Why did you begin farming?
As a young child I recognized that I was happiest when pulling weeds or picking backyard raspberries. This understanding inspired a life-long pursuit of back-to-the land self-sufficiency.
Have you always been an eco-farmer, or did you make a change?
If the definition of eco-farmer is one who works with nature instead of against her than that would apply to our farming philosophy since the beginning.
What do you enjoy most about farming?
There is joy in every aspect of farming. Highlights include watching a new customer’s surprise when they bite into a peach and juice runs down their chin, seeing the miracle of alpaca births and devotion of the dams, picking a ripe piece of fruit that you have cared for since it was a tiny bud in an unopened flower, and being surrounded by the authenticity of plants and animals.
What was the biggest hurdle you have overcome?
The biggest hurdle we have overcome occurs every year. The risks and uncertainties involved in farming are constantly imminent and threatening, but over the last 24 years we have slowly added the infrastructure needed to pick, pack, sort and direct market the fruit. With only 6 acres in production each piece of fruit is important. In 2008 we built a commercial kitchen to process fruit that didn’t make it to market and are certified for frozen, dried and canned peaches, apricots, nectarines, blended fruit leather and raisins. The alpaca fiber is sold raw, spun into yarn or woven into rugs and placemats.
What is the best piece of advice you ever received about farming?
Trust Mother Nature.
What do you see in store for the future of sustainable farming?
We have sold our fruit at farmers’ markets for 20 years. Over this period we have seen a dramatic rise in the understanding and demand for real food. In tandem, there seemed to be a very well-financed and powerful effort to produce cheap, industrial food. The outcome of sustainable/organic/real food farming will be significantly impacted by the choices consumers make about what they want to eat and feed their family.
What learning opportunities have helped you become a better farmer?
We have been members of Tilth Producers since the early ’90s. Their annual conference, farm walks and quarterly journals were invaluable in connecting us to other organic farmers, educators and cutting-edge research.
What is the funniest thing that has happened on your farm?
Although alpacas evolved on a grass diet, they like fruit too! The first time we gave them leftover fruit from the kitchen they were curious but cautious. The second time was a race to the bucket
This article appears in the July 2015 issue of Acres U.S.A.
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