“We think that fresh air and sunshine are the best health guarantee.” That’s the quote you’ll see after opening a brochure from Pastures A Plenty Farm. Spend an hour with the VanDerPol family and you quickly understand that those words are much more than just a marketing slogan. It’s the family’s philosophy, according to Adam Czech, USDA public information officer, who posted this report on www.usda.gov.

Pastures A Plenty’s pork products can be found in many co-ops, retail outlets, restaurants and local stores throughout Minnesota. The VanDerPols feed their hogs on grass and straw and use a holistic veterinary approach featuring probiotics and spices instead of drugs.

The result is some great-tasting, locally raised pork and a growing business that helps boost the rural economy.

The VanDerPol’s also have free-range chickens and a cattle-grazing operation, but it’s the pork business that has been picking up steam since 1999.

“Keeping up with demand is a big problem right now,” says LeAnn VanDerPol, who runs Pastures A Plenty with her husband Jim, son Josh and daughter-in-law Cindy at Kerkhoven, MN. Josh and Cindy’s three children also pitch in.

High demand for a product is usually a good problem to have. But it can also be challenging for a small business. To help the growing operation, USDA Rural Development selected Pastures A Plenty to receive two separate Value-Added Producer Grants, one in 2009 for business planning and another in 2012 for working capital and marketing efforts to introduce different retailers and restaurants to its high-quality pork products.

The grants are helping Pastures A Plenty grow from 70 sows to 90, build a new barn, upgrade equipment and improve existing facilities.

All of this is in response to what the VanDerPol’s see as a growing demand for more locally-grown foods.

“A lot of what’s on Facebook right now, it’s ‘go buy local’,” Cindy says. “We’re always trying to connect with current and potential customers. It might be online, it might be with people from church, or it might be a chef in the Twin Cities. There are more markets for our type of product than ever before.”

And new markets continue opening. Cindy and LeAnn say they have seen increased interest in ordering lard, pork liver and kidneys thanks to celebrities using these products on cable television.

Since 2009, USDA has used the Value-Added program to help 12 agricultural producers in Minnesota reach new markets and access valuable working capital.

To find out how USDA programs can help your rural or farm-based business grow, click here.