Lately we’ve gotten an increased number of inquires from people who are interested in starting their own farms. The fact that someone took the time to reach out to us for advice is amazing and it definitely inspires us to do more. We feel like we are in a constant state of learning and growing. The sharing of knowledge is how we continue the cycle of clean farming. So although I can’t take you by the hand, what I can do is give you our story to follow. Maybe then your dreams can become a reality.
You guys have heard me say that everyone should have access to fresh organic food locally. When we moved here we thought we would. Really had we, I doubt that Hawkins Homestead Farm would even be necessary. We were content being supporters of local farms.
Of course we’re here now and we don’t plan on going anywhere, so no worries there! What did it for us was a need. A need to eat the way we had become accustomed to before moving to this area. A need that could not be filled at the grocery store, but one that was very necessary. Not just for my health, but for the health of my family as well.
So what did we do? We prayed. We researched. We read books. We watched videos. We joined forums and groups. We asked questions. We made ourselves very familiar with the local laws and requirements. We found out how important it is to pay attention to the weather and to keep good records. We learned all that we could about soil health. We researched what was being grown in this area and how. We found what specific chicken breeds we wanted to raise for meat and for eggs. We wanted to stand out…to be different than the norm. We educated ourselves on what would make us successful at feeding our family. This was our first goal.
So what happened? Well OUR need turned out to be a need a lot of others had as well. I remember when Shena, of Bain Home Gardens asked me if I planned on selling our eggs when we first got chickens. My answer was no. I would have gladly shared, but sell them…..no. That slowly evolved into well I guess I could sell some, but I need more chickens. Our tag line really says it all. “What started as food for our family, has blossomed into food for yours.” This one statement is literally how Hawkins Homestead Farm started. Just by growing our own food, we found family, friends, friends of friends, and others also had a need and a desire to eat fresh clean healthy food.
What’s HUGE for us is access to LOCAL, fresh, chemical free, organic food. Having the satisfaction of knowing that we planted, watered, and weeded while God made it grow is awesome to say the least! Over the last few days, the start of our Spring Kith & Kin CSA season started and as I was pulling carrots out of the ground I was super thankful for each one. Thankful because every carrot was proof that we CAN do this. We ARE doing this! We are the local that we have supported all along. It’s crazy to type that out, but true. We are feeding our own family and many others!
Something else that is super exciting for us is the education. I have always been aware of how I choose to spend my dollars, but once you start farming the knowledge you glean is unreal. The learning never stops. You just have to be willing to take it all in. I have books, magazines, newspapers, websites that I’ve bookmarked, etc. I just love learning.
Raising animals is definitely a bonus. The joy of learning about, watching, and caring for our birds is fascinating. I could talk about chicken breeds, genetics, egg shell colors….. for days! Chickens are such funny creatures. They have attitudes and personalities. Some are snobs and picky eaters. Others are just plain greedy. Chickens always want to be in the know. I haven’t quite figured out if it’s curiosity or just plain nosey, but I’ve had chickens jump up in my lap and others who just plop themselves right next to me. They want to be seen and heard.
I used to say that all roosters were going to the freezer, but after buying some on accident, I fell in love with them. Their colors, their stature, and what they bring to the farm as a whole is just wonderful. I have yet to have a favorite hen, but roosters OMG! Sadly, some didn’t like me as much as I liked them, but that’s alright too.
Of course there are cons to farming. For us, more than anything they are due to things that just come along with being a farmer. Like HOT weather, bugs, and losses.
Alabama is hot! You guys know this! Would you believe that we’re still trying to adapt to the humidity and heat here? One thing we learned quick is to get out early and go back late. We water the garden and the animals early in the day. We check in mid day for refills on the animals and of course to collect eggs. Then we go back in the evenings to finish out farm chores for the day. This is what works for us.
Of course the bugs are a big one. I have to remind myself that they need to eat too and when you’re growing food pesticide free, bugs will come. The problem is when they try to stay and make families. That’s a no no! Sometimes we’ve been too late and either everything has holes or it’s completely gone. Like overnight gone! Then there are those times when we’ve learned what to expect and when. With organic farming bugs may be difficult to manage, but not impossible. Often times nature works within itself. It’s up to you to figure out how to make nature work for you.
On to losses. They definitely happen. It’s just a part of farming that you have to accept. Sometimes plants don’t grow. Or some disease, like powdery mildew takes them out. You can do everything right and the weather changes suddenly. Then bam, your crop can’t handle the shock and it dies. It could be that maybe your dog who you’re training decides to taste a few chickens instead of protect them. Or a hawk who has put your chickens on his menu. It could even be that you have an aggressive bird who attacks. Although you want to keep him, and may need him to keep up your genetics, he has to go to the freezer and that’s not how you planned it. You could go to sleep at night and wake up the next morning to chaos. These things are all a part of that constant learning.
The best advice I could give anyone who wants to grow anything is to pray about it. There are days where I’m out in the gardens or with the animals just talking to God. It’s important to our family that we do things the right way, so who better to talk to than the one who created all of it?
Then get to work! Do the best you can to have a quality consistent product. Be honest and safe in your practices. Never become overconfident. Have fun. Take time to enjoy what you’re doing. Hopefully you will find more pros than cons and create something special of your own. Maybe then you can realize your dreams. Hope this helps!