Localness and scope protects young family farm from a pandemic setback

Pasture-based farm in Minnesota run by Jordan and Rachelle Meyer – parents to five young children – delivers on the recent demand for local food products.

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Meyer siblings Layne (4), Ashton (3) and Natalie (5) play in front of their family's cows in Caledonia, Minn. on the evening of Monday, April 20.

CALEDONIA, Minn. – Jordan and Rachelle Meyer hear daily about the farm operations across the Midwest that have bottomed out because of the coronavirus pandemic. But for the couple, kept in-check by their offspring always at their sides, it's been a series of regular nights on the farm this spring.

It wasn't just another Monday night on April 20 for the couple – it was a good one. It was over an hour until sunset, and already Jordan and Rachelle were wrapping up chores for the day after spending about an hour on them after dinner.

The sky was clear and bright at 6:30 p.m. but the wind still chilled Rachelle's hands as she stuck posts in the sloping ground of their land, with her 6-month-old son strapped to her chest. To her left was a small herd of cattle and her kids Natalie, 5, Layne, 4, and Ashton, 3, talking to cows and using posts to pretend-play.

"We help them with the baby chickens," said Natalie of how the siblings sometimes help on the farm. "We feed them and stuff, and give them water and hold them."

Ashton said the chicks would go hungry or dehydrated if it wasn't for them, while aiming a post downhill at a wooded area like he was hunting small game.


In the summer, pigs would be in the pasture alongside the cows to cut back on the groups of animals they Meyers have to move each day. Their business, Wholesome Family Farms, sells pastured eggs, chickens, turkeys, beef and pork raised on the Meyer's land in the driftless region of Houston County.

"All of our land and animals are managed organically," said Rachelle Meyer as she stuck another post in.

Dinner for everyone in the Meyer family is at 5 p.m., followed by doing chores until the 7 p.m. bedtime of the kids. Often, once the youngsters are asleep, either Jordan or Rachelle heads back outside to finish chores by headlight.

"Nothing has really changed for us out here," said Jordan Meyer of their operation during the pandemic. "Just staying busy."

Rachelle shares with a grin that she's expecting again. Neither her or Jordan can say "six kids" with a straight face, but they're sure they can handle it. Rachelle, who's 26 and her husband a year older, said they never established a number of children they wanted to have. They had Natalie not long after they'd gotten married on the farm they now operate together, and it's been an annual routine since.

"God won't give us more than we can handle," said Jordan Meyer of their children.

Unforeseen boon to business

As the struggle to find eggs in stores began last month, Rachelle Meyer said that more people reached out to them for eggs than ever before

"The only thing different for us, because of the virus, is that we're doing more home deliveries," she said of the weekly deliveries she makes. "We've started home delivery this year, just because we realized that's what people want."


The couple said their business has not only stabilized during the pandemic, it's increased a bit. The durability of their operation didn't become clear until states started rolling out stay-at-home orders, said Jordan Meyer, and they started to get requests from people far away from them for the first time ever.

"I think people are more interested than ever in buying local," said Rachelle Meyer.

The Meyer family also hasn't faced the high-level disruptions from meat processing facilities shutting down like many other meat producers have.

"We only deal with local processors – all smaller-scale," said Jordan Meyer.

A maintenance employee who recently worked on Jordan's dad's milking parlour mentioned to the couple that a farmer in Minnesota was selling his pigs for cheap to prevent the animals from being unnecessarily slaughtered.

"He asked us basically if we wanted some free feeder pigs," said Rachelle Meyer. "By the time he got back to the farmer that we did, it was two days too late."

Jordan Meyer had read a posting just that day on Craigslist by a farmer doing the same thing because his pigs no longer had a destination.

The couple only raises enough meat to fill their freezer, which in Minnesota can then be sold without a permit. They only have six pigs now, and will get another 10 or so in a few weeks.


"We're very fortunate to be sending pigs in smaller groups to the processor," said Rachelle Meyer.

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Jordan and Rachelle Meyer and their children: Kade (6 months), Gabe (1), Ashton (3), Layne (4) and Natalie (5) at their farm in Caledonia, Minn. on the night of Monday, April 20.

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