Up The Creek Meats

If you want to protect the water in the lake you love then buy your meat from one of these farmers.

Industrial agriculture can pollute water in our lakes and rivers. Nitrogen and phosphorus wash off fields and supercharge algae and aquatic plant growth in our waters. Eroding farm fields increase turbidity in our lakes and rivers. Siltation smothers fish spawning and fills in our waterways.

If you value clean waters, then buy food directly from farmers that protect waters.

There is a new movement (actually it is an old movement that is coming back into fashion) towards “regenerative agriculture” with a focus on “soil health.”

Healthy soil creates clean water.

Healthy soil infiltrates and stores more water… much more. Much less water runs off the fields into ditches, creeks and, eventually, the lakes. These farmers use little or fertilizers, pesticides or herbicides, antibiotics and steroids.

Ray Archuleta demonstrates soil infiltration and health with a slake test.

Up the Creek Meats

Minnesota Lakes and Rivers has joined with Up the Creek Meats and identified farmers in the Pine River Watershed area who are committed to protecting water resources.

When a lake association orders products from these farmers in bulk, they are supporting their local community, their member’s health and the health of the waters in the Pine River Watershed.

To Participate in the Up the Creek Meats Pilot

1) One person should be designated to take the lead. Check the farms listed below to find one that you want to partner with.

2) The Lead person will gather all the orders and payments from the members.

3)The Lead person contacts the farmer to place your bulk order, schedule a drop off or pick up, and perhaps schedules a farm visit for your association.

Do Try to Schedule a Visit for Your Membership to the Farm

These farmers are proud of their farms, and welcome visitors. They can show you how their practices protect water in your watershed. Depending on timing, they may be able to come speak at your annual meeting and make the drop off then.

To learn more about the Five Soil Health Principles, watch this recording of the Minnesota Lakes and Rivers webinar with farmer Jim Chamberlain. You can watch the webinar HERE.

Meet our Up the Creek Meats Farmers:

12857 Nokasippi River Rd.,
Brainerd, MN 56401
(218) 232-7986

Abe Hollister, of Hollister Family Farms outside Brainerd, sees his farming practice as a “land healing ministry.” Abe was 21 when he accepted Jesus into his life. Through a church group he met soil health guru Kent Solberg and began an internship. As he drove around Minnesota, he was struck by the number of bankrupt industrial farms. He saw the lack of biological diversity, the polluted waters, the sterile soil.

Ken taught him that it did not have to be this way.

“I wanted to work to repair the land,” said Abe. “Sustainability fit into my Christianity. Spiritually I am more connected to what God has given me. I am building life.”

Abe began small. For ten years he and his wife Brea raised chickens and milk cows on 10 acres. They had a large vegetable garden. Then they rented an additional 40 acres. They bought another 40 acres and started renting an additional 40 acres.Today Abe, Brea and their five children raise cattle on about 120 acres of pasture and woods.

Before the Hollisters, the land had been heavily tilled and chemically treated. After 80 years of growing soybeans and corn, it was so degraded it could only support rye the last seven years before Abe bought it.

“It needed a rest,” said Abe. They stopped tilling and instead started a rotational grazing regime. Abe hand scattered clover, grasses, chicory, and legumes in the spring as an experiment. The seed was fallow for a year, and burst forth the following year. “In some areas the clover was thigh high,” said Abe. “It also stimulated our latent seed bank.” Other nitrogen fixers sprung up including plantain, red clover, birdsfoot trefoil, another species of legume. “Livestock can eat as much of these as they want without bloating, and it is a great source of protein.”

Abe, Brea, and their children Gideon, Adelynn, Mae, Signe and Warren work the farm together now. Abe notes that because they do not have heavy machinery, or chemical fertilizers, pesticides, herbicides or fungicides on the place, it is a much safer environment for his children and they can help out a great deal. It is also a healthier environment for birds, insects and other animals. Abe and his wife have both noticed a resurgence of creatures on the farm. Earth insects and worms have surged in the soil. “When we started, there was nothing living in our soil. Today the soil is packed with critters,” said Abe.

They have also seen a resurgence of many different bird species. “There are flocks of birds that come in at different times to eat the tops off the plants. In the spring flocks of cowbirds come to eat the insects off the cows.”

Agricultural commodity markets grew up around the industrial farming practices which emerged after World War II. Farmers practicing regenerative agriculture have a harder time getting their product on grocery store shelves and into meat cases.

3 Sixteen Ranch

25653 202nd Ave.
Fort Ripley, MN 56449
320-291-6171

In 2016 Tasha Schlangen decided that they wanted to be healthier. She had many friends and family members that had the same goal.

There was one problem, the local grocery store did not carry the type of meat they wanted, antibiotic free, steroid free, no added hormones, non-GMO feed.

They started small on a sixteen acre farm with three bred cows.

Said Tasha, “Even though I grew up on a hog confinement farm, I still didn't have much experience with cattle and wanted to start small.” That first year I looked for a larger place and in 2017 bought 480 acres near Fort Ripley, MN. “The farm was run down when I bought it,” said Tasha.

