How Farm2Fork Came to Be
Farm2Fork Ranch began like any other thing in life, a hope, a dream, and a glimmer in the eye. While working on wedding plans, Greg and I started throwing around ideas for the future. He mentioned he’d always wanted to have a farm. I didn’t mind, I basically grew up at my grandpa’s horse stable and I’ve always loved nature and being outdoors. At the time he was working construction and I was a music teacher. The idea was appealing, outdoors and animals. The seed was planted.
After the wedding we moved to Rock Port, MO, where his family was. I was teaching again and he got on with the nuclear plant. We started with a few chickens. Our first kid loved playing with them and gathering the eggs. With a little extra money from an outage, we decided now was the time. He researched every night for the best cattle breed for us. Survey said: LONGHORN. They are one of the most docile and intelligent breeds of cattle. They are also drought tolerant and disease resistant. A low maintenance breed is what we needed with both of us working full time. We rented some property and found heifers for a good price South of us. We borrowed a livestock trailer from a friend and picked them up and Let The Adventure Begin! Sheep came shortly after for a grand total of 8 cattle and 6 sheep. We were Farming!
We enjoyed our animals. Greg had learned about rotational grazing and so we began doing that. A neighbor stopped by one day to let us know that our property was at the best he had ever seen it. Well, we must be doing something right then.
We even enjoyed our first butchering, after he had jumped the fence about 50 times and 30 days. His meat was a sweet reward for all that hassle! We enjoyed our little fun moments as well, like when Emma decided to announce at her birthday BBQ, as everyone had a mouth full of burger, that everyone has had a taste of Ferdinand! Grandma just about choked! But at 9, Emma already had an awareness of life cycles. We had raised him, took him to the butcher, they processed him and we are eating him. This is how life goes, and she was fascinated at how the butcher prepared the carcass for aging. It was almost like art to her. She knew what went into her animal and how he was handled. Not many kids have that satisfied awareness of their food.
As our family grew to 3 kids, 2 girls and a boy, so did our critters. We got a few goats off and on at first. They never amounted to much. The joy of births, the sadness of deaths, and everything in between made life an adventure. We wanted to get our farm business off the ground. “How?” became our biggest question.
An answer came from a family friend. He suggested taking the NE KS Sustainable Agriculture Society’s Farm Beginnings class. I called the extension agent who was in charge and he let us sign up even though we were in MO. We were close enough and sold mostly in NE KS anyways. We learned so much, and we realized we were on the right track.
We found pigmy cross goats and fell in love. Our first was “Sonoma,” she was the sweetest thing. We tried burkshire pigs. The ones we had were nice, but didn’t seem to suit us. They just didn’t have a good return. And the boar was so nice he begged to be petted. An 800lb hog rubbing on you until you pet him is not good with little kids. We sold them and swore no more.
Then, Greg came home later than normal one night with a surprise, 2 potbelly pigs! What fun. We fell in love with them immediately. Those girls gave us our first litters of which we kept some and surprisingly sold the rest quite easily. Maybe we found a niche? We discovered it might be when we decided to get a booth at the Mother Earth News Fair. The first year we went to the fair, we had one of the little pigs we had kept back, and decided to take her with so no one had to take care of her. We were camping anyway and she stayed in the tent with us. People mobbed our booth wanting to know all they could about this little cute pig they saw. Our youngest even ended up on the front page of the Sunday paper to help advertise for the Fair. People used us as a reference for getting around the fair.
After the fair, the wonderful woman in charge wanted to know if we could possibly bring more animals like a petting zoo/ farm next year. We jumped at the chance since we had the same idea stewing. We began prep work on that right away. Our first petting farm at the fair was a blast, and a huge hit! They welcomed us back every year and let us know we could go to any of their fairs nationwide! What an honor!
Bees were the next adventure. A friend had to clean up his yard and decided that his bees had to go. We got a good deal on 7 complete hives. We were careful to make sure that none of us were allergic. We could then include a honey adventure. To get our name out there, I began doing booths at events around the area. Emma, our oldest, was my right hand woman! She could sell a product just as well as I could at 10 yrs old. That’s saying something; when a 10 yr old can present herself as a knowledgeable saleswoman to full grown adults and get them to buy a product.
We read as much as possible about sustainable living, and the great course I had taken icluded a membership to the NSAS (Nebraska Sustainable Agriculture Society) annual conference. What an eye opening experience! There were so many fellow sustainable farmers! We made many friends at the conference and have kept in touch with them all.
We have continued building our brand and getting our name out there for people to hear. With limited funds, we needed to think “outside the box”. So, we just kept brain storming and tried to figure out better ways to do things.
Today we sell some meat, but our biggest money makers are the “happy accidents” we came across while thinking outside the box. We sell potbelly piglets mainly for pets, along with livestock for beginning farmers. We have a petting farm, we flavor honey to sell, we are present at events with booths, we give tastings, and we aim to educate everyone we come in contact with.
We are Farm2Fork Ranch.
Many thanks for all you packed into this article.
I am soon to open a home gallery and will be selling my products as well as some others made locally.
You have generously, with all the information shared, saved me lots of time, and I am sure, avoided many headaches as well.
Best wishes for continued success.