Thursday, February 4, 2016

Love and Loss: Farming with Animals

This past weekend we said a teary goodbye to our matriarch sow, Vera. After complications during farrowing it was clear that she would not be able to be bred again, but we hoped for some recovery, so she could care for her last batch of piglets and live out her last days comfortably. Sadly, this was not the case and we did what we had to do. We gave her her few last treats, hugs and thanked her for her time with us. She was an amazing lady.

Vera at the orchard. 2015
She was one of our first breeding sows and had been with us for two years; we expected to have her for many more. While loss is part of having animals, this loss was felt a bit more deeply. John and Vera had a special bond, he could always read her so well and she really did like him best.

Vera and her brand new piglets. 2016
She raised her piglets to ten days old, giving everything she had to provide them with the best start they could have in this world. At about nine or ten days they can start digesting feed. Now they are drinking milk replacer and we are slowly introducing feed. Her memory lives on in these little nuggets.

Vera gave us memories, three litters of beautiful piglets and she added to our experience and taught us new skills. The best way we can honor her memory is by not letting her go to waste. So, we had our first on-farm butcher experience, as we processed her meat for our personal use. 

We move forward with this loss felt deeply, with more experience under our belts as farmers and humans and an ever-deepening respect for life.

Tuesday, January 26, 2016

CSA Shares Available!

This year will be our fifth season offering CSA and Farm Shares to our local community. We will continue to offer Saturday farmers' market sales as well.  We invite you to join us in this coming season's bounty and adventures by participating as a member in our Community Supported Agriculture program.

Full and Half CSA Shares are available, offering boxes of seasonal produce each week (18 weeks) or every other week (9 weeks). Full Shares are $485, Half Shares are $265, with a deposit due up front to reserve your share. More information on 2016 Shares.

CSA Boxes are filled with 7-14 seasonal items.
Mostly veggies, with apples and some herbs.

Early season share begin with strawberries, lettuce and spinach, radishes, peas, spring onions and garlic scapes, as well as some ARF apple butter.

As summer rolls in we begin to add more diversity - cucumbers, potatoes, carrots, beets, summer squash and more.

Newsletters provide you with weekly updates from the farm, as well as tips for storing, preparing and preserving your fresh produce.

CSA is unique, because it offers you a direct connection with your farmer, an opportunity to get the freshest produce (more nutrition for the dollars you spend), know how your food is grown, eat in season, and support a family farm/local business by sharing in the rewards and risks/bounty and loss unique to each season.

Farm Shares are available in $150 or $200 options. At this time we are sold out of Farm Shares, but taking names on our wait list, in case we make more available.

Please contact us with any questions you may have!     Brooke & John

Friday, January 8, 2016

Sign of the Times

We received an amazing farm present for Christmas - a farm sign!!!

A big thank you goes out to Larry, John's father, for the time, care and thought that went into this awesome present! Can you believe it's hand drawn?!

We can't wait to hang it up!

Wednesday, January 6, 2016

9,100 lbs

In 2015 we produced over 9,100 pounds of food, for our members and community, from a half acre of cropland. 

We fed 50 families directly, through membership, plus those who made farmers' market part of their grocery shopping routine.

We are looking forward to a bountiful 2016!

2016 CSA Sign Up now open for returning members! Jan. 16 for wait list folks, Jan. 26 for all.
Questions? Emails us at

Wednesday, December 23, 2015

Early Winter on the Farm

We haven't had much of the above "wintry" weather, but the ground freeze up is a blessing.Today winter is trying. It's Minnesota, Old Man Winter will eventually show up, the question is just if we get to take out our cross-country skis or not. The mild temps aren't bad for the new little porcine nuggets running around the pasture though.

Winter means conference season for us farmers. Time to reconnect with other farmers in our network, immerse ourselves in continuing education and research. The first weekend in December Brooke went to the Midwest CSA Conference in Wisconsin. Enjoying workshops like "Deepening the 'C' in CSA" (above), What's In Your Box, Diversified CSA and Best Practice in Member Communication (below).

A room full of three hundred farmers and an inspiring keynote speaker (below) is always invigorating. Keynote Steven McFadden believe that CSA can be a "cultural, social, environmental and dietary cornerstone moving forward" for our country. There was also a farmer panel on the Changing Landscape of CSA.


From conference to volunteer meeting with the Land Stewardship Project. Participating in a series of brainstorming sessions for the benefit of the organizations forward momentum. It feels great to be giving back to an organization that has so strongly supported and benefited us as beginning farmers. Consider them in your year-end giving and/or become a member, they do great work for our state, and our farmers.

The greenhouse is 99% complete and ready for action! Since the above photo those bottom board have been installed ;) Just a few little final touches, install some tables and she's ready for spring transplants! Woot! This accomplishment feels fantastic.

If you follow our feed on facebook or instagram you know that we have new piglets on the farm! Vera is due this week, and we can't wait to welcome her piglets to the existing rambunctious herd of 17 that are about a month old. So far our first winter farrowing has gone very smoothly, we get better at this each and every time (well I suppose the ladies do most of the work ;). The first batch is castrated (it's always nice to put that behind us) and growing nicely - Sir Renfred has "proven" himself.

The piglets are super spotty! Amazing little creatures :)

Well now you are all caught up on your farm news for the holidays! We hope you and yours have a happy, healthful, stress-free holiday with good food and good company.

In gratitude,
Brooke, John and Emily Knisley
(plus farm dog Hazel, farm cat Ivan, all the bird-brained hens, Vera, Elsa & piglets, Suzy & piglets, a hamster, and a visiting hermit crab)

PS I promise more piglet photos will follow!

Monday, November 23, 2015

Frost and Fencing

The long fall is over and winter is beginning to take hold of the landscape. Frosty mornings and plants finally giving in to the hard cold. The muddy, mucky soil firming up, but not yet frozen.

Frost on clover.
The hard frost always brings some finality to the season, sets us to shift gears. It's always welcomed, it's always beautiful.
Frozen broccoli plants drooping, giving in to the cold.
The long fall meant a more work, in some respects, but it also gave us more time to get farm projects completed. Our biggest project this fall was getting a second "winter pasture" set up for the grower pigs. This meant a second winter-proofed shed and another permanent fence.

Two weekends ago we harvested the cedar fence posts. That may sound like a lot of work (trust us, it is) but with the price of cedar it's worth it! The hillside where we harvest also has native pasque flower, which needs open area, so we are in essence helping to restore the habitat as well. Cool beans.

We moved the kids into the area with electric fence and began to build the fence around them. We got all the posts in place weekend before last and hurriedly filled in the post holes (with mud) as the rains began.

This past weekend John put in the t-posts and we aimed to finish the job up. Next step, bracing the corners and gate posts. Below you can see the horizontal beam on the H-brace stabilizing corner posts.

After the braces went in we added tensioners for increased stability. The thick wire is wrapped high on one post, to low on the other post. Then, the small piece of wood you see is used to wind the piece of wire, until it is tight. Now time for the fence!

H-Brace in the corner with tensioner in place and Dot hanging out in the background.
Hog panels (16') went up, a small gate for us humans and two big gates for moving animals and buildings. Huzzah! Pulled the electric fence out and there we go :)

Princess approves of the fencing job :) A beautiful sunset
celebrating the fruits of our labors.

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Goods still available for Thanksgiving dinner! Holler if you need 'taters or squash. Have a wonderful holiday!