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Small-farm living

Brainerd native Matt Weik is a third-generation pig farmer, but he didn't set out to emulate the family business.

The family started with vegetables and had a few pigs, in an effort to "live outside the system" with purchases paid for outright and no dependence on banks, Matt said.

At various points in his life Matt ran landscaping and trucking businesses and worked in sales. Only last year did YKer Acres turn into what it's become now, when it started selling to its largest client Red Table Meats Co., in Minneapolis, which receives five to eight animals every other week. YKer Acres pork products are also found in Duluth at the Whole Foods Co-op, Lake Avenue Cafe, Northern Waters Smokehaus, Tycoon's, Beaner's Central and Pizza Luce.

"The big thing to us is that virtually every part of the pig is used," said Matt, noting even the skin is used by Red Table Meats.

Matt and his wife, Sara, who both attended the University of Minnesota Duluth, run the farm mostly alone with help from 18-year-old Josey when he's home. Josey, who is home-schooled, is an established cyclocross rider. It's a sport that combines road biking with cross country running while carrying a bike. He has been given 10 acres of land to farm when his career is over, and he's thinking about raising lambs.

The couple hasn't been able to leave the farm together for an extended period for two years, so at some point soon, they plans to hire help.

Sara — also a doula — cares for the sows and piglets and handles births, or farrowing. She also manages the accounting portion of the business out of their square-cut log home, which Matt built. Matt handles sales and dealings with customers, deliveries and bi-weekly trips to the processor in Hudson, Wis.

Matt and Sara both feed and water the animals, change bedding and mend fences, and tend to the never-ending chores of a working farm. They still haul heavy buckets of food to the animals and get the massive amounts of water they need out of a bulk tank fueled by a generator. Automatic feeders are on the list and they hope to dig water lines this summer. The family handles 1,000 pounds of feed per day.

"If Matt got hurt, that would be huge; if I got hurt, that would be huge," Sara said.

The family isn't yet making much of a profit, dumping everything back into the farm.