How did you get started?
I grew up surrounded by nature and animals in Michigan. My parents had a small hobby farm where my mom raised sheep and we had a mischievous goat named Sundance that I loved. A graduate school program brought me to Chicago for an internship and after graduation I took a job in the city. I always felt like something was not quite right and I missed open spaces, nature and animals. Eventually, I was able to change jobs and work in the suburbs. I was drawn to a Conservation Community in Grayslake called Prairie Crossing where at the heart of the neighborhood was a working organic farm. I met many local small farmers from living there and became passionate about local food in the Chicagoland area. Soon after moving there, I applied to a farm business development program that was offered at the farm. Most of the other beginning farmers there were growing vegetables, but I was super drawn to goats and all of the different products you could make from their milk and fiber. I never thought that I would be accepted into the program because I did not have degrees or a real background in agriculture. I was so excited when I was accepted. I purchased three goats as soon as I was accepted and the herd slowly grew from there! My husband and father-in-law built me a small barn on wheels where I could move the goats from pasture to pasture with portable electrical net fencing. I spent four years in the program before moving to Pecatonica and purchasing my own land and farm to build a dairy to make cheese.
What are your proudest achievements?
Our soap was featured on Oprah’s website in 2011 as one of her perfect presents. In addition, our soap was carried nationwide in Crate & Barrel stores for a one year contract. The biggest achievement was purchasing our own farm and figuring out how to build a certified dairy and a creamery!
Do you have advice for someone who wants to start farming?
My advice would be to keep your day job as long as you can. There is a tremendous amount of money that you will need to start a farming enterprise with unexpected costs when buying farm land or building infrastructure. Make friends in your community if moving to a rural place. You need your neighbors in the country! Find a good livestock veterinarian. They are worth their weight in gold and hard to find. You always end up needing one during kidding season in the middle of the night.