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Alethea Kenney says Icelandic sheep are easy to take care of. They're hearty and function as individuals more than other breeds of sheep. (Riham Feshir / Enterprise)

Organic farm known for Icelandic sheep

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When Alethea Kenney and her husband David Bainbridge finally wanted to settle down, work and live on a farm, they couldn't have picked a better place to stay.

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A 200-acre organic farm that sits on the outskirts of Hubbard County.

"This place turned out to be ideal for a lot of reasons," Kenney Said.

Reedbird Farm was an old dairy farm that was already set up for animals, diverse ecosystems, hardwo-

od forests and hayfields.

When the couple moved up from southern Iowa eight years ago, the farm had been retired for a while, so there were no chemicals added and they didn't have to do a lot of work to turn it into an organic farm.

"It was a really good situation for us because we didn't have to start with a farm that had already been in conventional farming methods," Kenney said.

Registered Icelandic sheep are what makes Reedbird unique.

The primitive breed are a little heartier with a lesser chance of catching common diseases, Kenney said.

They have a double coat with a long silky guard hair to repel rain and snow and a soft crimpy undercoat for insulation from the cold.

Icelandic sheep are easy to take care of and function as individuals more than other breeds of sheep, Kenney said.

Although Reedbird is not a certified organic farm, it's just as strict - if not stricter - than the certification requires.

"Ten years ago, certification might have made a lot of difference to people, but now ... the term sort of lost a lot of its meaning," Bainbridge said.

He added that some certified organic farms are allowed to give antibiotics or add chemicals to the fields.

"We wanted more stringent requirements for our own farm than the certification really offered," Kenney said.

Kenney has a doctorate in traditional naturopathy, which helps her treat sick animals with natural methods.

She finds the missing minerals from the soil, addresses the issue in order to have healthy stock and avoid dealing with the inconveniences and occasional illnesses the animals may catch.

"If I thought that it meant enough for local people that we would go through the certification process, we would do it," Kenney said. "But it means more to people to buy locally from someone who does bio-natural organic methods even without the certification."

In addition to the Icelandic sheep, Reedbird Farm houses chickens and goats.

The couple chooses not to vaccinate the animals and feeds them with certified organic grains and minerals.

And to avoid losing sheep to the predators, the farm houses guard llamas and dogs. An electric fence surrounds the area to also keeps the predators away.

Kenney's expertise has given her the opportunity to teach others about natural methods of living. Her experience living in urban, polluted areas and around chemically induced farms has motivated her to make a difference.

"It seemed like there had to be a better way to do things and once we realized that, then it made sense to try to help other people find ways to live more sustainable," she said.

Recently, she invited the Park Rapids Twisted Stitchers group to visit with her, tour Reedbird and learn about organic farming.

She holds a Bachelor's of Science degree in wildlife, ecosystems and plants. That degree has enabled her to teach people about how medicinal plants fit into the world and how to holistically care for livestock, she said.

She also keeps the farm's Web site - www. reedbird.com - updated with tips and information about organic farming and alternative and natural health.

"In the world we're living in now, everything is so expensive and we're so dependent on foreign oil," Kenney said. "It makes sense to raise as much as you can locally, buy it locally, raise it yourself, whether it's a garden or meats and eggs or fibers."

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