We want to thank Marie and her husband from Millview Farms for our last “Tell Us Your Story” feature - sharing their story of their farm and homestead in Southern Ontario. If you get a chance, check out Marie’s great work on her blog, Plowing in Pearls ( http://plowinginpearls.com).
We travel back to the States this week to Germantown, Ohio for the story of Lisa, Jason and Raven Mist Farm (http://ravenmistfarm.wordpress.com/). Lisa and Jason are a great example of the hard work and inginuity that goes into living the dream of your own farmstead. They grow a wide variety of crops, have created a CSA, and raise chickens for eggs and meat – all on a tight budget.
To follow along each week with our Sunday feature “Tell Us Your Story”, you can simply enter your email address on the right of our blog and click “follow”. Better yet – if you know of a farm that would make a great feature story, click on our “Tell Us You Story” tab and let us know all about it!
So here, in their words, the story of Lisa, Jason and Raven Mist Farm:
Thanks much to Mary and Jim for using their blog for a forum for all of us to share our stories! We are Lisa, Jason and Xena (our 3 year old German Shepherd), and we are living the dream on a very tight budget here at Raven Mist Farm in Germantown, Ohio. I think our story starts a little differently than most, we kind of backed into the farming idea. In February of 2011, we bought this place because it was close enough to my job – yet far enough out that we would have a little space. And – we could afford it! The house is 100 years old and had been empty for the past 10 years. Needless to say it needs LOTS of work.
We moved here in March and spring fever prompted us to begin on the outside first. We put in a small perennial bed and then as the weather warmed, we added an herb garden and a small vegetable garden. (I work a second job at a local garden center in the spring, so most of the plants were free or discounted.) I was afraid that the garden would not do very well that first year. The fields all around us had been farmed for commercial corn and soybeans – and I assumed that the soil would not be very fertile, but that first little garden provided us with bumper crops of tomatoes, peppers, and okra, along with a few watermelons and pumpkins.
That little garden sprouted more than produce for us, and thoughts of a better life began to emerge. We watched Jason’s sister raise a couple of backyard chickens, so we began to do some research, and in September we ordered 50 Silver Laced Wyandotte chicks. We now have 10 hens and 2 roosters; the hens just began laying their first eggs about 3 weeks ago. We are able to sell our eggs before we even gather them! Along the way, we lost a few of the babies to a falcon and one got out one day and just kind of flew into the mouth of Xena (our German Shepherd)! The rest ended up in the freezer and fed us this winter when money was tight. We used frozen pumpkin through the holidays and provided our families with their Jack-o-lantern pumpkins. We’ve had gumbo made with our own frozen okra – made in a slow simmering iron pot over an open fire outside. We frequently add dehydrated and frozen hot peppers to stews and soups. Most of the soup stock we use is made from the feet of the butchered chickens.
As the months progressed, my job just kept cutting back hours and upping the work load. We live 25 minutes from the nearest populated area. Gas prices have continued to rise along with the cost of everything that is shipped, and our paychecks just were not covering what we needed. We figured since we could not make more money, we simply needed to ‘need’ less of it. Growing our own food and preserving it seemed a great idea. I have gardened off and on most of my life and Jason spent part of his childhood living on a farm with animals. One night I was playing around on the internet and ran across the idea of growing food on as little as ¼ of an acre and selling shares of the produce. One idea led to another and so we now have a handful of CSA customers pre-paid for our produce for this season. We also have an online version of a farmer’s market set up. Customers will choose in advance from what we have available each week in the season and we deliver to a central drop off area. We are planning on selling direct from the farm, since we live on a fairly busy road and have plenty of drive-by traffic. We are also fortunate enough to have a couple of free farmer’s markets within 20 minutes of us.
We have started around 600 plants from seed. Rather than spend money on seed kits, we spent cold, winter nights making newspaper pots while we watched television. Most of our seeds are sprouting in these sitting in nursery trays I have saved over the years. We are growing only heirloom varieties so that we can save our own seed and in turn, save that money in the coming years.
We had 2 extra roosters and plenty of meat in the freezer, and our local Tractor Supply was having a livestock buy, sell and trade in their parking lot. We took our roosters, sold them and then used that money to buy 4 heritage Buckeye chicks that are now 3 weeks old.
So now, we have a dream for the farm. We dream of a day when the farm will not only feed us, but bring in enough money to sustain us as well; while providing healthy food for our local community.
We also have a master plan to give back to the land more than the land gives to us. We are not planting our market garden in the usual way. We are laying it out in a modified square foot garden pattern. We are mixing vegetables, fruits, herbs, and flowers all together to feed the soil. We have one compost pile ready to go and another begun for next year. We are still surrounded by commercial farm fields, so we plan on planting a hedgerow to give us a little oasis for bees, birds and other beneficials. There will be edibles mixed in there as well. Because of the tight budget, we will be planting very small trees to begin with. Time passes whether we plant anything or not, so we figured we should plant what we can afford rather than waiting!
We hope to add more laying hens this summer, and in the future we want a few geese. We have also talked about raising a couple of pigs – one to sell, in order to pay for one to feed us for the winter. We also hope that we will be able one day to save up enough to buy more of the land around us to expand our “farm” – because right now – we’re not only doing this on a financial budget but on just an acre and a half!
Thanks so much to Lisa and Jason for sharing!!! You you can check out their blog and farm at http://ravenmistfarm.wordpress.com/. - Mary and Jim