MN Agriculture: Jake and Jill Cuperus, Bushel+Peck Produce
Day 18 of my “30 Days of MN Agriculture” is Jake and Jill Cuperus. The Cuperus’ are from Wilmont, MN. Wilmont is located in southwest Minnesota – north and west of Worthington. The Cuperus’ are unique in that they combine conventional farming with growing produce and meat for farmer’s markets. The one thing that is important to them is connect with their consumers. And like Jill said, consumers are losing their connection with those who raise and grow their food. And Jill is doing her part to make those reconnections. They have a great story! And lots of hard work . . .
Social Media Sites:
Facebook: Bushel+Peck Produce
Website: Bushel Peck Produce
Tell me a little about your farm and/or business?
“We have a flock of 100 ewes and about 80 laying hens on our farm, but we also farm about 1,100 acres of corn and soybeans in partnership with Jake’s dad and brother, and Jake and his dad run a 3000 head wean-to-finish hog barn.
We started our produce business, Bushel+Peck, on our farm this spring. We grow fresh, locally grown produce, meat and eggs. We raised 400 broiler chickens that we had butchered and sold both at farmer’s markets, and also by pre-sale. We were surprised at the demand for locally sourced chicken and eggs. We hope our hens continue laying consistently throughout the winter, because so many people have realized the difference between a store egg and a fresh egg from the farm.”
How long have you farmed or been in business?
“We both come from a long line of farmers –although Jill’s parents didn’t farm, Jill’s mom was a dairyman’s daughter. Jake grew up on a hog and crop farm by Reading, MN. Jill joined the operation 10 years ago.”
Tell me a little about what you grown/raise/produce or service provided.
“We grow just about any vegetable you can think of to sell at farmer’s markets, or I often brought requests in with me daily when I went to Worthington. This year we had just chickens processed, but in the coming years we’d like to add lamb, beef, outdoor raised hogs, and a variety of fruit like strawberries, and raspberries.”
Where do you sell or provide services to? Who is your end consumer?
“We started this year with the two farmer’s markets in Worthington, and then we even got a contract with Worthington’s Hy-Vee for tomatoes. We love being able to sell directly to consumers so they can get to know us and learn who and how their food is grown. We feel like there is such a disconnect between ag and the public, and we’re trying to close the gap.”
What makes your farm/business unique or special? What are you proud of?
“What makes us really unique is our plan for growth. We hope to keep growing and offering more and more things to the community: a CSA next growing season, larger variety of fruits and vegetables, cut flowers, and further in the future we plan to offer more kinds of locally raised meat, canning and freezing classes, and a place to come out and pick your own food right off the plant or vine. We love being able to connect consumers directly to their food source.
But, the thing we love the most is bringing the “family” back into the family farm. Our kids are an important part of our operation and have grown up in the tractors and barns, and each have responsibilities that match their ability and ages. They love watching the livestock grow, and going out and picking produce and eggs with us.”
Why do you grow/raise/produce? What went into your decision to do what you do?
“We both grew up eating from gardens, and I think we took having fresh food always being available for granted. The past few years we realized that so many people in our community didn’t have the same experience of growing their own food, and so they just didn’t know how to. We knew we had the knowledge, passion and space to grow produce on a larger scale to provide fresh, locally grown food at a reasonable price. We have wholly enjoyed our first growing season and getting to know our customers and sometimes convincing them to step out of their food comfort zone. “
What is one interesting fact about your farm/crops/livestock/business you would like to share.
“We plant our vegetables in strips of plastic laid by an implement called a Plastic mulch Layer. In one fell swoop, the layer mounds up the dirt, lays a drip tape for extremely efficient watering, lays the plastic, then discs at the back put soil on the sides of the mound to hold the plastic down. This system allows us to warm the soil by creating the mound and also creates so much humidity for the root system to really go crazy. The plastic also helps tremendously with weed control, we are able to use very little to no herbicide. Each mound’s drip tape is able to be hooked to a main line so we can efficiently water individual rows as needed; because of the plastic, water doesn’t evaporate as quickly and creates high humidity in the bed.”
What do you love most about farming/business?
“We love being able to work shoulder to shoulder with our kids and each other. What more could you ask for than to work with your family? We also appreciate the work ethic our children are learning by growing up on a working livestock, crop, and now produce farm.”
Is there anything else you would like to add?
“We love farming, and feel that we have a great responsibility to teach our children the most ethical way to take care of our land and livestock. We are happy to take the extra measures to make sure our animals are safe and comfortable, because the better we take care of them, the more productive they are for us. Same principle goes for our land, we take care of our soil by rotating crops and fertilizing with livestock manure and composted bedding as much as we can, so nature takes care of nature.”
Read the other people featured in my “30 Days of MN Ag. ”
There are others that are also participating in the 30 Days of Blogging Challenge. Feel free to check these out: