Farm Horizons, November 2008

From puppies to guardians: Cokato couple raises Great Pyrenees dogs

Kristen Miller
Staff Writer

What started as a way to protect their Milk and Honey Farm in Stockholm Township soon became a business of raising the Great Pyrenees dogs for Bob and Sarah Lea.

Known and trusted for their flock watching and guarding abilities, Great Pyrenees also make loving companions and pets.

Though their size and deep bark may be intimidating, the dogs are kind-natured to even the most fragile of humans including children and the elderly, according to Sarah.

“I raise the Great Pyrs because I love and respect the breed. They seem to have more sense than other breeds. They are mellow and easy to be around — not hyper,” Sarah said.

How it all began

Fourteen years ago when the Leas moved to Cokato from Dallas, Texas, they were warned of dogs packing up and killing livestock in the area.

Since they had a new farm with livestock of their own, the Leas thought they better find a dog that would take care of their flocks during the night hours.

After doing some research, the couple bought their first pair of Great Pyrs – Boomer and Honey Bear – from a friend who raised them down south.

With the Leas already having sheep and other farm animals, they thought it might be fun to see what it would be like to have one litter of puppies, Sarah said.

Sarah found, “puppies are more fun than sheep,” she said.

What started out as a small breeding operation of American Kennel Club-registered thoroughbred Great Pyrenees, soon the Leas were selling puppies all across the country, from California to New England.

Now, they have six breeding dogs and a web-site – www.milkandhoneyfarm.com – for people to get a glimpse of the Milk and Honey Farm and their dogs.

A blessing upon their business

One day at church during the early stages of their breeding business, Sarah heard a speaker from Compassion International, a Christian children sponsorship ministry. The speaker was asking for volunteers to write, pray, and monetarily sponsor a child for a month. This touched Sarah’s heart and she wanted to contribute in any way she could.

With extra money from a recent litter, Sarah made a deal with God and said, “OK Lord, I will make a deal with you: If you bless my dog business, I will take care of your kids.”

Now, 12 years later, the walls of their home are full of letters and pictures of children Sarah has sponsored throughout the years. In her living room sits a globe with multiple red dots marking where her “spiritual children” live.

Since she has five sons of her own, Sarah wanted to sponsor girls, many of whom are AIDS orphans or from single-parent households.

The outcome of her deal with God: “The Lord has blessed the socks off of my dog business an He supports the children,” Sarah said.

The secret to their success

Besides having the good Lord on their side, Sarah says if you can read, you can do anything.

“You have to be responsible and know what you are doing,” she added.

To take care of the dogs, the Leas feed them raw eggs when they are pregnant, sheep burgers, vitamins and minerals, a lot of love, fresh water, and Purina Dog Chow.

A closer look at the Great Pyrenees

The American Kennel Club (AKC) writes, “The Great Pyrenees is of French royalty and nobility and working associate of the peasant shepherds on the slopes of the Pyrenees Mountains.

“Remains are found in the fossil deposits of the bronze age, which roughly dates its appearance in Europe between 1800 and 1000 BC, although it is believed that the breed came from Central Asia or Siberia and followed the migration into Europe.

“It was in the isolation of the lonely mountain pastures that the Pyrenean Mountain Dog developed his inherent traits of devotion, fidelity, sense of guardianship, and intelligent understanding of mankind. Here, in the days when packs of wild animals roamed the mountain slopes freely, he was the official guardian of the flocks. With the dogs’ ability to scent and keen sight, he was an invaluable companion of the shepherd.”

Inside the Milk and Honey Farm

Sarah and Bob own acreage along Wright County Road 30 in Stockholm Township. With that, they have 10,000 square feet of organic garden, meaning without using synthetic fertilizers, herbicides, pesticides, or fungicides.

Ninety-five percent of everything the Leas eat is raised on their farm, Sarah said.

After health complications 35 years ago due to poor eating habits and smoking two packs of cigarettes a day, Sarah made a commitment to turn her life around or face dying at an early age, as her doctor warned her.

Prescriptions only masked her symptoms – she knew she needed a lifestyle makeover.

Being a spiritual person, Sarah opened the Bible to see what God’s Word had to say about healthy living.

She took classes in nutrition to learn ways of eating healthy. Soon, Sarah was teaching others how to live and eat through seminars and church groups. She even had her own radio talk show in Dallas called “Milk and Honey.”

Through her own experience and accounts of others, Sarah says “It’s easier to prevent disease than to cure it.”

In order to do that a person needs to eat right, exercise reasonably, and get enough rest from the stresses of life, Sarah recommends.

Sarah has seen how the combination of these three things has healed cancer, heart disease, high blood pressure, allergies, obesity, tooth decay, and more.

“You have to change from things that will destroy your health to things that will build it,” Sarah said.

“You have to learn to make good choices,” she said.

Change, Sarah knows, doesn’t happen overnight. She still enjoys food that everyone else eats. For example, during the interview Sarah was making spaghetti sauce from tomatoes and herbs grown in her garden. She even makes her own pasta.

That evening, the Leas would also enjoy homemade apple crisp with fresh apples from their apple tree. Instead of using processed sugars, Sarah substitutes with real sweeteners such as honey or maple syrup.

To help others live healthier lives, Sarah has written four books including “Twenty-five Ways to Save Money on Food . . . and Eat Healthy” and “Biblical Health and Nutrition.” She also has two cookbooks with everyday recipes using healthy substitutes.

To learn more about Milk and Honey Farm, check out their web site at www.milkandhoneyfarm.com.

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