ST. JOSEPH, Minn. (AP) — Jim Degiovanni clears his throat and unlocks a gate on his farm.
“Come on sheep, out to pasture,” the Dancing Bears Co. farmer yells at the top of his lungs.
Charging behind Degiovanni comes a herd of bleating Icelandic sheep, a breed dating back to the Vikings that’s raised for lamb meat and sold at the St. Joseph Farmers Market, Minnesota Street Market Co-Op and to local restaurants.
Dancing Bears Co., named after a painting by Degiovanni’s daughter, also sells chickens and a variety of fruits and vegetables from the 40-acre farm, the St. Cloud Times reported.
“When we first moved out here 12 years ago, I had no intention of doing this,” Degiovanni said.
His previous profession was as a lawyer. But after being encouraged to raise sheep by a member of his church, Degiovanni found a new passion. He soon retired from law to focus on farming full time.
“Both careers have served him well,” said his wife Mary, Sartell’s city administrator. “Farming came at a different phase of life.”
And it was a natural transition.
“Jim is a people person,” Mary said. “To make a living in this industry you have to interact with people to sell your product. He’s perfect out with customers at the farmers market.”
Jim, who grew up in Rosemount, has his hand in variety of products. He’s constantly researching new products. He claims to have brought the first kale to the St. Joseph Farmers Market.
“Now everybody does it — it’s become such a popular superfood,” Jim said.
He’s now experimenting with a cabbage/cauliflower cross called Romanesco broccoli, an apple orchard, plums and honey making. Jim even grows his own hops as part of a home brewing hobby.
A high tunnel allows Dancing Bears Co. to harvest cucumbers, tomatoes and peppers weeks ahead of schedule. He also has strawberry and raspberry plants.
Everything he does has an emphasis on organic principles — a sign by the farm’s driveway even politely asks people to not use chemicals on the property.
And his days of wearing suits and working in courtrooms is a thing of the distant past.
“I love it — my life is so much better now,” Jim said. “I have more peace of mind. There’s less conflict. And I’m working at my own pace.
“All of that together makes it so great.”