The fifth-generation rancher from northern Minnesota relies on sustainable farming to improve the land for both animals and humans.
Jason and Charity Helstrom’s kids are kneeling in the dirt, heads down, their hands digging through the dark soil. When they look up, all six of them are holding bundles of worms. And they’re smiling (the kids, not the worms). For Jason, a fifth-generation rancher, it’s a sight to celebrate—not only because of the joy on his children’s faces, but because an abundance of worms is a key indicator of healthy soil.
Jason’s great-great-grandfather, Jacob, established Helstrom Farms in the early 1900s after emigrating from Finland. The family’s plot of land in northern Minnesota—where Jason was born and raised—has grown in the century since, shifting from cultivating potatoes into a cattle and chicken operation. But it’s not what’s on the land that’s changed the most¬. It’s the land itself.
About a decade ago, Jason and his father, Mike, transformed the 160-acre property into a sustainable farming operation. They started by introducing a process called mob-grazing in which cattle are moved to a new pasture segment every 12 hours. Rather than eating the grasses all the way down to the soil, the cows munch on tall stalks of grass; this practice reduces erosion, better sustains the root systems, and helps restore the ecosystem. “It’s working with nature, rather than against it. The cattle help nurture the very land on which their food grows,” says Jason, 39. “This way of farming takes more time and patience but will pay off for generations.”
Surrounded by thousands of acres of wild, native woodland, Helstrom Farms isn’t influenced by chemical or water run-off from other agricultural projects, which leaves the property pristine. Jason is maintaining that unsullied landscape by relying on a more natural grazing process (one inspired by the bison that roamed North America’s prairies).
The positive impacts are evident: Plant species have reappeared. Deer and turkey and flocks of birds are present in greater numbers than ever before. And worms are abundant. “We look at soil as a living organism. Soil that is full of life is soil that supports lush, healthy, natural growth. And that growth is then full of the minerals and nutrients animals need,” Jason says.
Grass-fed beef is also good for human health. The True North Woods Organic meat has up to five times the Omega-3s as grain-fed beef, less cholesterol, and higher levels of vitamins A and E and macronutrients such as potassium and iron. Helstrom beef is free of additives, hormones, pesticides, and unnatural supplements, as are the farm’s pasture-raised chickens.
One of the family’s favorite dishes is Charity’s chicken pot pie. From the homemade pie crust to the farm-raised chicken to the gravy cooked from their own chicken stock, it’s love in a bowl. “It makes me feel good to know I’m feeding my family healthy, clean meat that’s straight off the farm,” Charity says. The family wants to share that good feeling with more people.
Currently, Helstrom Farms sells its beef and chicken direct to consumers through its website and to a handful of discerning area restaurants such as Stay’d, who’s menu focuses on modern takes on wholesome, home cooked comfort foods that are available through their online food deliver service. That means you can now order quality Helstrom products for dinner too, direct to your house and freshly prepared by Stay’d - including popular menu entrees like the braised short ribs and the locals’ favorite Heavenly Hot Dish casserole.
Jason knew at four years old that he wanted to be a farmer. Today, he has three goals for his family farm: “We want to take care of the environment—we want to leave it way better than we found it. We want to give our animals a good life. And we want to provide clean, nutritious, and delicious food for our customers.”
Stay’d is proud to partner with local farmers like Jason in our quest to elevate the quality and experience of online food ordering and dinner delivery services through our St. Paul and Minneapolis restaurant locations. Naturally, we support his goals for his family farm and are grateful such high quality, healthy and sustainable products are made available to us and our customers.