farm

Faith for the Long Haul Involves Trust in Your Path

This morning on my drive into work, I started to reflect on some of the big changes that have happened in our life in the last year, and how much faith plays a part into success.

These past six months have been difficult for various reasons. It is a season in my life that I’m sure one day I will look back and see it as a small stepping stone and a time of profound discovery about my strength as an individual, a wife, a mother, and as our own little family unit.

I have quickly learned to adapt to changes – to rework – to think on my feet. Part of that is probably why I have enjoyed my roles in project coordination, management, and events, as there is always a fire to put out somewhere, a misstep to fix, or tasks to plan ahead on as part of an effective prevention plan. I continue to be convinced that hard work will win over a handout any day, and that work ethic plays a stronger role in the success of business deals, connections, transactions, and negotiations than anything else.

We will have been living in our little farm site for a year when May arrives. I sometimes forget how far we have come when I think about where we started with it. The big things that weren’t so fun that we did were a new roof, a new septic, new electrical, some new plumbing, and spray foam insulation throughout. I often forget about those major things we had to do first, when I see all that still needs to be done. I often catch myself wondering what our neighbors think of our poor yard or the weird front part of our house that we had to fix foundation on and remove a tree that looks so ridiculous…which it will for a while. I also tell myself, we can only do so much, especially when we are paying cash for all the updates, including the major ones. Uff-da. It definitely slows down progress. I see some beautiful renovations done in a month, and I’m just getting a finished kitchen ceiling a year later…not to mention the countertops still waiting to be installed.  It can be easy to feel discouraged when it seems as if we take one step forward with the house and then two steps back, but I try to tell myself, we are making small baby steps towards progress, and someday, all the trim will be finished…hopefully.

Where we started – no walls, completely gutted – and where we are today – a toilet, shower, tile, trim, and cabinet (and we do have a full sink top on now too!)

Our upstairs bathroom has undergone a significant transformation in the past month. I even had to remind myself at where we started with it. We completely gutted it and installed new walls, a new shower, new toilet and a new floor. I redid the solid oak cabinet that was in the bathroom – a good scrubbing and some paint later and it looked completely different. We are still searching for a few items to complete the bathroom (like a mirror and light fixture), but hopefully in a month or so it will all be tied together. Harper really loves having a big bath again needless to say!

We have been working to develop a plan for our farm-site that exists in 5, 10, and 15 year time frames. That often seems like forever when we could use it all right now! Our major things happening this summer are repairs to our shop and burning down the barn. We finally got the official “go ahead” with the fire department to use the barn for training. It will be interesting as my husband is already throwing out things like “water curtains,” “tanker stations”, and other firefighting terms. We are rearranging some of the critters to new homes to protect them from the smoke. Luckily, we have some amazing friends that will take the horses in temporarily during it all, and another friend busy building a small hog shed for us. The chickens will also be moved into a new building as we arrange the driveway a bit differently in the future. The plan is to reach some bigger goals of an office addition, some fencing for livestock, and reworking another shed for livestock in those 10 and 15 year plans. We have some amazing people on our team that believe in what we are doing, tell it like it is, and definitely build up our confidence that we can make it all work when there are plenty of days that seem to tell us differently.

I have really started to refocus my trust in Him. Sometimes it takes an infinite amount of strength to realize that He has a reason for what is going on in these various seasons of my life. When I seem to be saying, right now…He tells me to pause and wait. After a phone call to my sister a few weeks ago where she really stressed that I needed to give it all to God and truly trust in His plan, because later on, even though it may not seem like it now, it is the right path, and the right steps to take. Her words hit home. That I needed to remember who was in control of this crazy mess of a life I lead.

This is one of my favorite songs – Trust in You by Lauren Daigle – and I listen to it often.

Our journey has never been easy – we’ve had plenty of people tell us we should write a book with as much stuff that has happened to us before the age of 30, but like so many, we just keep plugging along. Hard work matters, even when it goes unnoticed or unappreciated. So when you feel like throwing the towel in, like you are getting nowhere, remember where you started, how far you’ve come, and all the hard work you’ve put in. That fire, that passion you first started with, is still there, it might just need some rekindling every once in a while. So for now, I won’t forget where to put my trust, and let Him fan the flame – it will all be just fine.

