The sun setting over the fields at Yker Acres reminds me 2017. The year set fast, and with spectacular colors!
We feel a little more settled, a little smarter, and definitely tired! It has been quite the year! I will recap some of the highlights. There is never a dull moment here on the farm, but we love it so!
Matt's mind is always moving, always tinkering for new ideas. He collaborated with a great local Duluth business, Bent Paddle Brewing Co and developed a Pork Stick. A wonderfully rich pork stick infused with a Golden IPA, and one with Cold Press Black from Bent Paddle. What a power-protein-packed snack with a twist!
We now have Yker Acres Pork Sticks available at both Duluth Coop locations, Bent Paddle Taproom, and the Cedar Lounge. We want to keep tweaking our pork into delicious ways to enjoy!
Duluth is such an amazing destination place. Not just for nature, but for the food! Lincoln Park business and craft district got a new neighbor! Collaborators Louis, Jeff, Tom ,and Jaima opened OMC Smokehouse and we got a new venue for our pork!
Each year, the UMD Center for Economic Development presents the Joel Labovitz Entrepreneurial Success Awards to honor bold entrepreneurs and business leaders. Yker Acres was nominated for the E-3 Award (Environmentally Engaged Entrepreneur). The award recognizes a businesses being environmentally conscious. The criteria for the award is the entrepreneur takes steps to reduce their carbon footprint, promotes the idea of sustainability through environmentally friendly practices, and the belief that economic growth should simultaneously improve our quality of life and the environment.
We were among friends. The other five businesses included in the nomination was Bent Paddle Brewing Co, Food Farm, Duluth Grill, Round River Farm, and Heritage Window and Door.
Surprisingly, we won! We were honored and enjoyed a fabulous luncheon with 500 other area business owners. It was a highlight of the year and great recognition.
Food and Fun! Nothing like being surrounded by the talents of 5 chefs and their glorious creations! Yker Acres was asked to be paired with Chef Grae Nonas at the National event, Cochon555 in Minneapolis. Cochon555 celebrates chefs, pigs, drinks, and fare! These 5 chefs compete with one another and a panel of judges (and the voting of the guests) for the Prince of Porc trophy! In one evening 5 chefs display their small bite sized dishes using a whole hog. They try to showcase the pig through originality, use of all parts of the pig, and taste. The winner in Minneapolis would go on to the National event in Chicago. The winner there, gets a paid trip to Spain!
Matt and I, along with friends-got all dressed up for a night on the town and enjoyed ourselves with pork dishes of all kinds. Hundreds of folks walk around to the various chefs tables and enjoy limitless amounts of food, music, drinks, and lots of great conversation. Chef Grae and his team shined! and ultimately with the combination of their hard work and ours...we won!
With the snow melting, preparation was underway for our first official growing season on the new farm. Seed was purchased and equipment tuned-up and ready to go...Matt successfully planted 45 acres of Barley and field peas. This was then bailed, wrapped, and fed to our livestock. Matt spent many, many hours plowing, tilling, seeding, and harvesting.
The soil was able to breathe fresh air.
The days were filled with chores, small improvements to the barn, tending to litters of piglets, and lots of love and care. We fall in love with this farm more and more each day. The property has so much character. We were able to explore every nook and cranny of the land. We want to bring nutrients back into the soil, we want a balance of farmlife and wildlife. Our small ponds was singing with frogs this summer and we enjoyed a plethora of songbirds. We also have turkeys, a healthy pack of coyotes, rabbits, deer, garter snakes, and Sandhill cranes. We also discovered we have a Red-tailed nest in the southwest 40 that we enjoyed watching hunt and feed their young.
Part of creating a balance is making sure that our pastures stay healthy. Our pigs have large paddocks they get to enjoy during the warm months, but they can't be too far away from view. They require expensive fencing. So how can we utilize all the pasture?
COWS! Of course! We did our research and found a heritage breed of cows that will work perfectly for us. So we bought some Dexter Cows. We now have 34 in our herd. We had 4 calves born on the farm so far...
These cows are a hoot! They are smaller, but no-less imitating with their big eyes and horns! We have been enjoying their playful nature and are impressed with their hardiness.
The summer of 2016 there was a bad wind storm and on the Northwest portion of our property a couple dozen BIG Norway Pines were blown down. Right at the root ball. So sad to see these 125+ year old trees fallen. We decided to mill some of the trees and build a little house. A little cozy cabin for Josey and Tiffany.
Josey spent most of 2017 racing bikes all over Spain and came home in September to live and work full time on the farm. He still enjoys riding his bike, but on a much more calm and fun level. We are happy to have him home and lucky to have 2 very hard working farmhands! Our Farm Manager, Tiffany Edholm has been with us for 2+ years and such an asset to our team! We are happy they have chosen to live here on the farm just a 1/4 mile away in their own "little castle".
Still a work-in-progress-kind-of-project, but soon they will be enjoying a wood fire in their new cozy home.
It wasn't all work, work, work. Matt and I enjoyed the BWCA, Josey and Tiffany did some bike races, we enjoyed some ice fishing, skiing, snowshoeing, and fat-biking. We try to make sure to move our bodies in a "fun-way" and not always in a "work-way". We are happy that 2018 is here and looking forward to planning our garden, planting crops, planning new BWCA trips, enjoying piglets, and watching the calves grow. We have big plans for Yker Acres in 2018 and can't wait to share it all with you!
We thank you for continuing to support local food, local farmers, and local businesses. YOU drive us!