STEWARTVILLE, Minn. — For Myrna and Randy Welter, home is where the pigs and kids are.
The Welters and their seven children were once named Olmsted County's Farm Family of the Year for their sow farrow-to-finish operation in Stewartville, where they also grow corn, soybeans and hay.
Running the operation currently are Myrna and Randy Welter with their son, Jason, who was born 1989, the same year they moved to Stewartville and began farming the land.
Myrna Welter said it wasn't a pig farm when they arrived, and they remodeled most of the buildings to get them ready to raise pigs.
"Over the 30 years, we've built all the pig barns ourselves," said Randy Welter. "We just kept growing the operation little by little every year."
The Welters have always ran a sow farrow-to finish operation, said Randy Welter, and began with 30 sows. Today they're at around 220 sows, and the 130 acres they farmed originally has grown to 850 acres.
The biosecurity aspect of pig farming is what makes it much different than any other livestock, said Myrna Welter.
"We still treat our animals like they are family," she said.
Crops to pigs
"Everything is utilized from a pig, all the way to the manure," said Myrna Welter.
The family doesn't have a shower-in and shower-out facility, meaning the door of the operation is pretty much always closed to anyone not in the family. And that's how they prefer it to be.
With just family members involved, Randy Welter said they get to focus on what they like most about the operation: the pigs.
"I've always wanted to raise pigs. I don't want to manage people." he said. "We never wanted the farm to grow larger than what we could handle as a family."
Making an Easter ham to remember
"Ham is the iconic Easter dinner and staple," said Myrna Welter.
With public gathering restrictions in place, Easter will be tricky this year for some families who usually travel to see each other.
Myrna Welter laid out a simple framework that can help those who might find themselves cooking their first Easter ham this year. Here are her tips:
- The ham comes from the hind leg of the pig, and it's usually smoked.
- A whole ham is really big, she said, so many people don't get an entire one. The shank end, or leg portion, is a good choice for the "classic Easter dinner" said Welter. "It's the picture-perfect ham on the plate, and easier to carve," she said. The butt end, or the top portion, is a little more tender and "lends a little richer flavor," said Welter.
- Cook the ham at 250 degrees until it reaches an internal temperature of 145 degrees.
- She said some people add liquid to the bottom of the pan to keep the ham moist. "Some people use water, or their own special concoction," she said. "Apple juice is good, or sometimes 7-Up or Sprite for adding moisture to it."
- For the last 30 minutes of the ham cooking, a glaze can be put on top.
"Rule of thumb is a half to three-quarter pound per person," she said. "Because it makes great leftovers that you can use in sandwiches, soup, hot-dishes and you can even make pizza with it.
"There's so many things you can do with a leftover ham."