Chef Russell Klein, co-owner of Meritage in St. Paul with partner Desta Klein, has long believed that to be a credible restaurant you must be working with the best local and seasonal products, a belief instilled while cooking in culinary meccas like France, Italy, and New York before moving to Minnesota.

Now in its fifteenth year, Meritage’s reputation is one of excellence and professionalism; it is the place to celebrate life’s big (and small) occasions with a perfect meal. Though farm partners have come and gone throughout the years, Russell continues to seek out farmer relationships, including Meritage’s new partnership with Mark and Burt Johnson of Runestone Beef in Kensington. Russell says, “I love Mark and Burt’s story. If I need to pay more for Runestone’s steak, it’s worth it, and people who choose to order it, order it happily.” Mark and Burt say, “Meritage is a perfect partner. Chef Russell cares as much about the economic sustainability of small farms like ours as he does about the quality of the food he serves.”  

In 2020, due to the pressures of the global beef market and unfair prices for both farmers and consumers, Mark Johnson was ready to throw in the towel and sell his herd of cattle. Instead, his son Burt convinced him to try selling direct to consumers and restaurants. Thanks to that decision, their fourth-generation family farm lives on. Mark continues to expertly raise beef, while Burt finds markets for that beef. Mark and Burt say, “It’s important for farms our size to be economically and environmentally sustainable. For most of our farm’s existence since 1926, we’ve sold products into a market in which they are commoditized by large multinational agribusiness. We have seen during the pandemic that the food system in this country is a house of cards. One supply chain hiccup and consumers are either paying more or simply don’t have access to good food at all.  A strong local food system is healthier for communities, both urban and rural.”, St. Paul

Runestone Beef, Kensington