We live to serve our community! “The Back 40 Farm” has been in the Arends family in South Willmar, MN for a long time! In 2004 Al and Helen took over operations of the primarily livestock farm. The Arends now have 8 children and a host of inumerable animals roaming the farm and pastures at any given time. Helen is a gifted cook, chef and baker originally from Russia who at one time ran a successful small bakery in Willmar known as the Old Bukavina Bakery. In 2017 they sold the bakery and in 2018 they launched The Back 40 MN Brick Oven Pizza catering; a mobile wood-fired, brick oven pizza catering business serving the greater Willmar and Alexandria, MN area. Al focuses much of his time and energy on his small herd of 20+ cattle that roam-free, rotationally on various pastures of the farm. The Back 40 MN beef is 100% pastured and grass fed with zero use of antibiotics or hormones. Simply put, our beef is about as clean as it can be. Our beef can be purchased in 3 different ways: whole, half or quarter. We work with a highly respected local butcher to process our beef into the variety of cuts you might expect.
Meet The Family
In case you’re wondering… yes, they’re all biological, and no, there are no twins.
How we got here is quite the tale to be told. Legend has it that in his youth, Farmer Al frequently traveled to exotic, far-off lands. On one such daring expedition, he found himself the woman of his dreams, brought her back home with him, and the rest—as they say—is history.
25 years (and many adventures) later, here we all are — living life and truly loving it. (Most of the time.)
Over the years there’s been a coffeeshop, a microbakery, a stint in the military, a CSA, an entertaining experiment with quinoa, a few missing eyebrows, feasts and festivals, an attempt at embracing goat life, an affection for kombucha before it was cool, and much more.
Through it all (and into our current venture with wood-fired pizzas), the main purpose of everything we do is to build relationship and community. Yeah, we want to help people appreciate good food. Yeah, we want to help people eat healthier and build skills.
But most of all, we want to connect — to make sure anyone and everyone knows there’s a place for them at the table with us.
It might be chaotic.
(There’s a lot of us.)
There might be some conversations held entirely in movie quotes.
(It’s a skill they all got from their father.)
There could be tears.
(From mirth or not-mirth, it depends on the evening.)
But there will most certainly be love, good food, and a place to just be.
Whoever you are, welcome.
We’re glad you found us, and we hope you stick around for awhile.
In The News
There’s no smooth way to transition this. . . But over the years we’ve been honored with a couple different spotlights in various forms of media. (Apparently 8 kids and some really good bread is newsworthy here in rural Minnesota. We’re not gonna fight it 🤷♀️)
If you’re interested in learning even more about our family and what we’re doing here on the farm, take a look at some of the features below!
Alternative caption: LOOK MA, WE’RE ON TV!
Family Dinner with Andrew Zimmern
Not gonna lie, this one is hard for even us to believe.
Y’all have heard of Chip and Joanna Gaines, right? They Fixer-Upper those houses into works of art? Yeah well they’re launching a TV network this July and… we had the honor of being involved with one of the shows airing on that network!
Our episode of Family Dinner airs March 12th on Discovery+. Sign up for Discovery+ here and join us for a virtual watch party!
Country Acres — Life on the Back 40
The November 2020 issue of Country Acres includes an extensive writeup of what we’ve been doing over the years, what we’re doing now, and even dips into the things we’ve been discovering related to the feasts of the Lord.
Postcards — Bukovina Old World Bakery
If you’re interested in hearing a longer version of the very short “How we got here” story above, check out this segment from Postcards. It caught us right at the end of our busiest summer ever, right before we launched our bread subscription.
It tells the story of how Al and Helen met, how we ended up here on the farm, and why some of these goodies are so significant to us.
We want to hear from you!
Whether you are looking for someone to cater your upcoming grad party, have questions about raising bees, are yearning for some delicious grass-fed beef, are curious about out upcoming events, or whatever might be on your mind — please don’t hesitate to reach out.
We also strongly encourage you to follow us on Facebook and Instagram. We are much more active on there, and you’ll be able to get a behind the scenes look at a lot of our daily operations here on the farm.