Matt and I have always loved animals and the outdoors, our first date was back in 1993 and we went to the start of the Beargrease sleddog race. Who knew 23 years later we would be owners of a pig farm. Neither of us grew up farming, but both of us spent summers on farms. Matt would spend weeks in Iowa exploring river bottoms, riding in gravel trucks, hanging out with pigs, jumping off the hayloft in the barn, and riding dirt bikes through rows of corn. I have fond memories of spending time on Eldon's farm near my Grandparents. We would go mushroom picking, help during calving season, and ride hours on three-wheelers in the woods. Many fond memories.
Matt and I have always grown food, raised chickens, and dabbled in sheep and pigs. Raising pigs full-time only recently happened in 2014. It all started with cycling. At the time we were operating a veggie CSA and raising pigs on the side to sell as pork shares as a fundraiser for getting Josey to Europe to race cyclocross. Josey raised the pigs and he got to keep the profits to help fund his trip. A guy named Mike bought a pig. This guy now owns and operates Red Table Meats Company in Minneapolis. Red Table Meats is Yker Acres biggest customer.
Let me fill in the blanks...
Mike is a cyclist and the cycling community is small. Mike heard about this kid trying to raise money to race bikes in Europe, so he bought a pig from Josey. At the time Mike was trying to start a company that supported family farms. You see, Mike grew up in Iowa. He grew up in the same area that Matt's father did, Clay County. A small town called Royal (also the name of Red Table Meats prized hams). Mike grew up around family farms. Raising pigs in a pasture was the norm back then. Then slowly, the family farms were disappearing and being replaced with factory farms that housed thousands of pigs. He wanted to change that...
Each year we went from raising 10 pigs to 25, then 40. This was all in partnership to raising vegetables. Matt and I loved providing food for our community, but there was something missing. We missed raising animals. Before Matt, Josey, and I moved here in 2007 we had just retired from sleddog racing. We were used to having to take care of large numbers of animals, being outside everyday doing chores, having animals born, and watching them grow. Animals husbandry is something we were naturally good at.
The fall of 2013 Mike approached us and asked if we would be willing/able to supply his company with a certain number of pigs on a consistent basis. Meaning every month of the year. This was our opportunity to raise animals full-time! This was our “in” and “out” at the same time. We could still provide food for our community and get to raise these beautifully smart animals...it was a dream come true! In true Matt fashion, we dove in head first! January of 2014 Yker Acres pastured pig operation had begun.
No business follows a straight road. There were lots of bumps, hills, curves, and potholes along the way. Luckily, Matt and I have had home-business in the past and rolled all of our life skills and talents into this endevour. We really feel we have finally found the “sweet-spot” to work and life.
We are farmers, machine operators, veterinarians, salesman, scientists, mathematicians, carpenters, marketers, artists, organizers, dreamers, fortune tellers, geneticists, meteorologists, realists, naturalists, and also clowns!