

“I’d never picked up an icing bag until August of 2019, but I’ve been hooked ever since,” Lindstrom says, noting that she was impressed with how generous Johnson was in sharing her knowledge. “She was so great about it.”

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Miranda Lindstrom decorates cookies, using royal icing and special tools, in her home in Amenia, N.D.
David Samson/The Forum

As people started ordering more and more cookies from her, she decided to quit her nursing job and form an LLC.

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Farm Sweet Farm LLC is considered a cottage business, which limits where Lindstrom can deliver, what type of food she can sell and how she can sell it.

That includes a $3,000 color printer, which produces images in edible ink, an airbrush system and a projector to help her capture images like complex business logos.

Lindstrom also owns a 3-D printer, from Fargo-based Lulzbot, which she uses to make her own custom cookie cutters.

While all this equipment sounds like a big investment for a small business, Lindstrom says it allows her to turn around last-minute orders more quickly and produce more polished results.

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Miranda Lindstrom shows off some of her Valentine's Day creations at her home in Amenia, N.D.
David Samson/The Forum

The printer has helped replace some of Lindstrom's airbrush work. Lindstrom used to use the airbrush to create backgrounds on cookies, but it could take five minutes per cookie to apply all the colors. With the printer, she gets the same effect in seconds.

As Lindstrom's handwriting is "atrocious," she says the projector helps her add beautiful cursive or fun novelty letters to her creations. Even so, Lindstrom never wants her cookies to look generic or mass-produced, so she always tries to hand-pipe extra details.

Another attribute that sets Farm Sweet Farm apart is Lindstrom’s interest in creating distinctive cookies. She digs deep on inspiration sites like Pinterest and Instagram to find projects she’s never seen before.

She'll take on projects like a holiday cookie centerpiece, in which each cookie piece is precisely cut to form a wheel-shaped nativity scene. Or she’ll decorate traditional heart cookies with icing that looks like crumpled paper. Or she’ll draw inspiration from her mother, Jackie Schmaltz, a palette-knife artist, by using a palette knife to add an abstract-style wedding bouquet to a bride cookie.

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Wedding cookies made by Miranda Lindstrom feature an abstract, highly textured "palette knife" technique on the bridal bouquet. Lindstrom says she prefers to use new techniques to create distinctive cookies.
David Samson/The Forum

"Cookies that have a different theme, like a potato-themed birthday for a 1-year-old or little charcuterie boards, make my brain think," she says. "I've always loved puzzles and I look at it in a similar way: How can I make this theme work and look good?'

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Lindstrom shows the elaborate cookie creation she baked and decorated for the Super Bowl.
David Samson/The Forum

Customers like Brittney Myhra, business manager at Chahinkapa Zoo in Wahpeton , appreciate Lindstrom's creativity and attention to detail.

Lindstrom has made several batches of cookies for Myhra, including dinosaurs, jerseys to commemorate UND hockey and turtles to commemorate a 30th birthday.

Myhra was especially impressed by colorful animal-themed cookies that Lindstrom made to help express appreciation to zoo staff. They included renderings of animals, along with animal-themed puns like, "You goat this."

Even more elaborate was the order to help observe the birthday of the late Lonnie Halverson, who carved all the horses on the zoo's carousel.

Halverson's widow still brings a cake to zoo staff every November to honor her husband. This year, Myhra also ordered the horses. This included a package of the first and last horses Lonnie Halverson ever made — Casey and Sugar — which Myhra presented to Mrs. Halverson.

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Lindholm decorated these elaborate carousel horses to help observe the November birthday of the late Lonnie Halverson, who carved all the horses for the carousel at Chahinkapa Zoo in Wahpeton, N.D.
Contributed / Farm Sweet Farm Bakery

"I love supporting small businesses," Myrha says. "I had my own cake and cupcake business when I lived in Grand Forks, so I totally understand the hard work and the detail involved and all that. Her carousel cookies looked as good as the real ones. They taste good too."

Demand grows before Christmas, Valentine's Day

Lindstrom also makes and sells different varieties of drop cookies for various events and occasions. One of her popular cookie mixtures for Father’s Day has been the “farmer’s dozen,” which consisted of an assortment of cookies like monster cookies, chocolate-dipped potato-chip cookies and brown butter maple pumpkin (made with maple from the farm's own trees).

