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Featured Artisanal Producer

Audrey Arner and Richard Handeen of
Moonstone Farm, Montevideo, Minnesota

Moonstone Farm is made up of 42 woody species, grazing and hay acreage and water. Audrey Arner and Richard Handeen are the stewards of this land, more than a century after it was settled by Richard’s great-grandparents; foregoing the conventional practices of surrounding farmers and their own vegetarianism to make the journey into raising 100-percent grass-fed beef.

The couple shaped their farming ideals by learning from great national and world teachers. These mentors helped them to map out their long-term goals and their methods of land management. Now they are mentors to the next generation of farmers through the Land Stewardship Project’s Farm Beginnings program. Audrey states, “the first lesson is not building a fence or starting a tractor, but examining values, seeing the big picture, and making the farm-to-food connection.” Twelve years ago, Farm Beginnings helped their daughter and son-in-law start up Easy Bean Farm, a 250-member CSA in Milan, Minn. “It is important to get young people engaged in farming because the average age of a farmer is creeping up on 60,” says Audrey.

They have also partnered with the Land Stewardship Project on the recent Farm Bill, advocating support of new farmers through lending and savings programs and conservation provisions. They believe that policy change will help Minnesota’s family farmers, rural communities and the environment.

To pass on their knowledge, Audrey and Richard offer Moonstone Farm as a learning tool for beginning agriculture students from the University of Minnesota as well as summer interns. They create marketing partnerships between local chefs and food producers through educational day trips and events on the farm. These events extend the reach of each farmer and help to support locally grown products.

Overnight visits to Moonstone Farm are available at a one-room cottage, playfully called The Broodio. This former “brooder” house is part of a growing agri-tourism movement and another resourceful way to diversify the farm’s income. It is a powerful opportunity to educate visitors; allowing them to see the day-to-day operations of a sustainably run farm. The Handeen-Arner marketing savvy is also found in their on-farm shop, The Carriage House, which offers their grass-fed beef as well as local honey, pork, butter and Richard’s own hand-thrown pottery.

Audrey and Richard follow the practice of perennial polyculture: On this 240-acre cattle farm in western Minnesota, the relationship between worm and soil, grass and animal has been carefully nurtured. With this extraordinary example of sustainable farming in a sea of monoculture, Audrey and Richard are continuously learning while they teach others, allowing the natural cycle to evolve and progress. After 30 years they are in a good place on their journey; enjoying fewer work hours and taking in the pleasures of their surroundings.

- Marianne Jurayj
Marianne is a consulting chef and Food Director for McNally Smith College of Music in St. Paul

Nettles grow along walking paths. They have a luscious sweet, green flavor when cooked. (photo: Rosemary Mitlyng)

Burdock stalks are ready to eat in summer. Moonstone Farm used to be covered with rows of commodity crops, but now supports hundreds of species of plants. (photo: Rosemary Mitlyng)

Hay nourishes the cattle in winter. During the growing season, cattle are moved to new pasture every three days. (photo: Rosemary Mitlyng)

Moonstone’s coop. (photo: Rosemary Mitlyng)

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