Farm Beginnings Profiles

These profiles feature the stories of graduates of the Land Stewardship Project’s Farm Beginnings and Journeyperson courses. In these stories, the graduates talk about the challenges of launching a farm business, how these courses got them started on their agrarian path, and what their future goals are.

Small, Complex & Focused

Not Doing Everything Makes Minding the Little Things Even More Crucial

Smaller doesn’t always mean simpler. Consider Cella Langer and Emmet Fisher’s foray into being a Grade A micro-dairy — one that produces, processes, packages, markets, and sells pasteurized milk and yogurt. In a state that has lost 40,000 dairy farms in the past four decades, they are a tiny push in the opposite direction. How…  Read More

Making Room for Relationships

How Journeyperson is Helping Racing Heart Pace Itself

Pack-shed or people? That’s the question Les Macare and Els Dobrick are grappling with on a dank day in mid-March as they brave a biting wind to inspect the garden plots, cover crops, and outbuildings on Racing Heart Farm in western Wisconsin. With the exception of some onions sprouting in one of the hoop houses,…  Read More

Farm Beginnings Profile: A Raw Deal on Farmland

Using Farm Beginnings & Soil Health to Push Marginal Land Beyond Expectations

There are upsides to launching a farm on raw, open land: no broken-down outbuildings or junk piles to deal with, the ability to truly start anew from the soil up. Then…there’s the other side of the fence, so to speak. “I decided to move the sheep before they move themselves,” says Hannah Bernhardt with a…  Read More

Farm Beginnings Profile: An Enigmatic Edge in Corn Country

This Gateway into Farming Hinges on Small Grains, Livestock & Soil Health With its pool table topography and coffee-colored soils, southern Minnesota’s Nicollet County perennially ranks as one of the top producers of corn and soybeans in the state, and land prices reflect it — in 2019 the average annual non-irrigated cropland rental rate in…  Read More

Farm Beginnings Profile: A Land-Based Launching Pad

Four Winds Farm Serves as a Staging Ground for New Agrarians

On a warm day in early October, the owner-operators of Clover Bee Farm are preparing a delivery for the 43 shareholders that make up their Community Supported Agriculture (CSA) vegetable operation. Standing in a hoop house, Andrew Hanson-Pierre cleans dozens of fat onions, while across the farmyard in a barn that’s been converted to a…  Read More

The Grass Master’s Apprentice

An Innovative Farming System Requires Innovative Training One sign that you’re a solid employee is that the boss hates the idea of you walking out the door, never to return. So let’s consider the case of Ryan Heinen, who has worked on the west-central Minnesota dairy farm of Nate and Angie Walter for the past…  Read More

Farm Beginnings Profile: Running it Through the Mill

On an afternoon in late June, west-central Minnesota farmers Anne and Peter Schwagerl walk out of the bright sun into the deep shade of an old granary that has six separate storage areas for various kinds of harvested crops—a throwback to an era when most Midwestern farms produced more than corn and soybeans. On many…  Read More

Farm Beginnings Profile: The Curve of Binding Energy

Okay, calculus lesson of the day, courtesy of some pasture grass, fencing and a herd of ruminants. Calculus, in case you’ve forgotten, is the mathematical study of rates of change. It can be a handy way to calculate where you’re headed and how long it will take to get there. Let’s say you are a…  Read More

Farm Beginnings Profile: Andy Cotter & Irene Genelin

Wheeling into the Future

It’s not every day that you see the words “unicyclists” and “farming” used in the same sentence, but here we go: national and world champion unicyclists Andy Cotter and Irene Genelin launched a farming operation a half-a-dozen years ago. Now, this is the part of the story that cries out for a familiar trope like…  Read More

Farm Beginnings Profile: A Decision-Making Community

Finding the weakest link in a farming operation is often easier said than done. But sometimes a few energetic pigs accomplish the task quite nicely. “Today, fencing suddenly moved up the list as our weakest link,” quips Paul Freid on a brisk day in early May. He and his wife Sara, along with their 11-year-old…  Read More