Peter and Sarah Motts are editors of the March 13, 2017 Growing our Generation e-newsletter, featuring insights and ideas directly from Ohio’s young farmers and food and agricultural professionals.
“The simple hearth of the small farm is the true center of our universe.” ~ Masanobu Fukuoka
For many years, my husband and I secretly dreamed of purchasing land and farming. Like most families, there was some land owned by parents or grandparents, but either they were actively farming or succession was not discussed. So our dream remained just that, guiding our decisions, but cloaked in anonymity. Three years ago, with the passing of my grandfather, the opportunity arose to purchase his small farm- 52.5 acres of rolling pasture and field. With a century barn, the traditional white farmhouse, and many quaint outbuildings it was like the stars aligned and shone down on us. Since then, the farm, and the hearth, has truly become the center of our universe. Peter and I, along with our five children- Quinton, 13, Margaret, 10, Lucinda, 7, Cecilia, 3, and Keenan, 1½, are devoted to preserving this legacy for another generation. It has not been easy, though! Keeping our dream afloat still requires full-time jobs off the farm. Peter works for Stark Parks, and I work at Kent State University Salem Campus in Student Services. When we are home, it is all about the farm! Recently, we collaborated with old friends to produce a mini-documentary telling our story. In the video, you can watch as our family interacts with our diverse livestock operation, and hear Peter talk about why he wants to be self-sufficient on our farm by growing the feed we use to nourish our pastured chickens, pigs and cows.
As we started this journey, we both had some background in farming. Peter was raised on a beef farm, and I grew up watching my semi-retired grandfather help at the dairy farm he had established in the 1950s. We knew it would require more than that, though. During our first year, we traveled to Columbus to the Farm Bureau Young Agricultural Professionals conference. Since then, we have also attended the Ohio Ecological Food and Farm Association conference twice. Every time, it has been a growing and learning experience. I cannot stress enough the idea of life-long learning, regardless of the profession you choose! Going to a conference, and listening to new innovative ideas is a great jumping off point for formulating a growth plan for your farm. There are always ways to improve production, encourage sustainable practices, and hone skills. By utilizing these resources, and talking to other farmers, we are able to farm smarter AND harder. Plus, let’s be honest: farming is hard work. Having a good support network of peers who understand the struggles is invaluable! I encourage all beginning farmers to follow others on Instagram and Facebook, research farm websites, and reach out to others. We have developed life-long friendships by doing so, and now have a vast network of knowledgeable farmers to rely on if needed. We are feeding the world…together! Now that we are selling to the public, education has taken on a new role. At markets and through direct sales, we have the opportunity to speak directly to consumers about our practices. We take pride in being transitioning organic, and enjoy sharing our practices and beliefs with an expanding community of customers looking for healthy and local food.
Farming happens after our 8 to 5 jobs, so the kids are along for the ride! That often means that the big kids help with chores while the little kids ‘help’ in their own way. There are many jobs to be done, and some can be done by little hands. Teaching a toddler to carefully handle freshly gathered eggs can be a bit daunting, but after one smash they will understand! Our daughter Cecilia has dubbed herself the turkey girl. Her job was to shoo the turkeys off pasture and into their coop at nightfall. She took such pride in her duties last fall. When Thanksgiving came, and we butchered the turkeys on farm, she was able to learn about the cycle of life and where her food came from. To raise an animal with purpose and pride, for the benefit of others’ nourishment, is the single most honorable job I have held. I hope that our children will be able to feel the weight of that responsibility one day, and will choose to continue farming.
Quinton and Maggie both participate in 4-H. They recently selected their projects for this year, and will be taking steers, a pig, chickens and a lamb. 4-H helps them to learn time management, care of their animals and discover success and failure. Over the last years of involvement, they have experienced the sweet success of receiving a grand champion ribbon, and the bitter disappointment of underweight birds and runaway steers. Allowing them to work hard (or not enough!) now provides a great foundation for their future endeavors.
Our farm sells local, sustainably raised pastured meats. However, I would not feel our homestead was complete without a garden. What once started as just a small plot has grown every year! Friends and family are now pitching in with planting and weeding, offering to buy seed and pay by elbow grease if we will turn over some of the sun ripened goods come summer. I attempted my first bean and pea tee-pee last summer, much to my children’s delight. If you have ever had a child turn their nose up at a vegetable, allow them to plant, water and watch it grow first. When they participate in the process of gardening, suddenly they take ownership, and what once was strange, now becomes familiar. Requests for Brussels sprouts, fresh picked salad, squash and Swiss chard are common for supper at the farm! Planting with the entire season in mind means that dinner can reflect the freshest of ingredients, and gives time to properly put up extra produce.
Do you enjoy growing, baking, cooking and sharing locally-sourced, naturally grown, delicious whole food? If so, please request to join my Facebook Group: The Locavore Kitchen! All are welcome…posts can feature every aspect of food– from seed or field to table.
My favorite day of the week is Saturday. Our Saturdays are usually spent at the market in the morning, working on a project or 10, schlepping the kids from hither to yon, and trying to catch up on housework and laundry. Sounds normal, right? It is also my night to go all out, and spend time in the kitchen cooking. I pick a special cut of our meat- beef steaks, thick-cut pork chops or roast, a whole chicken and select fresh ingredients for sides either from the market or our garden. The kitchen fills with the smell of herbs and spices, and warmth emanates from the stove. Sometimes all the kids are home, and we have family or friends over. It’s elbow to elbow at the table, and can get quite loud! But as I sit and prepare to serve a meal that was conceptualized months earlier from seed or field, I can’t help but swell with pride. The sweat, tears, success and fears of farming have produced a feast– for us, for our family and friends, for our customers. We are so blessed to be living our dream, and farming. If you are ever in Stark County, please stop and visit. You will be sure to leave with a bundle from the garden, some dirt on your pants from grimy kid hands, and new friends.