Living season to season on a family farm can become a blessing of hard work, faith and perseverance.
But for one Jordan family, the choice to move from city suburbs into the country was a mindful choice to preserve family farming and provide a higher quality of life for their four children.
Ten years ago Jennifer and Mark Jensen bought their century farm from the Flaschenriem family. They had hopes and aspirations of preserving the land and the 100 years of family farming heritage. The farm was renamed Sutton Ridge Farm because the 80-acres of land in Sand Creek Township is near Sutton Lake and sits on a ridge.
“When we looked at the farm, preservation was kind of a big thing,” said Jennifer Jensen. Describing herself as a visionary, she and her husband spent a year looking at farm properties. She would always see the potential of a century farm becoming a heritage preservation farm.
The first time the couple visited the farmstead property, Jensen said “My husband’s last words were ‘I would never buy this place.’ A year went by and the couple did not find a property that appealed to them. Then Mark asked if she kept the number for this farm property and the rest is history.
Today a white, fluffy Great Pyrenees dog named Thalia and a cattle dog and blue heeler mix named “Star” are the first ones to welcome farm guests with warm greetings after the long drive into the scenic, beautiful farmland homestead.
“We made an offer and it took a while, but now my husband loves it here and says he will die here,” Jensen said. When the couple first bought the land, they only bought 40 acres. The new property line came through the middle of a 1910 century barn that they knew must be preserved. “So, it kind of all started with that whole preservation, and from there we wanted to learn how to grow things,” Jensen said.
Raising four children on the farm, the couple was eager to instill a love of the land, a strong work ethic and tenacity that comes from chores and farming the land.
“I wanted my children to have a solid upbringing and understanding of why it is important to give back to the earth, and how there is a direct correlation of work that goes in today and we will see six months later — the work teaches patience and I want them to learn how all of farming teaches patience.”
As a young girl, Jensen spent summers on her maternal grandparents’ farm in northwest Minnesota.
“I had exposure to farm life because I spent a lot of time with my relatives, so farm life was not a stranger to me and my husband had a way lighter exposure — it was not my dream, but I thought it would be really great if that ever happened,” she said.
Nutrition is an important piece for Jensen.
“It always comes back to nutrition, that is always there with me because in my late teens and early twenties nutrition was a big part of my life — I planted organic gardens in the suburbs,” Jensen said.
When her children were small, Jensen would wheel the small youngsters inside a wagon to share organic tomatoes with friends. Part of the family’s seasonal routine was to take her family to visit farms. They made regular visits to New Prague to pick up cream and milk from a local dairy farmer.
Today Sutton Ridge Farm welcomes schools, civic groups, and youth and senior groups to tour the farm throughout the year. The farm hosts a spring sheep shearing event and is part of Autumn Fair, an annual event at the Scott County Fairgrounds. Last fall, the farm took part in a Minneapolis Textile Center tour where visitors came by on a tour bus to learn about all things fiber.
“We want to celebrate that and education is a big thing for me,” she said, adding how she wants to contribute to growing agricultural tourism in Minnesota. “The little kids just want to come and pet the lambs, bunnies and kittens. When we first started here, we wanted to do something different — we didn’t want to do just beef — we want to go with heritage breeds because it was all about preserving the old blood lines and those breeds, so we are raising Scottish Highland cattle,” Jensen said.
“We do not have heritage pigs — so we got feeder pigs from an organic farm because we do not have a big enough facility,” Jensen said. “The largest number of farms in Scott County are ones with 50 acres of land or less.”
Sutton Ridge Farm raises Lester Long Wool sheep.
“This breed of sheep has not been messed with genetically, and they are considered multipurpose livestock for fleece and meat,” Jensen said. “We primarily raise them for their fleece.”
The fleece can grow up to 12 inches long. The couple connected with a woman from Northland Woolens in northwest Minnesota who works with small farms and does fine woolen spinner work.
“It has been nice to have companies that work with you on a smaller scale — that has been a real blessing,” Jensen said.
The Sutton Ridge Farm store is located in the old milk room to offer customers seasonal storefront hours. But now the farm is busy butchering and getting ready to sell meat boxes. To find out more about Sutton Ridge Farm, check out www.suttonridgefarm.com.
Sutton Ridge Farm sells organically raised, 100 percent grass-fed Highland beef and milk-fed pork. The farm store also markets fine handmade, locally crafted organic soaps, bags of whole grains and wool products.
“We sell the raw fleece all the way to the end product, from the yarn to the product,” Jensen said. “We sell honey and other local products from Forest and Meadow Products out of Shakopee (a beekeeper) because I am always advocating and supporting small cottage industries, especially if they are ag-related.”
“We are very blessed — it is hard work and a lot of fun in the summer but there is a lot of work that sometimes gets bottle necked at certain times of the year,” Jensen said. “One thing about farming is it has given us the dependence on God because we cannot control the conditions, and we have learned to let God give you and then you can add to that.”
Mark works an off-farm job and Jennifer works at Sutton Ridge Farm. All four children have daily chores feeding and caring for the cattle, sheep and pigs.
“The best thing about living on a farm is that we are grateful for excellent neighbors who are very helpful and who are always willing to help,” Jensen said. “I love that we always have lots of kids around here visiting and we are giving our children exposure to hard work and living a life of literally hand to mouth.”