It has taken a lot of confidence for me to write those two words. I don’t know why but there was a mental hiccup I had been feeling that can only be described as feeling like a failure. I know it wasn’t right but I had so much of the identity of the story we told here wrapped up in the 1916 farm we rebiult. But before I dive into that, let me explain how we got here!
I’m going to back WAY up so stick with me. In February of 2020 we signed a contract and put a deposit down for a builder to put up a large barn for us here on our farm. Once our time on their schedule came up in August, the cost of building materials had risen so much we no longer could afford to build it without also spending all of our operation capital. Our county also threw hoops at us during the permit process that we didn’t know would be a requirement (hoops they require everyone to jump through when building now, not just us) and the cost of those required studies had also doubled during covid. So, we had no choice but to put the entire project on hold, waiting to build in hopes that the price of materials would come back down and we could save up. Doing so meant we needed to continue to lease the barns & properties we had been using for winter housing.
Many don’t know but, we lease a lot of space for our cattle. The barn our finish cattle are in is about 5 miles north and gives them shelter from the heavy PNW winter rains while also providing infrastructure for the manure management. We also have our calves on winter ground about 2 miles southwest from our home that was already fully fenced and able to contain our calves better. This means we spent a LOT of time back and forth feeding, cleaning barns, checking calves and keeping everyone healthy. The wear and tear on our tractor was immense as it trudged daily through tire deep mud on the leased land. Our tractor doesn’t have a cab so it left Ryan wet & completely soaked by the end of his chores even with the best of waterproof gear. We were exhausted and in order to get all of our chores done, some of the core values we held in our lives were taking a back seat. We had, quite literally, outgrown our britches. Our infrastructure (both at home and at the leased properties) just couldn’t handle the volume of livestock we needed to raise in order to make an income without significant changes; all of which required capital we just didn’t have. Actual family time was unheard of and our days were spent being reactive vs proactive. Piano lesson days would creep up on me and I would realize we hadn’t practiced all week. I would open the fridge to realize I didnt have anything ready. The garden wasn’t as extensive as it just wasn’t a priority, which meant our food choices were The kids would have 4H meetings we missed and kids school wasn’t as in depth as I had dreamed of.
In the late winter of 2022, Ryan and I sat down one early morning and had a long conversation about how sustainable all of this was. He was up at 4:30AM and not going to bed until long after 11PM. We are HARD workers but this was taking a toll on our physical health at this point. We aren’t ones to give in but tearfully, we made the choice to scale WAY back this coming year, consolidating our hogs to only breeders in the winter and letting go of some of our plans. That also meant we likely would only have enough meat for Farm Club, which would virtually eliminate our store because we simply wouldn’t have enough inventory. It also meant that the economy of scale purchasing we needed to take advantage of to keep our costs down might even be an issue. If we weren’t raising enough livestock, if effected more than our bottom line. It also meant no more Farm School due to a lack of shelter for us to hold class in. I was heartbroken to say that least but refused to put my pride above my family anymore. It meant letting go of the dream of being full time farmers.
That same day, my good friend Brandi came over with her twin girls my kids love to play with. She had had a busy day and needed a break so she drove down my driveway with wine (& a few varieties of cheese) in hand! Brandi has been a sounding board for all my wild ideas for the last 3 years. When she sat down with me, I was honest and gave her the low down.
“There is a place just down the road from here that might be a better fit for what you’re wanting to do. It has tons of barns and I can’t believe it’s even on the market. What about moving the livestock there?”
It wasn’t a bad idea. So, I pitched it to Ryan and we scheduled a walk through.
Initially, I had a hard time envisioning myself moving. I had tied my entire identity to the white house we had lovingly rebuilt together and the ability to say “we built this farm from the ground up”. It was ALLLL pride/ego and I at least could recognize that. So much of our story was this farm we were on and purchasing one that was already set up to go felt like I was cheating or something. I was also worried it was juuuuust far enough away that we would lose some customers and the great exposure we have being right off the freeway. And the orchard? Our dinners had been my passion project so you can imagine how hard it was to envision moving those.
This was also a business decision so we worked really hard to weigh the pros and cons. The logistics for moving our entire farm felt absolutely overwhelming so it took me a bit to be “all in” even though the pros were immense.
I’m a big picture person who can see the potential but I really struggled to see it this time. Despite that, we asked to walk through again. Then again and again. There was so much to go over we were running out of the allotted two hours every time we went for a showing. Finally, we made another request, asking the sellers to walk us through how the manure management worked so we had a firm grip on what we were getting ourselves into.
But, it had everything we needed. Barns for livestock, manure management, extensive (flat) pastures for grazing and rotating meat chickens, a warehouse for packing orders and a spot for putting the store. It had a small pond for the geese and plenty of indoor storage for allllll of our feed. It also had a charming home and these beautiful willows that draped magically across the wrap around porch. It would allow us to quadruple our operation WITHOUT increasing our labor. It also had a huge loft with these beautiful timbers that with just a little bit of cleaning would make an amazing event space for farm school and our dinners. My dreams of serving our community with an onsite poultry processing facility is possible here with the extensive space and covered areas. Y’all, our goals were coming back in sight and the vision felt crystal clear.
I tried not to get excited but as it came down to moving day, the gravity of this big change left butterflies. I was also so nervous to tell our customers. That Friday as we moved, we shared with Farm Club on our Instagram “Farm Club Friday”. We let the cat out of the bag as Rosie farrowed in the new sow barn.
The following week, as we moved more and more, I shared on IG that we were relocating. Message after message celebrating our move poured in and honestly, all the anxiety I had felt about telling our customers that we were relocating just disappeared.
Then came the move. There was so much to coordinate we were at a bit of a loss. We have one feed tractor so if we moved livestock, we needed to move the tractor. But, if we moved the tractor, we needed to move ALL of the livestock quickly. And then we needed to move feed too. It was a question of qhich came first, the chicken or the egg! At one point, the breeding hogs in the woods gave us a firm NO. Lol. They were NOT going to be moved. But, we’ve slowly made our way over here & now all that’s left is a few items in the garage and our store.
The store will stay at its currently location until we get the electrical and pad set up here at the new farm. We will still be open during our regular hours and our dear friend is staying at the old farm to keep an eye on the remaining livestock during the transition.
To say we are excited is an understatement. We’re excited to claim back a bit more of the things we were sacrificing to make this farm work. We have been filming this secretly all spring & into the summer and can’t wait to compile it to tell this story as we lived it.
Stay tuned for the date we plan to move the store & drop the YouTube video.