-Sara

We Bought a Farm!

I’ve been dropping hints, but now that we have officially signed the papers, I can announce…

We Bought A Farm!

Our little slice of land is 25 acres with a home, a machine shed, and a few other outbuildings.

Our slice of country living. A big old square farm house, a big machine shed, and multiple outbuildings.

Our slice of country living. A big old square farm-house, a big machine shed, and multiple outbuildings.

We have been working so hard to get to this day, and over the course of the next few weeks, I will be writing about things we did to position ourselves to purchase, things we chose to overlook, and why we chose what we did. Being young farmers, it wasn’t easy by any means, but hard work does pay off.

We are so excited to be able to finally have our place in the country, where we can bring our livestock home finally, make some livestock additions, farm our own land, and raise our daughter. It is an amazing feeling, even if that feeling comes with the added hard work and long days. We know it will be very rewarding.

I will be posting photos of all of our renovations, changes, and work that we do to the farm. Frankly, it needs a lot of work, but that is part of how we were able to afford it at ages 25 and 27. We are willing to put in the hard work needed to fix the farm up.

I will be starting a series about our Farm House Renovations on this blog that will include our home plans, barn changes, fencing, clean-up, etc. for all to see. A few friends have asked me to do a post or two on what we did to set ourselves up to be able to purchase a farm. I will be upfront right now and tell you that we did not utilize a FSA loan of any kind for the purchase which is what most young and beginning farmers do. For us, the FSA loan did not fit into our timeline nor did it like the home with the land, so we opted for a traditional mortgage with our bank. Having a good relationship with your banker and credible relationships with your FBM instructor and others in the community goes a very long ways. We were blessed to have them work with us and for us every step of the way to get it done.

We are equal parts terrified and excited for this next chapter of our lives. Renovations will be done in phases, I’ve already got plans for chickens and a pig will be making its way home with me after a career fair event in April. My poor husband doesn’t know what he got himself in to on the livestock front! He didn’t grow up with livestock, and I did, so it has been something I have greatly missed. Razzy will be moving to her permanent home early summer – we have been so blessed with where we have boarded her the past 2 years, and we know that she will miss it. We are in the process of looking for a friend for her, as she has bonded with her pasture mate there.

We will be showcasing our honey house renovation on the blog as well – we are so excited for that part! We are hoping it will be running by fall so we can open it to guests to come and watch honey extraction.

There are times where we turn to each other and go what did we get ourselves into with the amount of work, time, and money we have already put in and all we know we still have to do, but we go back to our phases plan, and our little sketches of what we want our farm site to look like, and it keeps us trucking along.

The wallpaper blues...I literally have about 3 feet of wall done and I want to throw in the towel.

The wallpaper blues…I literally have about 3 feet of wall done and I want to throw in the towel.

We wouldn’t mind if you offered your help with fencing, tearing down a barn, removing wallpaper or tiling a floor either…hint hint to any professionals out there! We are also looking for deals on used equipment, fencing, feeders, etc. as well so if you are in our area and you know you have some you are looking at parting with – let us know. ;)

A big step, with lots of big dreams, all laid into workable plans. That is what we are doing. Building our farm, and building our future. Scary but exciting. Yeap, that is what I’m sticking with.

-Sara

Farm Girl Faithism Friday

One of my New Year’s resolutions is to post more “Farm Girl Faithism Fridays!”

So here is my first one of 2014. This photo is from my friend Amy’s wedding I was in back in October. Amy is a fellow farm girl, and we took photos out on her parent’s farm. She gave me permission to use this photo from her wedding on here, and thank goodness she did because it is a sweet photo! Photo credits go to Beth from Clear Photography!

Farm Girl Faithism Friday

Farm Girl Faithism #5 Don’t mess with a girl’s guns!

Sustainable- Is any farm truly sustainable?

“I had this blog post sitting in my “to post” later file. I originally wrote it a few weeks ago after watching the USFRA’s food dialogue. Tonight, I watched the Food Dialogues out of Iowa. The word sustainable was thrown around again. Here are my thoughts.”

