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MORE THAN A GUT DECISION

ONE LOCAL FAMILY’S TRANSFORMATIVE DECISION TO TAKE ON FARMING

FIRST-GENERATION FARMERS. An extended family unit. The Fahrners are going against societal norms for the sake of their health—and yours. We decided to visit Mike and Abby, their three children and Mike’s parents on their 21-acre farm to find out more about their story. We did—and we were left with inspired hearts (and a bag full of Pop’s fresh-roasted coffee beans).  Read on to learn more about this family’s journey towards true health and sustainability. You might just see your next meal a little differently.

WHAT MOTIVATED YOU AND YOUR FAMILY TO START A FAMILY FARM? Mike: My parents always wanted a farm. I remember going on trips as a young child to visit farm properties that my parents were interested in buying. It never panned out, but the dream of a farm and the desire to live a farming lifestyle stuck with me.  Wanting a farm is very different from actually selling everything and moving to one. That usually requires something big, some kind of spark that ignites the changes. For us, that was our health. Our first child, Anna, was born in 2015. Within a few weeks of her birth, we discovered blood in her diapers from allergic reactions to the food she was getting through my wife’s milk. Giving credit where credit is due, my wife went on the strictest diet I’ve ever seen, eating only lamb, potatoes, squash, pears and bananas for an entire year. Anna’s gut healed, but we would never look at food the same way again. This started what we call our “food journey.” We began to discover where our food comes from and what happens to it from the very beginning to the time it’s on grocery store shelves. We learned about the carcinogenic chemicals that are sprayed on crops, the cruel and disease-inducing conditions of combined animal feeding operations and the unintended consequences of genetic modification, which include an increased potential for new allergens in the food supply. Once we learned these things, it became clear we needed to start growing as much of our own food as we could. Furthermore, in 2012 my mom was diagnosed with Crohn’s disease. She began looking at the link between how she was eating and the state of her health, and she decided to try to manage her Crohn’s through dietary and lifestyle changes. She manages it entirely through diet today with no medication. 

WHAT HAS BEEN ONE OF THE MOST REWARDING PARTS OF THIS ADVENTURE? Mom and Dad: Seeing our family so happy and having our grandkids grow up on a farm where they are learning how to be stewards of nature. Also demonstrating for our grandkids how to take a dream and make it a reality. Mike and Abby: Getting away from our virtual world of micro perfection into a world of practical, hands-on, macro function. It’s a big shift in thinking from things needing to be perfect to things simply needing to work. The chickens don’t know that the corner of their mobile coop is not perfectly square. This has been such a freeing part of farming that we think most people in our society don’t experience anymore. It has made noticeable improvement in our mental and physical health. Learning a trade. How many people these days know how to process a chicken, or even part out a chicken once it’s processed? We certainly didn’t just 18 months ago! These practical skills that literally put food on the table have largely been lost. It’s been interesting to see that, especially since the pandemic, many people want to learn these once common skills.

WHAT HAS BEEN ONE OF THE BIGGEST OBSTACLES YOU HAVE FACED IN THIS JOURNEY AND HOW DID YOU OVERCOME IT? The Fahrners: Trying to sell quality food in a consumer market flooded with misleading food labeling and false advertising. The sad reality is that the big corporations have commandeered every health food phrase in our vernacular. Commercial chicken producers can label their chicken as “free-range” even though they have 20,000 chickens in a poultry house with one small door leading to a 2 foot by 2 foot concrete pad. Yet the label on the package says “USDA Organic Free Range” with a picture of a heritage breed chicken roaming a rustic farm on green grass. That image could not be further from the truth.  We overcome this obstacle by maintaining an open farm policy and educating everyone we come in contact with about our regenerative agricultural practices. Anyone can come to our farm anytime and observe our practices with their own eyes. Do we really raise our birds on pasture? Do we really move them to fresh grass everyday? Do we really pay a premium for quality, local, non-GMO, no-spray feed? Come look at the animals, walk the pastures and read the labels on the feed bags for yourself. Try doing that at a commercial farm!

TELL US ABOUT WHAT IT’S LIKE WORKING ALONGSIDE SEVERAL OF YOUR FAMILY MEMBERS. The Fahrners: Working together as a family is a huge blessing. First of all, we have the manpower to divide the workload and give each other breaks. This helps prevent burnout and even saves us money since we don’t have to pay for farm sitters when we need to leave. Of course, like anything, it has its challenges. People often say things to us like, “I don’t know how you all live together under one roof like that.” Well, it can be difficult. We often have disagreements and frustrations arise. However, we can all say that we’ve grown a lot from the experience. We’ve learned how to communicate frequently and clearly, how to bear with one another in love and how to resolve conflict in a healthy and productive way. We couldn’t imagine trying to do this alone.   

WHAT IS YOUR LONG TERM VISION FOR YOUR FAMILY FARM? The Fahrners: Our mission statement is to heal our land and our people through the use of environmentally, emotionally, and physically enhancing agricultural practices. We believe that with God’s help our once desolate farmland will return to health and abundant life, and we believe He will do the same in us. Our vision is to share all of it with others. When we imagine the future we see people visiting on Saturday morning with their families. Parents can get a cup of Pop’s Coffee and one of mom’s baked goods. They can pickup their meat, eggs and produce for the week. Kids can play on the playground, visit animals and splash through the stream. We’re not there yet, but each day we’re taking steps to make this dream a reality.

WHAT IS ONE PIECE OF ADVICE YOU COULD TELL READERS AS IT RELATES TO THE HEALTH BENEFITS OF FOOD FROM A LOCAL FARM? The Fahrners: We often tell people, “Eat like your life depends on it…because it does!” The decisions you make about food have real and lasting consequences. Do the necessary research to know what you’re putting into your body and make sure you can verify that the food is really produced the way the packaging claims. Did you know that the tomatoes at the grocery store have been genetically selected for one quality, which is shelf life? Not taste, not nutritional value, but shelf life! For the sake of your health and our local farmland, educate yourself about what you consume, and eat like your life depends on it.

Stay tuned for more about the Fahrners and their growing business. More to come in 2022!

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