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Published October 05, 2009, 12:00 AM

Minnesota couple nurtures endangered farm animals

WILLMAR, Minn. — Our quest to protect endangered animals can take us to some very wild places. In this case it leads to a place very tame: a small farm in Lac qui Parle County.

By: Tom Cherveny , West Central Tribune

WILLMAR, Minn. — Our quest to protect endangered animals can take us to some very wild places. In this case it leads to a place very tame: a small farm in Lac qui Parle County.

Humble Roots Heritage Farm is home to a happy mix of domesticated farm animals that are rapidly disappearing from the world.

Purebred Mulefoot pigs, curious and friendly as farmyard dogs, muck around in the mud and forage in the grove unaware that, at last count, there were only 200 of them documented elsewhere in the world.

A flock of Bourbon Red turkeys, show-offs every one of them, strut around the yard as if it were still the 1930s and 1940s when they were as common on American farms as barn cats.

Today, the American Livestock Breeds Conservancy based in North Carolina lists the turkeys on its “watch” list of domesticated fowl in decline.

The organization raises a similar red flag about the status of the Swedish and Indian Runner ducks, two small flocks of which join the menagerie of animals that lay claim to this six-acre Noah’s Ark on the prairie.

“I’m always looking for something I like to look at,” said Jessi Wood, the farmer responsible for the colorful animals.

Yet make no mistake: This is all about farming.

It will not be long before the majestic-looking and tasty turkeys become the center of attention on Thanksgiving tables. Mulefoot pigs make fabulous hams; the Swedish ducks are as flavorful a waterfowl as was ever enjoyed; and Indian Runner ducks are prized — and fed — for the eggs they lay.

And while they grow to market size, these animals are just a hoot to have around, Wood said. “They’re fun, they really are.”

Wood and her husband, Joey Stout, began raising the heritage breed animals both as a venture into sustainable agriculture and a desire to protect them and the genetic traits they

represent.

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