Tuesday, January 08, 2008

Sugar Creek Farm Q&A Interview - Part 2

If you missed part one of the interview with Kelli from Sugar Creek Farm you can check it out HERE.

The Beginning Farmer - Is the farm your families main income source? Does anybody work off farm? And, how would you characterize family life at Sugar Creek Farm? (I realize this a lot of questions ... but, I thought they fit together)

Sugar Creek Farm
- Matt works full-time as a lineman for the local utility company. I work at home part-time as a software developer. So the farm at this point is a side business for us, and it has taken us a while to make the transition of it being a hobby to being a business. We wanted to grow the business without taking on debt. So our incomes have been both operating capital and investment for breeding stock and equipment. Our long-term goal would be to grow the farm to the point that it would replace my current part-time job. And down the road for Matt to have something to retire into at age 55.

The farm is definitely a family effort. Our daughter Madeline is 12, daughter Olivia is 10, and son Rafe is 5. Madeline has really found her niche on the farm with the pigs. She loves pigs, and is up at 6 a.m. every day to get them fed and watered before she goes to school - an especially challenging task this time of year, when ice has to be broke out of water troughs with a hammer! She has developed such a work ethic - something we see her carry over into her school work, sports, 4-H, and volunteer activities. At parent/teacher conferences I think every single teacher commented on what a hard worker she is. Olivia's favorite is bottle calves, but we didn't have the room to get any this year. A couple years ago she approached us to propose that she get some bottle calves in the spring, take care of them through the summer and sell them in the fall...all in order to prove that she was ready for the responsibility of a horse, and to earn some money with which to purchase one. She did just that and is now the proud owner of Star! Rafe just likes being outdoors and is already showing interest in gardening, and he also likes to help with the meat chickens when we have them.

So even if this farm never becomes a full-time occupation for us, it's worth it because our kids are getting the experiences we wanted for them. They know where their food comes from and the effort it takes to get it to the table. Even if they don't end up farming themselves, this knowledge will make them better food consumers as adults. And if they ever need to feed themselves, even if they're living in a city somewhere, they'll be able to do that with a garden and a handful of chickens.

The Beginning Farmer - Are there any organizations, conferences, or research materials you used as you got started?

Sugar Creek Farm - We joined Practical Farmers of Iowa and have attended their annual conference the past 2 years. The ATTRA website is a treasure trove of information, as are other farm bloggers.

In 2004 I took the "Grow Your Small Market Farm" class given by Penny Brown Huber. It was a turning point for us in treating the farm as a business.

I still feel like we're beginners at this! So I still read everything I can get my hands on, bounce ideas off other farmers that are already doing what I want to do, read lots of farming blogs, and attend conferences and workshops. I am always thinking about ways to diversify the farm, so there is always something to learn! We added Muscovy ducks to the farm last year, but so far we've not eaten (or sold) any. They just sort of free range about and we have a hard time getting near them. So right now I'm learning about ducks, trying to come up with a plan to actually manage them.

**Today's picture is copywritten image by Kelli Miller of Sugar Creek Farm**

**Remember to check back tomorrow for part three**


Kramer said...

Being the father of 2 little girls, I really appreciate this part of the interview. I love the experiences and knowledge my oldest, almost 4, has received from our farming ventures. She is so much more knowledgeable about things pertaining to animals, agriculture, and where her food comes from. Your right, I pray this allows them to make better choices when they get to be adults. The way it looks, I am going to have to be in the arranging marriage business so I can get me some good sons to help out. It is neat to look back at the Sugar Creek Farm blog and see how their farm and children have grown over the years. I live in Texas yet I feel like I am somewhat connected because of their blog.

sugarcreekfarm said...

Ethan - The fun part for me has been seeing what pictures you pull out of my archives :)

Ethan Book said...

Kramer ... I'm glad you are enjoying the interview, like I said, I'm hoping to do some more of these ... maybe you're next :)

Kelli ... I tried to pick pictures that showed your livestock for the next few, so we will see what you think!

Tim said...

Great interview Ethan and Kelli. There is so much interest in sustainable agriculture and it's great to see it being played out with such commitment to family, community, humanity and safety.

Keep it up!

Nature's Harmony Farm

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