Long Range Vision
Audrey Arner and Richard Handeen of Moonstone Farm raise cattle on 240 acres on a bluff above the Minnesota River in Montevideo, Minnesota. Since 1992, their cattle have been selected from a hardy, crossbred lineage and raised on diverse pastures. The intention is to provide their customers with a direct source for quality natural meat that is raised without antibiotics, hormones, or medicated feed while managing their land and resources with a long range vision that contributes to ecosystem health and their rural community.
"A small stream runs through our farm," says Arner. "One way to measure the effect of what we are doing is to measure the quality of the stream." Handeen and Arner actively monitor their land and, in 2000, they were designated a "river friendly" farm by University of Minnesota Extension Service in Chippewa County. For interested guests to stay on their farm for a small fee, Arner also runs a Broodio on their farm, a one-room cottage with:
- solar power
- handmade furniture
- a continental breakfast
Healthy Pastures Means Healthy Cattle
Moonstone Farm raises 50 cattle on prairie grass and alfalfa, supplemented by corn that they grow on 40 acres. During the grazing season, the cattle are rotated every few days to ensure optimum nutrition and animal health. Arner and Handeen are committed to resting pastures to allow for plant recovery and regrowth and improve water cycling. The herd enjoys homegrown grass and alfalfa in the winter. All Moonstone calves are born on or near the farm. As they mature they are finished on some of Moonstone's own organic corn.
Arner and Handeen are the fifth generation to farm Moonstone Farm, which has been in the Handeen family for over a century. They maintain the tradition of family farming and conservation as they work certified organic and transitional acres with a variety of crops, hay, and pasture for their livestock. They pay close attention to the land and have shifted planting more perennial crops, such as alfalfa and grazing for hay, to protect the stream and river from runoff. "That way we don't have to expose the bare soil to winter wind and rain," says Arner. "The living, covered soil will absorb more water with less runoff."
Letting Consumers Decide
However, as concerned as Arner and Handeen are about the land, Handeen says that ultimately the decision he makes as a farmer aren't anymore important to the environment than the decisions consumers make when buying food. "In any farmer, there is a concern for conservation, a concern to do what is right for the land, because that's where you make your living. The challenge is to take the broadest view possible of how what you do affects the overall picture," he states. "The consumer can make an enormous impact by choosing who they connect with. That determines how they want their farming done."
Moonstone Farm produces:
- hamburger steaks
- ground beef
- individual cuts upon request.
All beef is grass-fed, so it may cook faster due to its leaner content than conventionally raised beef. Moonstone charges $1.40/lb of beef plus 23 cents/lb for cutting, wrapping, and sharp freezing. Moonstone farm direct markets and also sells through the Internet with Prairiefare.