Soil was dead, with no worms, insects, fungus. I set up a paddock system and planted pasture.

Today I have about 60 cattle. I use hogs as part of my rotational grazing strategy. Into

this mix I have added about 2000 chickens, which get moved every day using Joel Salatin chicken tractors. The chickens add nitrogen to the soil and follow the cows to scatter manure and

manage pest insects.

“Every year I see a change in the soil. Without tilling, the microbiome is growing,” said Tasha.

She also noted that because she operates outside the industrial commodity market, she is unaffected by inevitable market fluctuations.

3 Sixteen Ranch offers chicken, pork and beef in a variety of packaging and cuts.  Beef will be available this fall.

Brakstad Natural Farms

1679 52nd St SW
Pequot Lakes, Minnesota
(218) 330-6055


Just West of Pequot Lakes and North of Loon Lake is Brakstad Natural Farms. Lance Brakstad’s family has been farming this 320 acres since 1915. It is three generations of knowledge at work. In 1980 Lance and his wife Robyn decided to get out of dairy farming due to the expensive inputs and unstable markets. They have never looked back.

Said Lance, “I just continued what my grandfather had been doing. Each year, we plant and harvest non-GMO corn for silage, which is fed to more than 60 head of cattle including Jersey and Holstein. To ensure customer satisfaction, we believe it is important to: reduce antibiotics of any kind, eliminate growth hormones, remove animal by-products from their diet and limit the herd size to ensure ample grazing conditions. Ultimately, we believe that a happy, healthy herd will result in a better, tastier product for you and your family to enjoy.”

The Brakstads have three hoop houses and do vegetables using hydroponics. They also raise some chickens, sell eggs, starter plants and other farm products. Brakstad Farms has 40 Community Supported Agriculture, CSA members and sell at farmer’s markets in Pequot, Ideal and Pine River.

The Brakstad farm also produces a natural milk for those who are lactose intolerant. Over the years they have bred cows that give what is known as A2 milk. Holstein’s are the black and white cows that are so familiar and dominate dairy herds in the United States because they produce such large quantities of milk. Holstein milk also contains A1 proteins.

A1 and A2 proteins are different forms of beta-casein. A few thousand years ago, the A2 mutated in some European herds, and became A1. Goat milk and human milk are A2. “When I first started I bought Jersey bulls. Then I switched to Red Poll and have been raising that herd up. Now our cows give A2 milk, which does not affect the lactose intolerant.”  

Some proponents of A2 milk also cite studies linking A1 milk to heart disease and diabetes, although the scientific evidence is not conclusive.

Matthew Rohr - Pine Stone Farm

3580 72nd St. SW
Pequot Lakes Minnesota
56472 - 218-568-5476

 Matthew and his partner Kara Misemer manage their 40 acre farm using a silvopasture management system, meaning they are raising crops, animals and trees on the same land. This style of farming has particular benefits for local water quality.

A creek runs through the Pine Stone Farm, into Lake Margaret, and then into Gull Lake. “I am the starting point for water flowage in this drainage,” said Matthew. “Water is the second most important thing for humans. Air is first. Water, and water management is the foundation of our farm. Water determines the soil.” By keeping water on his land, Matthew can improve the productivity of his crops.

“It’s all about how we nourish soil to protect water,” said Matthew.

The Pine Stone Farm sells beef, pork, chicken and other fowl, and eggs. Matthew has a greenhouse on their barn, and will now produce fresh leafy greens, and cabbages into the Fall and early Winter.

The majority of their market is word of mouth and direct sales to people who live in the area.

Matthew got into farming for his health. “At thirty years old the lifestyle trajectory I was on was making me feel worse and worse,” said Matthew. A licensed massage therapist and yoga instructor, Matthew began to focus on his diet, particularly the nutrient dense food that is a by-product of regenerative agriculture. “I wanted to build a circle from my income, my daily life to the food on my table. If you don’t have a healthy farmer, you can’t have a healthy farm.”

Matthew grew up in Brainerd, and had no experience farming. He started with rabbits and a kitchen garden at his home in town. By growing and eating the food he raised in town, his life began to change. Three years ago he made the leap and bought 40 acres of land. He is learning by doing, and leaning on the wisdom of other farmers like Jim Chamberlin with the Sustainable Farming Association of Minnesota. “I’m the healthiest I have ever been,” said Matthew. “I lost over 70 pounds, and now work to include more and more good into my life.”

For Matthew, the benefits go far beyond health. “Farming is a work of service,” said Matthew. “Serving the land, serving the culture, serving the people who eat our food. This (style of farming) is the solution to so many of the problems we have with water.”

Contact Matthew directly to buy his carefully raised meat and vegetables: https://pinestonefarm.com/contact/




This pilot project is a partnership between Happy Dancing Turtle, Pine River Watershed Alliance, Minnesota Lakes and Rivers Advocates and the Association of Cass County Lakes, ACCL. Please contact Linda Blake, ACCL President for more information at: blake@umn.edu or Jeff Forester at: jeff@mnlakesandrivers.org for more information.