When we started our farm, the goal was just to raise food for our family. We grew up in Eden Prairie and had read all of the ‘foodie’ books… we wanted to find a farm that was doing EVERYTHING right… not one that was just ‘local’ or just ‘organic’ or just ‘heritage’ or just ‘pasture raised’ or just ‘humane’. We knew that 'organic' food in the store was still from a factory and didn't want any of that!
We wanted NO shortcuts and toured farm after farm… taste testing all the way, but we couldn’t find what we wanted. That’s why we made our own little hobby farm.
It was pretty fun to experiment and we were frankly surprised at the difference. We decided to share our food with others in the community right about the time when our first born came into our lives. It was a busy year to say the least.
"Brownie", one of our first lambs
An image from our first full year where we (and two live-in interns) raised 2000 chickens. We also butchered all of them and delivered that year... along with training the puppy shown in her 16'x16' shelter in the background.
Over the years we’ve found other like minded farmers to partner with and the group has grown to include hundreds of families who want the same as we did. Thankfully the workload has lessoned on the farm as a result…
This is my favorite image of Cliff before he retired. Cliff was/is a great mentor and I was so excited to have him as part of our cooperative. Driving up to his property was a grounding experience, I always felt like I had finally made it home after a long journey.
Cliff tours his pasture
Even with all the great partnerships... and relationships... and grandparent child care, I think this last summer/fall was the busiest we’ve had yet:
While Betsy and I love cooking, food and animals, her first love is music. She’s always known that she wanted to teach music and life has provided her with some great opportunities. I love watching her work with her students; there is just an amazing energy and love of life in the room.
The last few years she has been working part time at the University of Minnesota with the Marching Band. The commute from our farm was pretty rough, but it was only for part of the year, so it was manageable. It helped a lot to have her doing a part time job so we could share the farm and homemaking work most of the year.
Betsy (and baby Shawn) conducting at a Gopher game. Thanks Gopher Photo for the great shot!
That whole balancing act all changed this summer. Betsy was asked to work full time at the University with both the Marching Band and the Symphonic Band (the second concert band). We knew it would be a lot of work and require long days in town; the 2.5 hours of driving every day was no longer an option. We decided to rent a home in-between the farm and her school so we each could commute to our respective work locations.
It was a good thing that we decided to move into town because Betsy volunteered to also take on much of her co-worker's more than full-time responsibilities during a family leave. We were glad Betsy was able to help out and she really enjoyed the opportunity to take on more responsibilities. However, our lives were kind of thrown into a tailspin with her unexpectedly working nearly 100% of the time.
At the same time, I’ve been working on a bunch of farm projects to get it ready to support our new partnership with Lakewinds starting next year. We were lucky to have Josh and Lucas come live at our farm house and take care of day-to-day chores and such. Having them there has been a great help for me so I can focus on the myriad of projects I have always wanted to get done on the farm! They’ve also had some good ideas that we’ve incorporated into the operation.
New feeders that we can move around in the pasture for our hogs...
Looking forward, we will have more time to write newsletters, recipes and do some of the outreach we used to be able to do. I've always wanted to spend more time sharing our love of cooking real food with other families... I think I'll be able to do more of that in 2016.
I am also quite excited to have all of you out for a party early next summer. I’ve also got some other really fun ideas I can’t wait to share!
It has been hard not living on the farm day to day… however, there are some great things about the city. When we moved to the country, I had idealistic visions of what a ‘farming community’ would be like. It turns out most of the landscape is conventional farming, which destroys nature and just looks/is dead most of the year.
Our property and those of the few like-minded friends we found were like an oasis of nature out in a desert. It really is hard to believe that only 30 min away from town a completely different culture and view of the world exists… almost like we moved to another country in a different era.
Conventional fields have only a few weeds or spilled GMO seeds than are able to grow in them if not planted. The field is dead for all but conventional crops. No nature, no wild flowers or animals. For miles and miles and miles, this is the landscape we unknowingly moved into.
A brand new calf. Here is where our animals are born, our pasture is a stark contrast to the conventional agriculture around us... just 30 min from the cities.
Moving back to the city, it was amazing how much MORE nature is around us now. We’re still missing a lot of nature’s plants and animals that were on our farm, but when we go on a walk in town, we have all sorts of trees, animals and such… that was not so much the case when we’d tour around our neighbors' farms.
I can’t wait until our collective vision of agriculture is the standard bearer… I know that sustainable agriculture will win the day… by definition those big unsustainable fields of GMO corn/soy will end someday. In fact, it has been really great to see a few other farms out there starting to do a great job now…
Farms like what we had searched and searched for, but were unable to find just seven years ago. Most farms are still cutting some sort of corner so their prices can compete with others at a farmer’s market, but there are more and more moving in the right direction, I can’t wait until it takes over the entire landscape!
Here Lauren loves up a garter snake we found in the field