MARQUETTE - On Joe and Jennifer Wixtrom's farm, everything has a use. They use their pigs to till the soil, chicken manure as fertilizer for their fields and the garden weeds as feed for their farm animals.
"We have grass-fed beef, pastured pork, we have pastured chickens and we sell free-range eggs," said Jennifer Wixtrom. Together with her husband and their seven children, she owns and operates Blueberry Knoll Cattle Company in Sands Township.
The Wixtroms said they chose the farm lifestyle years ago, after they became disappointed with subdivision living.
Larissa Wixtrom, 8, feeds chickens at her parents’ naturally grown farm, Blueberry Knoll Cattle Company, in Sands Township. (Journal photo by Miriam Moeller)
Shown is a yellow squash plant at the Blueberry Knoll Cattle Company in Sands Township. (Journal photo by Miriam Moeller)
"We moved into a subdivision, but we're both from the country, we can't live like that; it's like living in a box," Jennifer Wixtrom said.
The Wixtroms, who both work as nurses in addition to running their 80-acre farm, moved to Sands Township in 2003.
"We hand plant, hand weed, hand harvest," Wixtrom said. "We can our own vegetables and preserve our own food. We pick our own fruits. We do everything almost like in an old-fashioned grandma's story."
Raising all-natural beef, pork and broiler chickens, the Wixtroms utilize, reuse and recycle as much as they can. For instance, they use their pigs to till up land they want to use for pasture or a garden in the future. Droppings from their meat chickens functions as a fertilizer for the grass; they use the wood from their land to heat the house, any left-over food scraps are fed to the farm animals, paper waste is burned and anything else is recycled.
"We don't have very much waste in our garbage each week," Wixtrom said.
In addition to raising animals for meat, the Wixtroms also raise sheep that Jennifer shears.
"I don't treat it at all," she said about the organic wool that she sells at the local farmer's markets.
Although their garden began simply as a project to feed themselves, the family now sells their surplus at the markets. Greens, tomatoes, herbs, corn, pumpkins, squash, peppers, peas, potatoes, carrots and more can be found in the Wixtrom's garden.
During August and September the farmers get serious about making arrangements for how many animals - depending on their customers' needs - they will slaughter in the fall.
"We're getting ready for the butchering season," Wixtrom said.
The family gets up at 5:45 a.m. to prepare for their sales at farmer's markets, to weed, harvest and keep the farm family fed and happy.
"We just do what our family can manage," she said.
Blueberry Knoll Cattle Company produce is sold at the farm and the weekly Marquette and Negaunee farmer's markets. They also supply local stores with their produce. For more information, call 346-4642.