Little Piggies, Fainting Goats
Tenderfoot: From Placer to Farm
By Kathy Bedell © Leadville Today
Pull out the Old West dictionary and the term “tenderfoot” could be found to describe a newcomer or novice, especially a person unaccustomed to the hardships of pioneer life. In that regard, the ascribed name of Tenderfoot Farm appears to be ironic once you know the history of this quaint placer located 15 miles south of Leadville Today.
Following owner Misti Cureton down to the pigpen, it was clear that this sixth-generation Lake County resident who runs the farm with her husband JR Fearneyhough, and the Tenderfoot Team, is no ill-prepared pioneer. Locally, this is what is known as coming from good Leadville stock. In fact, some LT readers may remember Misti’s father, all-around-good-guy “Kenny Mac” MacLennan a longtime employee at the former Sayer-McKee Drug Store who passed away in 2011.
However, the family tree has much deeper roots. The couple bought the property from Misti’s family after the passing of her grandparents, Elmer “Fatty” and Alice (Madigan) MacLennan.
“We are the sixth generation to live on this land, and in standard Cureton tradition, we are making our living and raising our children right here in Balltown,” the Tenderfoot Farm website explains.
The narrative continues: In the past, the Cureton family-owned and operated Cureton Lumber Company and Motel, and the Balltown Bar, all while raising cattle and buffalo right here at home. Our mission is to make our customers feel like part of the family by keeping the hometown’s hardworking traditions that have made us who we are.
What started out in 2018 with a few chickens for eggs has grown to a full-on operation including pigs and the ever-popular fainting goats which they bred at the farm. This family works the earth much like Misti’s family has for generations, initially establishing itself as the Tenderfoot Placer an area that truly is a deposit of sand or gravel in the bed of a river, containing particles of valuable minerals. By the map, Tenderfoot Farm sits at the crossroads of Highway 24 south and Highway 82 (road to Independence Pass) a historic junction in Lake County’s history offering food, drink, and lumber to Rocky Mountain travelers and the ones who choose to stay here.
This Little Piggy Went to Market
“We started with 15 pigs this year (2020) and it’s going really well,” explained Misti as the piglets happily scurried about almost in a Wilburesque way just as unknowing to what their eventual fate would be. “We keep them for you, we raise them and when it’s time, we send them to our butcher who can specialize orders based on cut.”
The whole process is about 8 months and will supply a family (4) up to about a year’s worth pork products averaging out to $5/pound. Happy hogs raised in the fresh mountain air! Sooey!
During Leadville Today’s visit to Tenderfoot Farm in the pandemic spring of 2020, Misti had already gained valuable knowledge of pigs during the inaugural year. For instance, pigs don’t sweat, and while their diet consists mostly of vegetables, they don’t care for mushrooms and onions.
According to the Tenderfoot Farm website: Purchase pigs you can count on by reserving your pasture-raised pork from Tenderfoot Farm! Pigs are purchased by March, so they have a limited number available every year. These pigs are well cared for during their lives. They manage the butchering and packaging for you, so all you have to do is pick your pig up in October. Pasture-raised pork comes from pigs that live how pigs might live if left to their own devices in the wild. They graze in open fields and pastures and are free to move about. Claim yours before they are gone!
Cluck, Cluck, What the Duck, Duck Goose!
While the pigs at Tenderfoot Farm go to slaughter, the hens just come to roost laying plenty of farm fresh eggs which can be bough by the dozen on The Tenderfoot Farm website.
“C’mon ladies,” Misti says, opening the door to the spacious coop, allowing a couple dozen hens to float to the feeding barn like a cloud of feathers. The clucking and hen-pecking seem orchestrated as two hens climb the ramp to the roosting area, contently offering up their contribution to the dozens which sell for $5-6. Other birds of a feather do flock together down at Tenderfoot Farm.
The Cutest Things on Earth!
By far, the big hit at Tenderfoot Farm are the fainting goats.
“I don’t know why they faint,” said JR Fearneyhough who runs Balltown Mini Motors repairing ATVs and 4-wheelers from a full-sized garage on the farm’s property. Known in the “kid” circles as the goat breed “myotonic” or “Tennessee fainting,” these adorable creatures are characterized by “myotonia congenita,” a hereditary condition that may cause the goats to stiffen or fall over when startled.
It’s worth noting during LT’s many visits to the farm, the film crew was not able to record one fainting episode! This sure-footed, goat-teed group seemed pretty happy and ready to pose for a close-up.
But why not come and see them for yourself. Much like the generations before them, this family’s business model includes a mix of many things to pay the bills and put food on the table.
“We did not base our business on one common need,” the Tenderfoot Team writes. “We looked at several different needs and incorporated them into one. You can come here to get your car fixed at Balltown Mini Motors, buy a fainting goat, get fresh eggs, tea, bacon, and more …”
Shop their organic and homemade items. Support their hardworking traditions that have made us who we are. Tenderfoot Farm is truly unique. Pick up a gift , support a local artist, farmer, rancher and some of the deepest roots you’ll find south of Leadville Today.
Colorado Journalist Kathy Bedell owns The Great Pumpkin, a digital media company located in Leadville, Colorado which publishes Leadville Today and Saguache Today. She may be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.