Homesteader of J & L Coop in Pine Island, Minnesota
I’m excited to invite you to my conversation with Jonna Lagunas, the Minnesotan homesteader behind J and L Coop. Jonna is a first generation Mexican American immigrant, her parents and elder siblings immigrated to the United States before she was born. Jonna grew up in the city Minneapolis in a tight-knit immigrant community. She spoke Spanish at home and English in school. Her parents sent Jonna to predominantly white schools so she would have an easier time assimilating.
Battling prejudice in college, Jonna decided to quit school and go straight into the work force. Her personality, intelligence and work ethic opened doors and she quickly began climbing the corporate ladder. Even with her early career success, Jonna felt like something was missing. She grew tired of the hustle and the party scene in Minneapolis. When an opportunity to relocate came up, she jumped. At 21, Jonna moved to the small farming community of Zumbrota, Minnesota.
While living in Zumbrota, she met her partner Laramie though a neighbor. Laramie runs a landscaping business and is an avid and ethical hunter who was raised on a dairy farm in rural Minnesota. Although it wasn't love at first sight, it quickly grew into a friendship and then a lasting union. Now, thirteen years later, Jonna and Laramie are building a happy homestead on their rented piece of heaven - a former dairy farm, complete with a farmhouse, barn and acres of fertile land, in Pine Island, Minnesota. Laramie has taught Jonna how to hunt with a bow and rifle. They never hunt for sport, only for sustenance and make sure they use the entire animal.
Several years ago Jonna decided that her corporate job, complete with its 60+ hour work weeks and 1.5 hour commute were making her miserable. She decided to reinterpret success and value her happiness over financial success. She quit her job and took a position at a local bank for significantly less money. She now offsets her living expenses by growing, raising and hunting a majority of their own food. Looking back, this has been one of the best decisions of her life, as she is now able to allocate more time and energy to pursue what truly sparks joy.
I so appreciate Jonna's candidness, grace and her approach to life. She has had to make a lot of difficult decisions to realize her own unique path to happiness - from choosing to leave college, to moving to the country, to not having kids, to leaving the corporate world, to building a homestead.
It has not easy living far away from her close-knit family but Jonna loves that their farm has become a place where her entire extended family gathers together every fourth of July. No one in her family can believe that Jonna, of all of the Lagunas children, choose homestead life over life in the big city.
Whenever Jonna visits her family in Minneapolis she brings fresh eggs and garden goodness to share. For Jonna, sharing the fruits of her labor is one of her favorite parts of homestead life. She hopes to be able to grow enough food in coming years to have a free community farm stand where she gives away her excess produce and eggs to folks who need it.
Being one of only a handful of Mexican-Americans in her small town hasn't been easy. Her progressive ideologies are often met with opposition from her predominantly conservative community. This hasn't stopped Jonna from speaking her mind and standing up for what she believes in. She continues to use her disarming kindness to to have difficult and honest conversations with friends and relations to help open their minds and hearts to new perspectives.
If you currently live in a rural area, my hope is that Jonna will inspire you to have your own difficult and open conversations with your friends, family and neighbors. It is only through conversation that we can begin to find common ground and stop the cycle of prejudice, divisiveness and misunderstanding in our country.
Thank you Jonna for sharing your story with us!
You can follow Jonna on Instagram @jandlcoop