Sustainable. It seems to be a word thrown around a lot lately in agriculture. Sustainable agriculture. Sustainable Farms. Sustainable businesses. Sustainable food.

I was watching a USFRA food dialogues live feed the other day when one of the panelists said that not a single farmer out there is sustainable because we are all using non-renewable resources unless you’re plowing with a mule.

Bingo.

I’ve always answered the question of sustainability this way: You are only sustainable if you are making money. If you don’t make money, you fold. You no longer exist the next year. You are not sustainable. To put it quite bluntly.

Woods and field

Woods next to our field, has stood there for the entirety of our family’s farm. Our farm is over 100 years old. Provides habitat for: deer, turkey, raccoon, pheasant, opossum, fox, coyote, squirrel, birds, bugs, and more!

When consumers think of sustainable, they often think of recycling, going green, less fuel use, etc. a lot of which are automatically associated with organic farming. Not all of those are associated with every organic farm though. And, conventional farmers are doing a lot of these practices as well.

Here are some of the things farmers of all sizes, types, and industry are investing in or doing already:

  1. Solar Power
  2. Wind Energy
  3. Recycling Water
  4. Recycling Compost
  5. Manure fertilizing
  6. Technology investments

And those are just a few of the things the farmers are doing. Farmers are also being resourceful in other ways like using as much as they can and not wasting. For instance, once farmers are done harvesting, many make bales out of the corn stalks left on the ground to use as bedding. A local farmer where I’m from has created a bio-refining business where they take scrap wood from homes buildings, farms and businesses and turn it into animal bedding. Technology utilizing autosteer in tractors has allowed farmers to use less fuel and reduce their emissions.  In fact, new tractors rolling off the assembly line have to meet new standards set forth by the EPA in 2015.

Farmers have to be resourceful. It is all part of operating your business both wisely and economically. Most of these improvements and actions farmers are making that I’ve mentioned just make sense both monetarily wise and environmentally wise. Farmers care about what happens to their environment so they seek information on things like water recycling, solar power and wind energy. In fact, most farmers I know are always seeking out ways to improve their farming practices.

Could we do more? We always can. Is every farm perfect? No.  Does something that works for my farm, work for everyone else’s? Not at all. Do farmers want to do more and are they taking the time to learn about these options? Definitely.

Wildlife habitat and conservation is one thing we practice at Hewitt Farms. We have land in both CRP and RIM, but also land we just keep as woods and prairie.

Wildlife habitat and conservation is one thing we practice at Hewitt Farms. We have land in both CRP and RIM, but also land we just keep as woods and prairie. In this photo, deer are checking out our field.

If there is one thing I have learned growing up on a farm, being a farmer myself, meeting other farmers, and visiting other farms, is farmers care. Farmers are doing so much, on their own farms, every single day to be kinder to the environment. Just because we are conventional or organic doesn’t mean that we aren’t all trying to do the same thing at the end of the day: provide safe, nutritious food while providing for our own families and making a living doing something we love.

So maybe we need to start evaluating what we all mean by sustainable. Small farms, larger farms, organic farms and conventional farms can all be doing great things for the environment. They are all just different. They do what works best for them in their situation.

How do you define sustainable? Can it just be about the environment? Does the definition need to be about business? family? money? Or maybe every farm needs to come up with their own individual definition of what makes their farm sustainable, rather than someone labeling it as “yes it is” or “no it isn’t” by their standards.

-Sara

Give Away: Keep Calm & Farm On

We’ve got a give away going on here at Hewitt Farms!

We are giving away a Farm Girl Clothing shirt just like the one pictured below, except it is purple!

Want a chance to win this t-shirt in purple? Visit www.facebook.com/HewittFarms

Want a chance to win this t-shirt in purple? Visit www.facebook.com/HewittFarms

Want to get entered? Visit our Facebook page today! Like our page than share the post about the give away with all your friends! We will be picking a winner on Sunday evening!

We are going to be getting frazzled as we started harvest yesterday, so this is serving as a reminder for us all: Keep Calm & Farm on!

