Farm Horizons, December 2013

Cokato family indulges in bounties of growing its own food

By Jennifer Kotila

Each week, Wendy Halonen bakes fresh loaves of bread for her family of six to enjoy, using wheat grown in the family’s fields and ground by their own hands.

Not only does the Halonen family enjoy fresh-baked bread made from their own harvest, but they also raise nearly everything they eat on their own land. “Everything we do on the farm is for the farm,” said Wendy.

About 13 years ago, the Halonens, along with their four children, Taylor, now 19, Nolan 17, Larce, 16, and Landon, 15, moved to the farm south of Cokato where Wendy’s husband, Tim, had grown up. Taylor has since left home, but the boys are still at home and are homeschooled.

Admittedly, becoming a family that grows all its own food was a process that took 10 to 15 years for the Halonens. “It’s definitely a growing process,” Wendy said. “We started with cows and chickens to put the boys to work and give them some responsibilities.”

They now have cows, chickens, sheep, goats, pigs, geese, ducks, and, of course, dogs and cats. Two of the cows are milked by hand to provide fresh milk for the family. In the past, Wendy has made her own cheese from the milk, as well. She still makes yogurt from the milk if the family desires it.

Tim and the boys use old farm equipment to work the fields and grow all the food needed for their animals, including corn, soybeans, hay, and wheat. Wendy noted that Tim said he was born in the wrong time, and would love to be a pioneer farmer or live like the Amish.

The Halonens use a wood stove to heat their house, cutting and chopping their own wood. “It saves us a ton of money,” Wendy said. It is also cheaper and healthier for the family to grow and process its own food, she added.

Wendy began making her own bread about 10 years ago, and, through a process of trial and error, has perfected her technique. “It took a long time to master for me,” Wendy said. “I didn’t have anybody to show me how.”

Her basic recipe is a half-white, half-wheat bread that takes two hours to mix, rise, knead, and bake. She also makes 100 percent whole wheat bread for Tim, who likes heavy bread; and English muffins, which her children love.

Any kind of baking Wendy does is from scratch, but she doesn’t like to make many sweets because then she eats them, she said. However, the family harvests their own honey on the farm, and also makes its own maple syrup to satisfy their cravings for sweets, along with the jams and jellies made from their own produce.

The Halonens have a large garden where they grow their own vegetables and then can, freeze, or make their own jelly with them. Grown in the garden is everything needed for salsa (tomatoes, peppers, onions, and herbs), potatoes, carrots, rhubarb, raspberries, lettuce, a lot of garlic (Wendy’s favorite), green beans, beets, cabbage, squash, and cucumbers for pickles.

In the past, Wendy has sold her bread at places such as the Wright County Swapper’s Meet. Now, however, she sells Wendy’s Essentials Made on Our Farm all-natural, homemade soaps and beauty products at craft fairs, Dan and Becky’s Market in Cokato, and That Chick Boutique in Howard Lake.

As the Halonens were creating a sustainable farm, Wendy was also a paraprofessional at Cokato Elementary for eight years. She resigned last April to work on the farm and provide for her family full time. Because the family grows their own food and makes their own soap, the extra money Wendy was bringing in is not missed.

Working for herself on the farm, Wendy noted she has to prioritize daily the tasks that have to be completed, whether the garden has to be weeded, or the sheep have to be sheared. “It seems like a simpler life, but we are always busy, working,” she added.

She is looking forward to the first winter she will be home full time with her family, noting that winter is a slower time for farmers, when the days are shorter and there are only so many hours to get things done outside. One of her goals is to learn to spin wool, a skill she has not yet mastered. At this time, the sheep’s wool is used to make felted soap (soap wrapped in a felted wool cloth).

“It is definitely a gift that God has given me the desire to do it,” Wendy said about living sustainably. “He created me to take care of my family in that way.”

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