By Jennie Zeitler, Staff Writer
“I have such a passion for farming that I cannot imagine life without raising and caring for animals and growing crops and produce,” said Cheri Sauerer.
Sauerer, who did not grow up on a farm, has farmed with her husband, Don, on the 227-acre farm south of Avon where he grew up since they married in 1982.
DCBL Acres, named for Don, Cheryl, daughter Becky who passed away at age 15, and daughter Lynn, began with dear family friend Lawrence Raden.
Raden moved onto the farm at age 9 to help owner Mike Mergens. After Mergens died, Raden partnered with his sister Dorothy and her husband Elmer Sauerer.
Raden lived and farmed with his sister’s family for the rest of his life. When Elmer and Dorothy’s children were grown, and they built a house across the road, Raden stayed with their son Don in the original house.
When Don married Cheri, Raden built a house across the road next to Elmer and Dorothy. Raden was actively farming until just months before he died in 2011.
He raked all the hay, and he and Cheri did the gardening and canning. He ate with Don and Cheri nearly every day. He got around the property on a four-wheeler with an oxygen tank strapped on back.
“He was my very best friend,” Cheri said.
The Sauerers raise hay, oats and corn, along with dairy cattle.
Cheri is deathly afraid of the cows. “They are bigger and taller than me and they run faster,” she said.
Don suggested she raise sheep so that she would have something of her own. “Peaches was my first lamb,” she said. Currently, she raises 48 Dorset ewes and many lambs, which are processed for meat.
Following the advice of a veteran sheep farmer, the Sauerers acquired an Alpine goat a few years ago to have an alternate source of milk for lambs whose mothers could not provide.
That turned out to be an adventure. She wouldn’t stay in a pen and could leap over a four-foot gate. She also ripped apart bungee cords on gates. After about a year, the goat was sold to a young girl who now shows her at the fair.
The Sauerers also raise chickens. “Elmer taught me how to take care of chickens,” said Cheri. “The barn I spend most of my time in is the laying barn.” There are California White, Red Rock and Americana laying chickens.
At least 600 Cornish broilers are processed per summer in batches of 100.
“Chickens are not too tall, can’t run faster than I can and only have two feet,” said Cheri with a chuckle.
There are three retired horses with a permanent home at DCBL Acres. Kate and Ruby were ridden by the family in their younger years, and Bailey is a Class A Miniature that Cheri and the girls found.
Following Don’s heart attack at age 36, the Sauerers did some research about health and food and decided to change the way they grew food to eat.
“We heard more negatives about processed food, and genetically modified organisms (GMO), and we had a good feel for organic methods. Becky had always talked about growing organic,” said Cheri.
“We changed to organic and were certified in 2000,” she said. “It took longer than the usual three years, because Elmer and Lawrence didn’t immediately agree.”
All their canned goods, produce, crops and acreage are certified organic. “The animals are not certified because we use a local food processor who is not organic. He does process our organic meat first thing in the morning prior to doing other meat,” she said.
The Sauerers have a wholesale food handlers license that allows them to sell off the farm as well as at the farmers markets and the Good Earth Food Co-op in St. Cloud.
Don and Cheri have always worked full-time off the farm. For many years, Don’s father Elmer and Raden did much of the farming so that worked.
Using farmers markets was meant to begin a slow transition to full-time farming, but “it took off more than we expected,” Cheri said, “and we don’t want to back off now.”
DCBL produce and meats can be found at the St. Cloud Farmers Market, the Midtown Farmers Market in St. Cloud and the Good Earth Co-op. Special orders for chickens are taken through the Co-op, at the farmers markets or by calling DCBL at (320) 250-3786. Orders of 10 or more birds receive a discount.
Cheri predicted, “We’ll be doing this until we retire when we’re at least 80 — whenever we can’t anymore.”