Leafhopper Farm is a joy for me personally, and I look forward to the work on this land every day. The animals are why I started this place, with goats, chickens, and pigs being the current livestock residence. I’ve also raised ducks and sheep here before, and probably will again. These animals are manageable, but small in numbers, making it a challenge to compete in markets, as I do not have enough product to sell weekly, or even monthly to a CSA or farmer’s market. The other challenge with selling meat is certification. I understand USDA standards and why they exist, especially in huge factory farms where quality can slip at the cost of quantity. But small farms like mine are at another standard all together, which is not acknowledged in the industrial world. So what am I getting at with this standardization rant? The limitations of small farms and what an individual can produce.
I say individual, because this farm and all that’s growing here right now is stewarded by one person. Granted, there have been a few WWOOFers here helping from time to time, and amazing farm sitters available when I am traveling (not for personal vacation time, but family obligations), and that puts major limitations on what I can manage in the day to day. It’s not overwhelming right now, but could be if I try to start keeping up with production expectations measured on large scale farms with multi generational input and/or hired help.
This fall, I will be taking a class at Washington State University to expand on my understanding of small farms in the current economy, and the viable economic options for sustainable products for viable sales. My continued quest for a holistic small farm which produces healthy food for the greater community is still attainable, and even now I am working to pull enough of the farm’s summer bounty to feed a few classes at local schools.The hurdles to get there continue to be some of my greatest learning curves.
Back in the day, farmers just made sure to have a big family, with plenty of kids and teens to do the chores and take care of the drudgery work. Today small farms often hire out the more difficult work, or avoid it all together by keeping minimal livestock, focusing on vegetable and herb production instead. I love my veggies, but animals are my calling, and I want them to feed me, and produce enough extra for economic viability. All the reading I’ve done on this topic talks about groups of people, or families taking on this challenge. What about the individual? I’ve begun really honing in on what’s possible for one person to hold.
I never expected another to pick up the slack here, but I had hoped others would be motivated to come work and learn, producing something bigger than themselves. It is happening, slowly, and not the way I had imagined, but that’s life. Somehow, I also thought I’d have a partner here who was fully invested in tending with me, and that might also happen one day. For now, I tow the line and hold my vision with steadfast will; appreciating the self awareness being cultivated and the lessons of what I can do if I put my mind to it. This is my dream come true, and I love every learning experience, though I’m not always successful in my attempts.
The amount of animals and gardens I can tend are at their max, offering insight into what one person can manage well, while also making sure that self nurturing happens for ultimate health and happiness. Having other people around the farm is crucial, and their work, though not on the farm, does support in a direct economic way, which keeps Leafhopper Farm secure. I am so thankful for my renters, and their appreciation of this space and the efforts I make. Tending people is also one of my goals with this farm; creating safe space with a peaceful environment to thrive in.
After three full years, there is more clarity about stewardship than ever, and I am so grateful for the experience I’ve gained so far. In this fourth year, I hope to further my poultry initiative by growing my flock for egg production and the possibility of joining an egg co-op in the next year. I’m also expanding my cold storage, to up the quality of meats this farm already produces. Imagine prosciutto and spiced sausage from Leafhopper Farm. The cooler will bring this place one step closer to official certification, something I’ll have to work for if I want to become commercially viable in local markets. This may or may not be the best direction to take things here. Only time will tell.
In reaching my limit of stewardship, I’ve also come to recognize the invaluable lessons of limitations. This is my current boundary to work with, putting proper perspective on what all really goes into running an active place with people, animals, and crops. Thankfully, this vision can flex and bend with both my own needs, and the needs of the land, dictating direction and flow. Imagine what will grow here with more tenders and ambition? That’s where the cultivation of community plays a major role. With my own limits reached, I can now begin asking for the help I need with clear intension, and share my lessons with others eager to produce more and share abundance from the land.