Our Farm Story
When our older children began reaching their teen years, we saw a need as a homeschooling family, for our kids to have their dad around to introduce our sons in particular to a world beyond academic studies. We began to posture ourselves for Tim to leave his career of twenty years. Since our family had enjoyed working with real estate in the past, we figured it would be great if Tim and the older children could build houses together. However, after Tim obtained general contractor's licenses in Virginia and North Carolina and Joy became a licensed broker in both states, the housing market fell and it did not appear that building would be a worthwhile endeavor.
While questioning what our next opportunity might be as a family with a newly retired dad, we decided to canvass the Richmond area to see if anyone might be interested in participating in a cow share program. In states where direct sale of raw (unpasteurized) milk is not permissible, people purchase a share in a cow and pay a farmer to board and milk their cow so that they can have access to real milk. Our older sons already had interests in sustainable agriculture and we were familiar with cow share programs through family friends.
We were amazed by the response of the community when we handed out flyers at local health food stores in July of 2007. With such positive feedback we started a cow share program and began selling shares and delivering milk to our new shareholders on August 15, 2007.
Since we had no background in agriculture, we learned everything by reading books about natural, organic, sustainable farming. There were times that we would be driving in our van as a family and those in the front of the van would be reading one book aloud while the back of the van would be reading another book and shouting out important facts to the rest of us.
With the enthusiasm and dedication of our older children, we quickly added to the farm the availability of poultry and pork. It is an understatement to say that our children worked hard (and continue to do so) in the new family venture of sustainable farming. Our oldest daughter and two oldest sons willingly sacrificed in so many ways to ensure the success of the farm. We absolutely could not have done this without them. Now that the younger three children are getting older, they've adopted the same spirit of teamwork observed in their older siblings and they too are now an integral part of the farm's continued success.
By the time the farm was two years old, we had outgrown the small piece of land we owned and realized we would either need to limit the number of families we serve or locate another farm on which to grow. With a desire to avoid digging a deeper hole of debt, we opted to look for a rental farm.
In April of 2009 we dedicated one week to searching for a farm and assigned the older family members specific tasks: Tim would search back roads for possible farm rental properties during milk deliveries. Meredith would do an exhaustive search through MLS as well as online county tax records. Joy would list the home we currently lived in to see if there was any interest as a rental. Elliott and Oliver would offer valuable insight as we discussed the research findings. With our strategy in place, we committed the week to God, knowing that without His help, all our effort would be in vain.
When we first saw this farm, it seemed like just one more uninhabitable, broken down, overgrown, abandoned farm. However, as we researched the property through online tax records and aerial views, and then eventually contacted the owner, we realized this was God's provision for us. We moved in on June 20, 2009 and acclimated to life in a 100 year old house with absolutely no air conditioning and only one bathroom that would be shared by our eight family members. The adjustment seemed almost too much to bear.
Yet, when we sent word out to our farm customers who have since become family friends, telling them that we would be relocating and renovating an abandoned farm so that we could continue to grow and provide more families with fresh milk and wholesome meats, they came and helped us! Some pulled vines off the barns and silos, some swept up years of broken windowpane glass, others scrubbed the kitchen cabinets, while some put screens in the farmhouse windows, and one even tiled the bathroom floor. What incredible appreciation we have for all of those who helped us!
As our oldest daughter has recently married and moved away, we are reminded of how quickly time passes and what a treasure it is to spend our days working alongside our children. Because of your support, we are enjoying the finest days of our lives, making memories with the ones we love. Although our days on the farm are physically exhausting, they are incredibly fulfilling. We hope you will sense the joy that you have brought into our family's life by allowing us to be your local, sustainable farmers. It is our pleasure serving you.