Abbe and Anderson Turner, their three children, nine hogs, 50 chickens and about as many goats live on a farmstead in Garrettsville. The barn was raised in 1860. The farmhouse was built 10 years later in the traditional upright-and-wing Greek revival Western Reserve style.
“It’s a work in progress," sighs Abbe Turner, “We’ve been here about 10 years. There’s always something more to do.”
But they apparently love doing it. The Turners moved out to the country in part for the children’s sake. Madeline’s about to turn 14, Lily is 12 and Ezra is 9.
Anderson Turner, a sculptor who runs the art galleries for Kent State University, has room for a big studio on the 14-acre farm. Their children do art work as well as farm chores.
“We wanted to try to raise our kids with a healthy respect for science and nature, and play in the dirt, play with the animals.”
And they eat very well.
“Right now we’re flush in asparagus and berries will be coming on soon,” says Turner. “We have many, many beautiful apple trees, so apples are a big part of our diet and eggs from our chickens. They provide meat and the eggs for us, too.”
Poultry, Pigs, and a Pony
About 50 birds and a rooster named Comet roam free at Lucky Penny Farm. The mulefoot hogs stay in the bank barn where Turner visits them often.
“That’s Princess and there’s Angel over there. We keep all the bacon for ourselves and that goes in the family freezer.”
The hogs play a key role in Lucky Penny’s sustainable agriculture. The Turners also operate a state-licensed dairy and by-products of the cheese made there must be disposed of in a way that doesn’t hurt the environment.
“So we actually use the pigs to do the processing," says Turner. “They drink the whey.”
It’s part of a balanced diet that includes brewer’s grains donated by the Main Street Grille and Brewing Co. in Garrettsville.
There’s a ponyon the farm, too.
“Stormy was a rescue, “says Turner. “And she hangs out with the goats. She thinks she’s a goat.
Getting her goats, losing the pantyhose
The goat herd includes Alpines, Nubians, and LaManchas with nothing more important to do than nibble contentedly on alfalfa and hay in a seven-acre field. Only the young males are sold for meat.
“But for the most part, we’re dedicated to 4H,"says Turner. “It’s great for the kids to learn.”
Turner's learning, too, and not just about raising animals. Her work used to be raising money for non-profits.
“I’m delighted that I haven’t worn pantyhose in about five years,” she says. “I’m not going back!”
Community-supported artisan food production
Turner opened Lucky Penny Creamery three years ago in Kent after lots of study, including courses at the University of Wisconsin.
She also learned about the slow food national movement that helps small-scale farms. Consumers contribute to help fund the cultivation of specialty crops and a wider variety of livestock breeds.
Lucky Penny draws dollars from all over Northeast Ohio.
“We’ve been really, really lucky to have so many community members really believe in what we’re doing.”
Turner says her creamery’s primary customers are chefs, such as Doug Katz of Fire in Shaker Square and Karen Small of the Flying Fig in Ohio City. Turner says they're “the local food pioneers, the people who have had local food on the menu since before it was hip.”
Lucky Penny Creamery processes goat’s and sheep’s milk from a number of Amish farms.
“It’s a very small scale thing. We just made 10,000 pounds of cheese last year, which is really nothing compared to some of the huge cheese conglomerates.”
Lucky Penny Farm’s goats are Nubians, Alpines, and LaManchas. Abbe Turner says the Alpines give a greater quantity of milk while Nubians bring a richer milk, higher in protein and in fat. The LaManchas “are just really fun, spunky animals to include in the herd.”
More information about the breeds:
Nubians (Anglo-Nubians): Created by crossing English goats with goats imported from Africa and India. The result is a short-haired goat with long, floppy ears in any color or pattern. They have a long breeding season, so they produce milk all year. They adapt well in hotter climates. Males should be at least 35 inches tall at the withers and 175 pounds.
Alpines (French-Alpines): Originated in the Alps. The goats come in a variety of colors with medium-sized, erect ears. They have short hair, though males have a line of longer hair down their spines and pronounced beards. They're hardy and can adapt to almost any climate. Males should be 34-40 inches at the withers and weigh no less than 170 pounds.
LaManchas: Originated in Oregon, bred from Spanish goats. They’re known for their extremely short ears -- pointed up or down -- which come in two varieties. Gopher style ears should be no longer than an inch, though preferably not visible at all. Elf style ears should be no longer than 2 inches. They have short hair in any color or pattern, are hardy, produce milk well with a high butter-fat content. According to the American Goat society, males should be at least 32 inches at the withers and weigh 155 pounds.
The creamery also produces a goat’s milk caramel candy, which has its own kickstarter campaign.
Turner has also founded a charity called “Recycle Pots and Pans.” Donations of cookware, plates and cutlery are dropped off at the creamery.
She says she wants those in need to be able to prepare and enjoy food at the family table.
Again, it’s small scale. But Turner believes in lucky pennies.
“I believe in pennies, in incrementalism, and that small consistent actions add up.”