Hannah Bernhardt – owner of Medicine Creek Farm, a beef, lamb, and pork operation in Finlayson, Minnesota – grew up on an industrial corn and soybean farm during the “Farm Crisis” of the 1980s. Up until 10 years ago Hannah never imagined returning to industrial agriculture – her experience with conventional agriculture showed bleak returns and a lackluster horizon. She instead found footing in politics and government in St. Paul, MN and Washington, DC.
But regenerative agriculture struck a chord. Experimenting with rooftop gardens in Brooklyn, NY, Hannah caught wind of soil health practices, and healthy soil’s ability to improve the environment. Better yet, she learned these solutions offered farmers a healthier, sustainable way to live off the land. So in 2015, Hannah returned to her roots in Minnesota and started a pastured pig operation, Belly Rub Bacon. She dove in headfirst – she milked sheep at Shepherd’s Way Farm, harvested garlic and ginger at Seven Songs Organic Farm, helped her dad plant and harvest crops, and sold cheesemaking kits at Roaring Brook Dairy. Business was booming, and hope was alive.The duo learned about regenerative farming and ranching from some of the best teachers: they traveled with the Practical Farmers of Iowa to Gabe Brown‘s no-till, rotationally grazed livestock farm in North Dakota, attended numerous field days and farm conferences through MOSES and the Sustainable Farming Association of MN, and completed the Land Stewardship Project‘s Farm Beginnings course. In 2016, Hannah and Jason purchased 160 acres of rolling hay fields and wildlife-filled wetlands in the St. Croix River Watershed, an hour south of the Great Lake Superior, on the edge of Minnesota’s north woods – today’s Medicine Creek Farm.
Medicine Creek raises 100% grass-fed and finished beef and lamb as well as pastured pork supplemented with organic grain from a local organic crop farm. They use management intensive, adaptive rotational grazing and move their animals to fresh grass daily. The farm coexists with Minnesota’s Timberwolf habitat, and as such Medicine Creek uses livestock guardian dogs to protect their sheep and young calves from predators. They also raise livestock guardian puppies to help other pasture-based farmers raise animals alongside healthy, thriving wildlife.Just recently, Hannah and Jason completed Soil Health Academy’s Regenerative Agriculture 101 online course through Kiss the Ground’s Farmland Transition Program. Since taking the course and receiving baseline soil testing through the program, they’ve been reassured that their regenerative practices are benefitting the land.
“It is such a relief to find a program that is supporting our vision, behind us 100%, and offering exactly the kind of consulting most needed by beginning regenerative farmers,” explains Hannah. “There is a great need for on-the-ground support; someone to walk the land with us, look at our soils closely, provide encouragement, and share wisdom to help us through the self-doubt. We’re thankful Kiss the Ground and its partners listened to our needs and believed in us.”After their perseverance and proven wins, Hannah and Jason have become an influential name in their community. A few new regenerative farms popped up near Medicine Creek, and Hannah and Jason have joined a community of like minded farmers as members of the Minnesota Farmers Union, Sustainable Farming Association, Land Stewardship Project, Central Minnesota Young Farmers Coalition, and Practical Farmers of Iowa.
During the pandemic, Jason made time to restore a rare 1880’s barn that he found on Craigslist; the barn is a mortice and tenon timber frame held together with wooden pegs. The reconstructed barn is now the centerpiece of Hannah and Jason’s growing agritourism project; guests can stay in the first floor apartment, which they hope to turn into a visitor’s center and farm store where they could sell their own product as well as nearby friends’ produce and eggs. They also offer a trailer on HipCamp for accommodations, hoping more and more people will visit the farm and learn about their regenerative practices.
Learn more about Hannah and Jason’s story, and visit Medicine Creek Farm on their website.