Hidden Stream Farm
The name Hidden Stream Farm belies the open-book policy of its owners Lisa and Eric Klein. Besides, the creek isn’t all that hidden, confesses Eric Klein. Lisa Klein spoke with “This is Living Naturally” from her home-office early one morning before any of their six children arose. She said callers are welcome anytime. They like to maintain a transparency in their farming methods so that their customers can pop in and no one will be surprised or dismayed.
Pigs Live Like Pigs
Likely, visitors who take the drive to the Elgin hamlet, not far from the bluffs of the Mississippi River, will encounter porcine squeals and rooting noises as a passel of naturally curious pigs digs in the dirt, wallows in the mud and plays in the straw.
Purchased at six weeks old, the Kleins start a new drove of 100 feeder pigs each month for a total of six months when they reach around 280 pounds. At that point, the animals travel 10 miles south to Burt’s Meats, a family-owned and operated processing plant in Eyota, Minnesota.
Local is Best
It’s important for the Kleins to use local businesses; they seek to support family and they care about their animals. Lisa Klein feels that using known local businesses, such as Burt’s Meats, helps guarantee humane treatment of their livestock.
Beef and Pork from Hidden Stream Farm are sold at Valley Natural Foods under the Down in the Valley label. Burt’s Meats makes all of the Down in the Valley smoked pork products, including bacon, bratwurst and sausage, which come from Eric and Lisa Klein’s pork.
Respect for Animals
The Kleins raise about 150 beef cows each year from six month old feeder-calves to two-year full-grown cattle. The cattle graze in open pasture when the grass is growing and eat dried grass during winter months, which has been grown on the farm. The Kleins move their grazing animals from pasture to pasture every couple of days to maintain healthy animals and rich, productive land.
This method contrasts with confined animal feeding operations (CAFOs), which house farm animals in extremely small spaces without access to naturally growing grass or vegetation. Consequently, in this unnatural state, there is a build-up of animal waste. Pasture rotation allows manure to feed the soil, whereas CAFOs create an environmental pollutant. CAFOs lead to disease, which results in overuse of antibiotics, low quality care of the animal and destruction of the land.
Guardians of Land and Animal
That is not the way the Kleins do business. Living on Lisa’s childhood farm, they do not spray, following her father’s lead to stop spraying in the 1970s. They use natural fertilizers and avoid hormones. “We’ve created our own little oasis. We’ve kept our little corner of the planet clean,” Lisa Klein says.
This oasis began to germinate not long after the Kleins married in 1997. Eric Klein grew up on a hobby farm and worked on a huge farming-operation in South Dakota during college. Lisa
Klein watched her parents milk cows for 30 years. The Kleins saw how the economy wasn’t favorable for them to continue milking cows, so they took a different route.
A class in land stewardship to gain new skills and develop a network of like-minded farmers was their first step. In 1999, they attended their first Farmers Market in Rochester and tried their hand at direct-marketing. They found their niche and have continued with direct-marketing, selling to restaurants and providing meats for Down in the Valley.
Liaison Between Customer and Product
Being on the front-lines of selling their wares also gives them opportunity to truly know and understand their customers. Lisa Klein notes that any time a news piece about the farming industry hits media channels, they hear about it from people who come to buy beef, pork or chicken at the farmers’ markets. This gives them an opening to educate their clientele, as well as learn what issues matter to the consumers who buy their products.
Because of their methods of farming—open space, pasture-grazing, no use of synthetic chemicals, and maintaining a herd-size that assures humane treatment—Hidden Stream Farm is able to participate fully in Down in the Valley’s meat program, which stipulates nine criteria mostly focused on humane treatment of the animals. If an animal does become ill and the Kleins use medicine, the animal is sent elsewhere and not sold at Valley Natural Foods.
“We want people to know that we enjoy what we’re doing and do it to provide people with good, clean food,” Lisa Klein says.
Susan Budig, also known as The Mindful Poet, writes as a
music journalist, feature writer and news journalist for local
newspapers in Minneapolis, Minnesota. Her poetry appears
in “Writers Digest;” “Music & Vision;” “Classical Poets;”
Thirteen Blackbirds Poetry blog; Art & Earth arts blog, and
“Friends of the Arts” newsletter. Find her poetry on her blog