Along 200th Street, minutes from downtown Jordan, Scottish Highland cattle graze on the side of the road on a chilly, crisp fall day.
They’re beautiful with long horns and a stocky build, weighing around 70 pounds at birth and growing to a hefty 2,000 pounds.
They call Sutton Ridge farm home, along with Leicester Longwool sheep, a dairy cow, pigs and chickens.
Jennifer Jensen, owner of the family farm, said people sometimes get distracted driving along the shoulder-less country road and accidentally drive into the ditch.
“Someone came up and said you know, they just look biblical,” Jensen said. “I was like, I’ll take that one.”
Both the sheep and cattle are conservation breeds — the Leicester Longwool sheep were likely extinct during the 1930s or 1940s in the U.S.
The cattle and sheep are slower growers since they are on grass diets.
So unlike grain fed livestock that is butchered at 20 months, Jensen’s cattle are usually not ready for butchering until 30 months.
“We like them with their long sweeping horns,” she said. “They’re a beautiful animal, too. My husband was like, ‘If I need to look at something all day, I want it to look nice.’”
The 65 cattle roam in front of Sutton Ridge farm, which Jensen bought in 2007.
Jensen said sometimes the 2-year-old cows are akin to “rowdy teenager boys” and get into trouble. Some of them got out last week.
“Our neighbor called and was like, ‘Hey Jennifer, one of yours came home with mine, so I turned him back out and he’s headed your way,’” she said and smiled.
Jensen’s grandparents owned a 300-acre farm in northwestern Minnesota. She wanted a farm to feed her family so they would know how it was grown and what they were eating — similar to her grandparents.
Agritourism became a big part of the farm. In late September, they opened their gates to North Star Farm Tours, a self-guided tour of Twin Cities regional fiber farms, and on Oct. 6, they participated in Autumn Fare at the Scott County Fairgrounds in Jordan.
To prepare for visits, Jensen makes sure the farm is clean, tidy and safe. She loves the agritourism aspect of her farm and said it’s memorable for visitors.
She started sheep shearing events and added more events as more people visited each year, which became a catalyst for tours of Sutton Ridge.
From there they’ve had school children visit, and even Moroccan dignitaries on an agritourism tour throughout the state with the University of Minnesota. They stopped at her farm to learn about how they can promote agritourism, she said.
Jensen said agritourism is a growing trend and she loves it when the farm is bustling with people. She has four kids ranging from a college graduate to a seventh-grader.
“They’ve grown up here for the most part and they all have their chores,” she said. Their friends used to help on the farm, too.
When children visit, it makes her happy since her own children are growing up.
“I feel like a farm isn’t a farm unless there’s activity and people and it’s being used,” she said. “There needs to be life at the farm.”
Students from Prior Lake and surrounding areas come to visit and learn more about life on the farm.
“So much more now, the younger generation of kids are so far removed from agriculture,” she said. “It used to be in the day that everybody knew some relative who ran a farm.”
Sometimes children get distracted by her two dogs instead of the cattle, sheep, pigs and chickens.
“And then you’re like, what about the Highlander?” Jensen said, laughing.
She keeps a dairy cow on hand so people can try milking a cow. During one visit, one of the girls knelt next to Jensen and asked if milking a cow was going to be weird.
“And I said ‘Yes because you’ve never milked a cow before,’” Jensen said.
Sometimes things happen on the farm that are hard to plan for. To prep for tours, she started to zip-tie things she didn’t want opened, like a hydrant. One time after a tour, Jensen went inside for lunch and started doing chores around the farm when she noticed water streaming near the chicken coop.
Someone turn on a hydrant, which churns out 60 gallons of water a minute and it had been running for four hours. Now she zip-ties it, along with doors to animal pens to make sure everything stays safe.
“Years ago I started walking around and looking at things differently because you know, it’s your place, you just get used to stuff,” she said.
A bright red barn with white trim sits on the farm against a vibrant blue sky backdrop. It was built in 1910 and is now home to a store and boutique.
The boutique is decorated with fall leaves and orange festive lights. Inside, Jensen sells fleece and wool products like hats and gloves. She also sells wool blended with the Scottish Highland cattle, as well as fiber. A cattle hide is also displayed in the back.
Farther inside the barn, where the milk room used to be, a store features meats for visitors to try. Their meat products don’t have preservatives and come frozen. Jensen usually has people buy in bulk, and pick them up. Customers usually come from Minnesota, but she does have a trucker from Chicago who also picks up meat.
Jensen said owning a farm is a 24/7 gig and though it can be busy, she enjoys the quiet, too.
“When all the bustling is gone, I also enjoy it,” she said.