Southeast Minnesota Farm Rehoming Livestock

Minnesota Farm Hosting Giveaway to Rehome Pasture-Raised Animals

Susan Payne
By  Susan Payne , DTN Social Media and Young Farmer Editor
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Hoch Orchard & Gardens is hosting a livestock giveaway contest to rehome its pasture-raised pigs and sheep. (Photo courtesy Hoch Orchard & Gardens)

OMAHA (DTN) -- Farmers Harry and Jackie Hoch had to think outside the box when deciding the future of their established 65-acre diversified organic farm in La Crescent, Minnesota.

The couple, in their mid-50s, wanted to step down due to health issues but had no successors in sight. The Hochs reached out to several nonprofit organizations for farm transition options and found helping younger farmers gain access to land and continue to build the established farm business is preferred over the farmland being purchased for recreational development.

Currently, the Hochs are working to finalize an agreement with American Farmland Trust (AFT) to set up a conservation easement. With the help of Renewing the Countryside (RTC), an organization that is coordinating the search for the new farmers, both organizations are clearing the way for a young farmer to gain access to the land and protect its conservation values.

In the meantime, the Hochs are downsizing and reducing the number of livestock on the farm through a unique giveaway contest with Farmland Access Hub to rehome their two sows, one boar, 11 ewes and one ram.

"We want to see the animals go to a good home, a farm that has enough acreage and enthusiasm to raise the animals on pasture in a humane way and continue to use them for organic or sustainable food production," Hoch said.

Applications must be submitted by Monday, May 15, and winners will be announced May 19. Eligible candidates must live within a relatively reasonable distance to the Hoch farm and must have relevant livestock knowledge, experience and infrastructure, as well as adequate pasture to sustain the animals.

"Since we didn't have any new farmers coming in this year, we have to start continuing to downsize and the animals are a huge responsibility," Hoch said. "We've built such a unique operation here and we want to see it continue. We're going out of our way to find the appropriate young farmers to take over."

More than half of American farmers will reach retirement in the next 10 years, according to the U.S. Department of Agriculture. Like the Hochs, many farmers looking to retire are without successors due to a high volume of kin taking a different route in their careers. At the same time, the cost of entry into farming is high, making it difficult for young and beginning farmers to enter the profession at all.

In the tri-state area of Minnesota, Wisconsin and Iowa, organizations RTC, Marbleseed, the Land Stewardship Project, Sustainable Farming Association and Practical Farmers of Iowa, are highly networked within their states to pair young or beginning farmers with different funding options, helping them gain access to land and, at the same time, helping retired or near-retired farmers find successors.

"We're still finalizing the details of a purchase agreement with AFT. The biggest potential of our little farm is more on-farm sales and farm events. As food co-ops and grocery stores utilize less of the local food, there's going to be an open door for more on-farm sales. Our entire farm is designed at the wholesale level to distribute to co-ops in the Twin Cities Metro," Hoch said.

Hoch Orchard & Gardens grows 10,000 fruit trees with more than 50 varieties of apples, as well as cherries, apricots, plums, strawberries and raspberries, a mix of vegetables and livestock on their southeast Minnesota farm. They also have ventures in selling bulk hard cider to a distilling company and winery in Wisconsin and are collaborating with another cidery to make specialty ciders.

Livestock contest applications can be entered here:…. Anyone interested in learning more about ownership possibilities and being the next steward of this farm operation can reach out to Bonnie Warndahl at RTC: or 612-462-9311.

Susan Payne can be reached at

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Susan Payne

Susan Payne
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