Our first virtual field trip of the 2021-22 school year was to Backlund Acres! We met chickens, pigs, cows and checked out how to grow microgreens. Sheila Backlund believes that healthy soil brings healthy animals which in turn bring healthy people. Learn more and see some farm animals from your classroom! This virtual field is targeted for K-5 students.
About Backlund Acres
Shelia and her husband started farming eight years ago. Their farm started with small and grew to where they are today. The small garden next to their home with the first plant Sheila had ever grown has expanded to them moving to a farm where they grow lots of microgreens and have livestock.
The Backlund Acres Microgreens
Radishes, peans, sunflowers and other varieties of microgreens (a baby plant) are grown at Backlund Acres. During the virtual field trip, Sheila shared the radish variety. First, she uses a tray of potting soil, then sprinkles the radish seeds on the top and presses into the soil. The pressure and tray topper helps with germination (Germinate: A seed growing its roots and turning into a plant, also known as spurting) over being watered.
The tops, or leaves, of the radishes are cut off to sell at the market. The whole radish is not uprooted so that the greens can continue to grow. Microgreens are up to 30 times as nutritious or healthy as the radish itself. This is an easy way to get a lot of nutrients without needing to eat a lot of vegetables.
Before bringing the greens, radish tops, to market, Shelia likes to put edible flowers on the top of the individual containers. The flowers that are used in the video are marigolds and nasturtium. Other edible flowers are snapdragons. These flowers are also planted on the farm to help with attracting pollinators (bees, hummingbirds, butterflies and others that carry pollen from one flower to other to help the plants grow). Marigolds are also great flowers at deterring away pests such as mosquitoes.
The Livestock and Their Role on the Farm
At the Backlund Acres, they grow many different types of vegetables for the market and their CSA (community Supported Agriculture). Due to their soil type being clay, some of the root vegetables (potatoes and carrots for example) have not been planted yet. The hope is with the help of their animals, next year they will be able to plant some of these crops.
Pigs in the Garden Beds
The animals have their own jobs on the farm. Pigs will go into a garden bed after markets are done for the year and dig up the roots from the ground. This is part of their natural behavior and something they enjoy to do. In the spring, there will be less weeds and the ground will be ready to plant. Digging for them is easy and fun because their noses act as a shovel into the ground. Bugs (such as the squash vine borers that ate the farm’s squash this year) like to go into the ground and wait to come up into the spring. The pigs will help to deter them away with their digging.
The 24 pigs on the farm were bought from a pig breeder. Since they purchased the pigs when they no longer needed milk from their mother, there is no a mom and a dad big on the farm. The pigs are doing great this year and enjoy being out in the soil to range and dig.At the Backlund Acres, they find that if their animals are less friendly they are more likely to defend themselves from a predator (coyotes, foxes and one of farm’s biggest predators are owls). The bigs are pre-sold to customers to be brought to the market in November through December.
There are currently 1,600 chicks on the farm to be egg layers that are raised for another farmer. The chicks are a variety of different breeds that people generally like to buy here in Minnesota. At Backlund Acres, they try to raise breeds that are good at living outside so they are good at surviving with predators and survival instincts.
Egg layer chickens job is to lay eggs and fertilize the ground. They are kept closer to the pigs to keep the predators away. They also like a similar habitat as the pigs. The mobile coop on wheels that was featured in the virtual field trip can move around as the chickens are moved around the farm. In side the coop are nesting boxes for the chickens to lay their eggs.
On the farm, there are five mamas (called cows), one dad (called a bull), two teenaged calf (also known as a calf) and one baby calf who was just born. Almost every year, the five cows will each have a calf. Their gestation period (time of being pregnant) is the same amount of time as humans, 9 months.
While on the pasture, the cows eat grass. They are 100% grass fed. As ruminants (an animal with multiple stomaches), they do very well on grass. In the winter, the cows will be fed hay (which is dried grass).
The Backlund Family
Shiela has three children ages 15, 12 and 10. They help her throughout the summer with the animal chores, microgreens and going to markets. In return for their help on the farm, Sheila enjoys bringing them to sporting events and school.
Sheila’s favorite part of being a farmer is getting to work outside everyday and growing plants. In the future, she wants to expand working with other farmers and creating a larger CSA next year. This partnership with other farmers and working together makes things more efficient. Sheila wants to continue the co-op with families who can take home their vegetables and meat at a discounted rate for helping around the farm and in the garden. Her business goal is to create a place for people to work together to make healthy food.