Posted by Tom Boyden in Biodynamic Farming on November 21, 2012
Beginning her farming career as a farm laborer on a large-scale farm was not the usual path taken for a new female farmer. The work is tough and numbing, but Amber had a hefty amount of persistence and spunk. Luckily, she was able to land a job working at a mid-sized organic farm. There, she met her future husband Jonah and they forged plans for a future together in agriculture. Jonah and Amber found a friend who had family land that wasn’t being farmed and they jumped on the opportunity. They developed a successful CSA, but their success only had them yearning more for a farm of their own.
They began leasing 2 acres of farmland in Oregon in 2009. The land had no infrastructure and they were both living away from the farm. It turned out to be a daunting task in developing this farmland, especially when living off the farm. She mentioned, “It wasn’t sustainable to live off the farm, that attentive eye was lost in the process of going back and forth.” They decided to leave the farm and work for a year; raising money for a future, more permanent farm. The two of them developed a business plan and raised money through a micro-lending program; now all they needed was to find the right farm to pursue.
With luck, Jonah and Amber came across a 35 acre parcel of land owned by the Biodynamic Association. It was out of their price range, but they found a backer who wanted them to create a bed and breakfast on the farm. Unfortunately, the backer dropped out and they were left wanting the farm. At the moment, they are leasing the land on an annual lease, but are looking to find an interested party to invest in them. Developing a CSA, restaurant contracts, and successful farmer’s market stands, Cama Swale Farm was on the up and up; they even had a surplus of vegetables! Through and through, they were focused on farming biodynamically, “It’s much more personal than conventional farming,” Amber explained. Even in the short time spent at the farm, Amber and Jonah have made some grand memories together and through the community building opportunities that farming has brought them. Amber put it well, “Farming is not like other jobs, you’re always there. It’s your life.”
Daphne and her family developed their farm in Viroqua, WI from the ground up, from the house to the wind and solar power that provides 100% of the energy used on the farm. Since the inception of the farm, they have chosen to operate entirely on a biodynamic foundation. She asked a question to the audience: Do people really even care if I am farming biodynamically? It is a personal choice; it brings meaning to her work and enlightenment with nature. She put it wonderfully, “It brings spiritual connection to the mundane tasks of daily work.”
One of the things her family strived to do when purchasing the farm was to accumulate little to no debt. This was accomplished through her husband working a full-time job off the farm and through a low interest FSA loan and NRCS funding. Working off the farm was a sacrifice they had to make to remain afloat, but they did not sacrifice their integrity. Persistence and passion allowed Daphne and her husband Cameron to remain debt-free and now they are both able to work on the farm.
A unique aspect of Prairie Roots Farm is their very low carbon footprint through the off-the-grid nature of their operation. They use no tractors, relying on five draft horses to do many important tasks. The horses spread compost, clip grass, reseed pastures, rake hays and cut hays. Living in Viroqua has proved advantageous for their draft horse based dairy and beef operation. Down the road from them is an Amish toolmaker who supplies them with ploughs and other materials. Daphne and her family display voracious passion in their pursuit of regenerative agriculture; healing the land and leaving it thriving and alive behind them and their horses.