-Sara

 

School: Why I’m Choosing Agriculture

My newsfeed on Facebook is blowing up with pictures of kids heading back to school today. They are decked out in new shoes and sweatshirts with brand new school supplies ready for a new year of learning.

Just like them, I started last week going back to school. I didn’t get new shoes or a bookbag, but my mom did pick me up some Tinkerbell folders.

Thanks mom for the new school folders! Even "adult kids" need fun school supplies!

Thanks mom for the new school folders! Even “adult kids” need fun school supplies!

I am going back to complete my graduate degree in Agricultural Communications and Education. After some long nights and lots of thinking I decided to pursue my degree through the Ag*Idea program through Kansas State. Some might call me crazy, others are wondering how this fits with my other degrees and others think agriculture is a dying industry.

In my opinion, an industry that feeds you is an industry worth fighting for. It is not dying. It is transforming, growing and intensifying every single day. We are learning to do more with less, have a smaller carbon footprint, instilling best practices, studying weather patterns and growth rate, using science to reduce pesticide use, learning about green energy and more in agriculture every single day.

Why wouldn’t I want to be part of that?

Agriculture employment is huge, despite what some might say. Photo courtesy of: Erin Ehnle from https://www.facebook.com/lens.of.a.farm.girl

Agriculture employment is huge, despite what some might say. Photo courtesy of: Erin Ehnle from https://www.facebook.com/lens.of.a.farm.girl

I’ve always loved communications, marketing and public relations. My internships with my two other degrees always revolved around event management, public relations, social media and marketing. I knew there had to be a way to combine my passion for agriculture with my love of all of those things.

I decided to further my education in agriculture for just those reasons. I know this is what I was meant to do, to advocate for ag. To be a voice of reason and passion about agriculture. I am one of those people who works crazy hours, who drives combine, who brings her husband home at 1am from the field, who grew up learning the circle of life from pigs, sheep and cattle. I grew up in agriculture, and it just took me a little while to figure out that was where I was meant to be.

With my rabbit Cinnamon back in the day.  Growing up on a farm was one of the greatest things my parents did for me.

With my rabbit Cinnamon back in the day. Growing up on a farm was one of the greatest things my parents did for me.

I’ve been blessed this summer to hold an internship with the MN Farm Bureau where I was given the chance to meet some amazing farmers and some amazing people working in the ag industry. I was able to visit my friend Wanda’s farm who writes the blog Minnesota Farm Living as part of my internship. I was so impressed with their farm from the care the pigs were given to how they mix their own feed to ensure the right nutrients are given to the pigs. Her and her husband were both so passionate about what they do as I talked to them, that it added fuel to my own fire about why I’m passionate about agriculture.  Listening to them, made me realize that my husband and I are on the right path and choosing to come back home to the farm was the right decision.

It wasn’t an easy one either. I left a good job in the health and wellness industry, teaching others how to lead healthier lives.  I already had two degrees. I myself questioned what I was supposed to be doing. The decision was hard, but so worth it to be working an industry that I love.

I hope one day I can find a full-time job in agriculture, one that I’m proud to be at. One where I’m making a difference for the man or woman behind the tractor, the one who wakes up at 4am to milk cows or stays up all night checking on a sick steer. The one who makes sure their pigs have all the right nutrients to grow healthy and strong to provide nutritious food for all of us. I want to work for them. I want to make a difference for them. So they can continue to tell their story, why they are passionate about farming, but also so they can keep doing what they love doing. Farming. 

It’s important. It’s important because our lives depend on them every single day. From medicines, to cardboard boxes to yes, food. We all need to advocate for farmers, and as of last Monday, that’s what my graduate degree will focus on.

-Sara

Time to Get Loud Farmers: AgChat Conference

Passion. I am passionate about farming.

I attended the AgChat Conference in Charlotte, NC this past week. It was an amazing, eye-opening experience for me. One that had me walking away feeling like I was in the right place.

I started off the conference being pretty nervous. I was surrounded by some of the biggest names in social media in the agriculture industry such as Dairy Carrie, The Pinke Post, Ag Proud Ryan, Michele Payn Knoper, and more. I felt like the little guy who just blogs from my tiny town of 671 people in rural Minnesota. Then I realized they were all here for the same reason as I am. Because they are passionate about agriculture and they want to make a difference in agriculture.

