For Maple township elk farmer, faith and family are key
Twelve miles southwest of downtown Pequot Lakes, just off County Road 1 and nestled among acres of cattle and corn fields, is a small hobby farm with some unique residents.
Owned by Jerry and Linda Campbell of Maple Township, Stony Brook Elk Farm is home to at least two cats, a dog, an asparagus patch and a herd of around 20 elk. It’s no wonder why Jerry Campbell has lived his entire 50 years within five miles of where he currently resides; the peacefulness of the landscape is palpable.
Campbell, a graduate of Pine River-Backus High School (PR-B), began farming elk more than 22 years ago after first trying his hand at deer. No stranger to the farmer’s life, Campbell grew up milking cows on his parents’ dairy farm and spent summers at his uncle’s dairy farm in Wisconsin as a young boy. After his parents sold their farm, his father, Jerry Sr., went into the house moving business, starting the company Campbell now heads, C-B Movers, in 1978.
Around 10 years later, Campbell met his wife, Linda, also a PR-B graduate, at a friend’s house.
“I asked her if I could call her sometime, and she said, ‘Yeah, but you never will.’ But I did, I called her,” Campbell said. “I was into softball back then, and so was she, so that was kind of a mutual interest. She started coming to my games, and I would go to hers.”
The couple married in 1990 and has two children, Taylor, 21, and Waylon, 18. Taylor is a recent graduate of Crown College in St. Bonifacius; Waylon works with his father in the moving business.
In 1993, Campbell and other farmers founded the Minnesota Elk Breeders Association, in part to lobby for legislation that would recognize elk farming as agriculture instead of game farming. The association was successful, and Campbell said this was a big step for elk farming.
Besides the daily chores of feeding, watering and ensuring the elk herd has hay, each spring Campbell harvests the velvety antlers of his bucks.
Somewhat surprisingly, the antlers — not the meat — represent the bread and butter of elk farming. Practitioners of traditional Chinese medicine revere elk antler as a natural pain reliever, and in recent years this practice has found its way into Western medicine as well.
For himself, Campbell takes an elk antler supplement each morning to help with the pain associated with his three knee surgeries. He also sells the supplements along with elk meat directly from his farm.
Campbell never planned to be an elk farmer, or a house mover, for that matter, but he approaches both with the gusto of someone who enjoys hard labor.
“We always liked the work, and the physical part of it never bothered us,” Campbell said. “It’s always been long hours, but that part we enjoyed.”
Campbell finds the time to be involved in his community, notably as a supervisor for Maple Township for 12 years. He is an avid outdoorsman and has hunted since age 12. Focused mostly on deer hunting, he has also bow hunted for elk in Montana and Washington state and has tried his hand at bear hunting.
Locally, he is a member of the Whitetail Archery Club in Pequot Lakes.
Campbell and his family are active members of the Pequot Lakes Baptist Church, where he is a board member. He, his daughter and other church members just returned from a two-week mission trip to Ecuador, where they helped build a new church. Besides fishing trips to Canada, the mission trip was the first time he has left the country.
Campbell had a health scare while in Ecuador; prone to kidney stones, he had an attack after becoming dehydrated while working with cement in extreme heat and was taken to a local clinic After treatment and a shockingly low bill of $134, the pain subsided and Campbell continued with his mission work.
“Overall, the experience was good. The people were really awesome,” Campbell said. “They always say you get more blessings going on a trip than you ever give. I could say it was true for me as well.”
Campbell said the most important things in his life are his faith and his family.
“Our family’s close. It seems to me there is such an advantage in families that are close and can work together as opposed to being on your own,” he said. “It’s just a lot easier with close family.”