In the cookier world, there’s a distinct “high season” for cookie demand. Lindstrom says she’s busiest around Christmas, Valentine’s Day and Mother’s Day and might make 700 sugar cookies — including 300 tiny, elaborately decorated cookies for advent calendars — and 700 drop cookies for a single holiday.

Christmastime was especially busy this year, after Lindstrom spent marathon days baking, decorating and packaging yuletide cookies for her booth at a Christmas craft fair Dec. 5 at nearby Lone Oak Farm in Ayr. But Mother Nature had other plans and the event was postponed due to a winter storm.

This left Lindstrom with hundreds of cookies — all with a limited shelf life. Although she had never held a flash sale on Facebook before, she decided it would be a good way to fill orders for all her Facebook friends who had been asking to buy cookies.

She hosted a Facebook live on her page and then posted everything on her Square site. "People kept crashing the site trying to get what they wanted," she says, laughing. "In the end, I sold almost everything."

Then Lone Oak’s owners decided to reschedule their Christmas event for Dec. 18, which meant she now needed to bake more cookies. 

Fortunately, she got plenty of help from her mom, who traveled from their hometown of Velva, N.D., to help watch the grandkids and wash all the baking dishes. "She's amazing," she says.

Lindstrom was able to take off most of January to recuperate, a hiatus for which she was grateful.

"You need to recharge," she says. "I'm awful about scheduling breaks for myself throughout the year, so usually Christmas is my one true break."

This year, Cupid seems to be more concerned about inflation than romance as Valentine’s Day orders have been down a bit. Lindstrom belongs to a local Facebook group of cottage bakers and says some of them have reported fewer orders.

She believes there could be any number of reasons for this, including the fact some people didn't think of Valentine's Day early enough to make the advance order necessary for cookie orders.

Or it could be something larger. “It could be with everything going on in the world, people may just not be spending money on luxury items or gifts right now," she says.

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A valentine's day cookie box creation by Lindstrom. She designed the edible box then used her 3-D printer to make the required cookie cutters. The textured royal-icing cover is made by pressing embossed parchment paper into the icing.
David Samson/The Forum

Happy to remain a cottage baker

Cookie art can be intense. Beyond the making of cookies, there's royal icing to prepare, tint in different colors and apply via piping bags and various other tools. The layers of icing sometimes need to dry from one stage to the next and cookies that don't meet Lindholm's exacting standards need to be redone.

Considering all this, it makes sense when Lindholm says it recently took her an hour to decorate six particularly elaborate cookies. Time is especially precious when she can only decorate when her young daughters are napping or have toddled off to bed.

Lindstrom has learned to increase her prices accordingly. When she first started out, she charged just $2 per cookie, but that price has climbed to $3.50 per cookie. Cookies that require more expensive metallic coloring cost more. And an elaborate project — like her large, multi-piece nativity centerpiece — demands about $65.

When Lindstrom isn't filling orders, attending shows or teaching the occasional class, she is also a full-time mom and farmwife — driving into town for machinery parts or preparing meals during harvest.

It helps explain why Lindstrom seems hesitant to take the plunge and invest in a storefront.

Her mother-in-law is an excellent cook who occasionally jokes that they should open a little restaurant or bakery someday.

Although it sounds tempting, Lindstrom also realizes a brick-and-mortar is a much heftier obligation.
“When you’re a cottage baker, you have expectations, but you’re not expected to have a full case of goodies every day," she says.

So in the meantime, she'll continue baking and decorating little pieces of art for as long as people want them.
"When people say, 'I can't eat it, it's too pretty,' I think, 'So don't order it then, because that's what it's for."
Find Lindstrom's Square Site at farm-sweet-farm-bakery.square.site.

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Tammy has been a storyteller most of her life. Before she learned the alphabet, she told stories by drawing pictures and then dictated the narrative to her ever-patient mother. A graduate of North Dakota State University, she has worked as a Dickinson, N.D., bureau reporter, a Bismarck Tribune feature writer/columnist, a Forum feature reporter, columnist and editor, a writer in NDSU's Publications Services, a marketing/social media specialist, an education associate in public broadcasting and a communications specialist at a nonprofit.
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