Today's Featured Farmer is Amy of The Fewell Homestead.
Welcome, Amy, and thanks for joining us!
1. Tell us a little about yourself!
I was born and raised in Virginia. Living out in the "plains" or "flat land" of VA was something I always wanted. My grandparents raised cattle and lived on a beautiful farm my entire life. I can remember spending summers there -- screen door open, the sound of bellowing calves. It was heaven for a child that had a nature soul. It wasn't until I married my husband that the mountains of VA became my newest adventure. I never thought I'd move away from the open fields as far as the eye could see, but I found a new and better option -- mountains with fields quietly gracing the mountainside. I was at home.
Even though I grew up around the farm, my husband and I didn't live that lifestyle after getting married. But shortly after buying our first home in the foothills of the Blue Ridge mountains, we decided to get a few chickens. A few chickens turned into some ducks....and some meat rabbits.....and here we are, thinking about dairy goats! All of this is happening on a half acre, which is unheard of. But we love showing people that it's possible.
We specialize in non-gmo, all natural care for our animals. We are a small hobby homestead -- meaning, we raise our animals for ourselves, and if we have something to share, we will, but it's not often. We are simply trying to get back to the way our ancestors lived. We treat our animals (and ourselves) holistically when necessary, never chemically. We believe animals should live a healthy and free life -- therefore, we encourage pasture raised chickens, ducks, and rabbits. We hope to buy a larger property in the next year or so, selling our current property as a "mini-homestead" with all structures included, and start brand new. We can't wait!
My husband, Mark, and I married in 2006, and three short years later we had our son. Becoming a mother instantly instilled the need to live a healthier lifestyle. But how? It wasn't until 2013 when I finally became tired of feeling awful and sick all of the time. My son had asthma, and no chemical treatments were helping him. I didn't want his precious little body to fill up with chemicals before he was even 3 years old.
Through encouragement from a neighbor and some fellow crunchy girlfriends, I began researching holistic living.
Living healthier and with less chemicals was working, but what about our food?
Our food was the biggest source of chemicals in our bodies, unfortunately.
My husband suggested we get a few chickens. And as it always goes, chickens turn into about 100 other animals. At one point in 2014, we had 50 chickens, 25 rabbits, and multiple ducks. We have since downsized a little (12 chickens, 6 ducks, 4 rabbits not including babies) since it was more than we needed, however, we enjoy every minute of it. My son has since almost completely outgrown asthma, and we feel the best we've ever felt.
3. What is your favorite part of your farming lifestyle?
Watching my son learn the necessities of life. We're doing this for ourselves, but we're doing it for him, too. He knows meat doesn't come from the "store". And that it's just as easy to raise it yourself. He will never ever fear if there comes a time when there isn't food easily available, because he will know how to take care of himself. (Ally, here-- I love this post from Amy's blog about allowing her son to process animals on their homestead-- good reading!)
My second favorite part would have to be the serenity of it all. Walking outside, even on the coldest of mornings, gives a feeling of life and achievement. Being this close to nature is one of the best feelings in the world. I do most of the homesteading myself, and it's my favorite part of the day!
4. What have you struggled with?
I'm a horrible gardener, and I'm not ashamed to admit it. Every year I try harder and harder. This year I actually harvested quite a few things, but not as good as I could have!
5. What has been the most surprising thing about incorporating this into your life?
Our health. We are so much healthier than I used to be and haven't been to the doctor in years!
6. How has being involved in agriculture affected your faith?
I never thought I'd pray for animals and pray through their hardships. And more so, I never thought I'd feel this close to them. I remember praying through one of our rabbits pregnancies, as she labored and delivered. Unfortunately, it was a rough delivery for her and she lost every single baby. I got her cleaned up and warm. And a rabbit who had never once wanted to "snuggle" with me, all of a sudden could not get close enough to me. We sat and mourned together for an hour, and every time I got up to leave, she would get even closer. She needed me there, whether I wanted to believe it or not. And I truly feel like it was that connection through prayer and faith.
In Genesis, God commanded Adam and Eve to tend to the garden and to the animals. I don't think it's any different when you farm. Those animals are in your care, but they aren't just animals, they are a creation of God. The connection you feel with them, they feel that too.
7. What advice would you give a complete newbie (you know, like me)?
Don't give up. You'll have heartache along the way, it is inevitable. But pushing through and finding a groove that suits you best is the way to go. If something doesn't work, change it. Everyone has their own way of doing things, and not a single one of them is the wrong way. Research, research, research. Pray through the hard times, and remember to laugh too. Enjoy the stewardship of your land and animals! There is great reward in it.
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www.thefewellhomestead.com and www.amyfewell.com