Building Onto a Farm Brewery

As I've now looked back at every year leading up to this one something became very clear to me. Not for one season have I ever tried to be only a farm. What I mean by that is I never told everyone else "sorry, I can't do that, I have to focus on the farm."

Granted, that wasn't necessarily the original vision. The farm was always part of a bigger strategy involving two other businesses. However, looping in land and project management along with other odd jobs was just too much. Where we fell short was thinking I could create a viable farm while balancing all these other obligations. Lesson learned.

Farm Operations in 2016

  • 1300 broilers
  • 20 pigs
  • 50 egg layers
  • 1.4 acres of apples
  • 1 acre of hops (down from 2015)
  • some social veggies and herbs

Sales Channels

  • CSA for broilers
  • Pork Shares for pigs
  • 2 x Farmers’ Markets
  • Few wholesale accounts
  • Farm Store

Major Projects:

  • Septic for brewery bathrooms
  • Install brewery bathrooms
    • I did the drywall
  • Rebuild old dairy barn
    • Hired contractors
    • I did project management
  • Open brewery for bottle sales
  • Regular farm tours
  • More farm clean up



Kate joins the team full time!

The biggest and best change that we underwent that year was adding Kate as a full time farmer. Kate and I have been married since 2010. We've been across the country on bikes together, we've had a kid together, we've moved several times, made it though some bad apprentice positions together, we've done a lot.

Teaming up on farm has been a good move in some respects and a tough move in others. The good things about working together is that we don't have to explain ourselves as clearly when working things out. There's no time wasted getting over ego, we can just talk about what needs to get done and then do it.

For the love of all things good one of my favorite things about Kate is that she's a fast walker. I cannot tell you the aggravation of people working on farm wasting time walking like they're out on a Sunday stroll when things need to get done. I'm not asking anyone to jog, but come on. Not Kate, she's a fast walker.

Kate's super smart. She has a different way at looking at the world than I do and that's healthy. I don't have all the right answers and neither does she. Kate is someone that I can bounce ideas around with and she can see the conversation in the holistic context of everything we're trying to accomplish.

The only real tough thing has been balancing having Mabel in our lives while both of us working at the place that we live. Finding kid care, babysitters, family, summer camps, etc... is a real juggle. One made that much more complicated by farmer's income. But we're doing it. Thanks to friends and family we continue to figure it out.

It was a long time coming that we work together and I hope we can continue to in the future. She's my friend, my partner, and at times, my co-worker.


Closing Thoughts

When starting a farm it's easy to fall into the trap of working too many hours to try and accomplish too many unrealistic goals. I know it because I have done it, and I have also seen a lot of other people fall into that trap.

I'm going to generalize here and say most people with the sustainable/regenerative/organic/etc.. ethos are generally people good people. We're kind and understanding, empathetic, passionate, and dedicated. We want to say yes to most others in need. Our problem then becomes saying yes to too many people and too many projects. 

Learning to say no to things will be one of the most valuable lessons you'll ever learn.

Bruce Lee said, "The success warrior is the average man, with laser-like focus." I'm going to edit that to, "The successful farmer is the average man, with laser-like focus, and a kind heart."

Be well, I'll talk to you again soon.