Hewittfarmsinc.wordpress.com

With Michele Payn Knoper. I’ve been a fan of hers ever since I watched a video she made during my Speak for Yourself Training. 

I was able to meet some of the amazing bloggers and other social media guru’s that I’ve been following and reading. They’ve done some awesome things like starting the #PluckEZChicken campaign (Dairy Carrie) or fighting for sensible school lunches (The Pinke Post) or maybe its empowering farmers to tell their story (Michele Payn Knoper & Cause Matters) and sometimes its helping provide the resources other farmers need to help tell their story (Janice Person).

www.faithfarmingandcowboyboots.wordpress.com

Carrie aka Dairy Carrie, whether she knows it or not, is one of my blogging mentors. She picked up one of my posts a long time ago and it gave me the courage to keep blogging.

The first day in, we started with Michele Payn Knoper giving us some things to think about- like what our end goal is. I wrote down that I want to tell my personal farming story to audiences around the world, connecting my family, my farm and their food.  Jay Baer, author of Youtility was up next, giving us some things to think about on how we present our information, how we are helping our consumers and about trust and agvocacy. I walked away, going to my other sessions, wondering when consumers stopped trusting the farmer, why and what I can do to bring back the trust in agriculture.

Of course you can't have a conference full of farmers without milk!

Of course you can’t have a conference full of farmers without milk!

Jay Baer at AgChat

Jay Baer author of Youtility signed my copy of his book. He gave a great speech on the help not the hype of marketing.

I completed sessions on Facebook, better blogging, and Pinterest all on Thursday. Hopefully these tips and tools will help me tell my farming story better. What was probably the most interesting was to listen to a panel of consumers: a registered dietitian, a restaurant owner/chef, a mom, wife & blogger and an extension educator. One mentioned that they chose chicken because red meat had too many hormones. Another mentioned that she hears the loudest person and it was time for farmers to get loud. The misconceptions and questions just made me realize I need to do a better job of agvocating and that we were all here to learn how to do that.

Janice Person

Janice Person aka @JPLovesCotton is my favorite resource for anything biotech. She is an amazing lady who led one of the sessions I went to. I finally got to meet my twitter friend in real life! 

Katie Pinke of the Pinke Post

I first met Katie Pinke at the AgChat regional conference in Rochester. I walked away knowing that communication and PR in Ag was what I wanted to do after listening to her. She inspired me to keep going and tell my story.

That night, I got to connect with fellow MN Bloggers Wanda (MN Farm Living) and Lara (My Other More Exciting Self). This was fantastic as both of these women are amazing! They are two agvocates that I greatly look up to. I’m so glad I was able to connect with them both. Wanda is also a Speak for Yourself participant and I was able to visit her farm this summer, so it was nice to see a familiar face.

Wanda and Lara are two fellow MN Bloggers whom I consider some of my blogging mentors. They are two inspirational women who work hard to inspire the ag industry every day.

Wanda and Lara are two fellow MN Bloggers whom I consider some of my blogging mentors. They are two great women who work hard to inspire the ag industry every day.

The next morning I dove right into sessions about trolls, Twitter and media creation. They gave me ideas on how to better tell my story. Then came an amazing presentation by Laura Daniels. I’m not sure I’ve ever been moved so much by a speech. I had tears in my eyes as I thought about my farming story, why I farm and what it means to me to get to farm as she explained her farm.

Laura Daniels of heartwood farms gave an emotional and inspirational speech. She empowered me at AgChat.

Laura Daniels of heartwood farms gave an emotional and inspirational speech. She empowered me at AgChat.

She empowered me to tell my story. To let my passion lead me. That I am a hitch pin and my story is valuable. I am the face behind the numbers. I laughed. I cried and walked away knowing that this trip and conference were worth every single penny. It reaffirmed my faith that I’m right where I’m supposed to be.

I’m a farmer who loves every single minute of it, and I’m ready to get loud.

 

AgChat Group...Ready to get loud.

AgChat Group…Ready to get loud.

-Sara