Farm Horizons, June 2013

Bluebird Hill Farm moves toward sustainability

By Kristen Miller

Working the soil and living off the land has become a family affair for the Ebert family, owners of Bluebird Hill Farm in rural Dassel.

“We’ve always gardened,” said Tony Ebert.

“It’s important for us to know where our food comes from,” Tony’s wife, Wendy, added.

The Eberts live on five acres of land off of Meeker County Road 4 on 250th Street in rural Dassel. They even have their own pond, which was one of the major selling points for them when they purchased the property 16 years ago.

The couple is busy raising two daughters – Mackenzie, 15; and Grace, 8; along with 60 free-range chickens, and most recently, a hive of bees.

For them, raising bees is just another adventure as they move toward self-sustainability. The bees help in the pollination of crops, and their delicious honey is a bonus, Tony explained.

The Eberts have had a garden ever since they moved to their country home, but each year it seems to get bigger.

Some of the items traditionally found in their garden include kale, radishes, jalapeno peppers, cucumbers, broccoli, asparagus, swiss chard, tomatoes, green beans, sweet corn, lettuce, peas, and potatoes. They also grow pumpkins and watermelon.

It’s important to them that they don’t use any chemicals, only natural fertilizers such as chicken manure and compost for their plants, Tony explained.

Even with seven apple trees, the Eberts don’t use any pesticides. Instead, they use nylon socks and cover each of the apples so bugs don’t get at them.

This has been known to be 95-98 percent effective, Tony said.

The family started out small, growing only what they would consume as a family, and eventually began raising chickens for eggs. They don’t believe in caging the birds and instead, let them roam during the day, but the threat of coyotes is near.

The Eberts lost nine chickens to a coyote in 2012, but there haven’t been any casualties recently.

Soon, they began selling eggs from a garden stand in their driveway, indicating what is available with a sign at the end of the driveway.

“We use the honor system,” Wendy said, noting there is a jar to put $3 for a dozen eggs, or whatever else is in season at the time.

“We didn’t think we’d get many people up here,” Wendy said, but soon, they had regular customers.

They began growing even more food and decided to join the Dassel Farmers Market, which is now in its fourth season.

“It’s just something we do as a hobby – it’s not our intent to make money,” Tony said. This way, they can share whatever produce they have left over and are able to recoup some of the costs.

Their daughters are also very helpful in the garden.

“Mackenzie makes killer [apple] pies,” Tony said.

She also grows and sells herbs, which teaches her a little bit about having her own business, Wendy noted.

The Eberts’ goal is to be as self-sufficient as possible. They would someday like to generate their own energy with a windmill.

Bluebird Hill Farm, named after the many bluebirds that share the hilly landscape, can be found on Facebook. They will also be at the Dassel Farmers Market when produce is available.

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