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Farmer-to-farmer networking is key for Petry

By Carol Stender

Date Modified: 04/29/2013 2:28 PM

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WOLVERTON, Minn. — Marie Petry, of Wolverton, likes the philosophy behind farmer-to-farmer networking.

Discussions about crops and livestock often lead to new ideas and problem solving, she said.

Now, she has an opportunity to expand the conversations throughout northwest Minnesota in her new role as director of the Lake Agassiz Chapter of the Sustainable Farming Association.

During her first year of a three-year term, Marie will call producers to tell them about the chapter and SFA events. Marie and her husband, Bob, will host one main event on their farm where they graze a nine-cow Jersey herd, broilers, laying hens and raise vegetables and have fruit trees. It's part of SFA's Festival of Farms and is planned for July 13.

They will demonstrate butchering chickens during the event, she said.

"We live in this area, and we have a small farm," she said. "We want to talk to other farmers in this area who have farms like ours and are as interested in what they are doing as we are."

They are entering their fifth year on the 20-acre farm. It was a horse farm before they purchased it, Marie said. They saw the paddocks and barns and began imagining livestock.

They installed six-string barbed wire fencing around the livestock area, put siding on the shop and transitioned the corrals into paddocks for an intensive grazing system.

"Everything takes time," she said.

They've accomplished a lot in their first four years on the farm. They put up a hay shed, developed an efficient system for on-farm chicken processing and established a series of paddocks.

When a windstorm knocked down several trees late last summer, the couple made plans to develop an orchard. Besides three apple varieties, they plan to plant cherry bushes and raspberries.

The Petrys have five projects in the works this year. They have purchased a 4-wheeler and will use it as they accomplish another goal — planting and caring for trees. They will build a high tunnel that will be used to grow vegetables during spring and summer and will house their layers over winter. They plan to build an "egg mobile" to house their layers on pasture and will plant three different grass mixes on three paddocks as part of their own on-farm study of pasture mixes.

The couple has added some things and discovered that others weren't a good fit. They raised turkeys for three years, a project headed by their daughter, Elizabeth, but now focus on the layers and broilers.

The Petrys also have raised Icelandic sheep but eventually sold them. They didn't make money on the sheep.

"It was good to try it," she said.

Marie grew up on a North Dakota farm and Bob on a dairy farm. Each earned ag-related degrees from North Dakota State University. Marie's degree is in ag economics and Bob received an animal science degree.

Bob has been a herdsman at dairies in Ada and Lisbon. For the past 11 years, he has worked with beef and livestock at Lynn Brakke Organic Farms near Moorhead.

Marie was an ag loan officer until the couple married. She has been a stay-at-home mom and home schooled the couple's two children, Ben and Elizabeth. Now that the children are finishing high school and moving to careers and college, Marie has begun working part-time at Turner Sand and Gravel in Wolverton.

Between their jobs, family and their small farm, it's a busy schedule but one the family enjoys.