Raw and Real

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Have you visited the farm? Have you met me in person? If so, you know I like to keep things real. If you ask me how it's going, I am going to tell you how it's going. For real. The good, the not-so-good, and depending on how well I know you - the ugly. You get the ugly if you know me well. See what you have to look forward to when we become friends? ;-) I have come to realize that this blog should represent the same transparency. After all, it is all about community and there is no better way to connect with one another and truly help meet the needs in the community other than being real with each other. Social media has so many great benefits, but one downfall I see is that most people only post their highlight reel, even businesses. It makes sense, right? You have a business and you want people to see all the great reasons why folks should buy your products or use your services, right?

Here's the thing. It's NOT REAL LIFE. Unexpected stuff happens. Pivoting quickly becomes necessary. Entrepreneurs know, or quickly learn, that flexibility and thick skin are a requirement of the job. Sometimes though, gigantic stuff happens and the pivoting turns into spinning and stress levels sky-rocket and quality of life starts to dwindle. Whoops! Time for the alarm to sound!! This is a wake-up call and one we have recently encountered. Prior to me receiving my Holistic Management International Beginning Farmer and Rancher Training, I would have normally struggled greatly when the scales tipped too far and the stress levels were just too much. However, my training has taught me how to constantly monitor, make changes, adjust, and maintain true to my holistic goal. 

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The raw and real 2018 at Hills of Milk and Honey so far includes many wonderful, amazing blessings, and ones that I do not take for granted. Before the business was even a year old, the farm was awarded the Austin Food and Wine Alliance Grant, we sold out of our home school spring program, as well as every preschool program, and several of our summer camp weeks had waiting lists. Our guest house on AirBnB has been booked every single weekend (no joke!) and many weekdays. I was invited to a live interview on 91.7 KOOP radio with Mark Rashap's Another Bottle Down segment and the podcast is featured on his blog The Illuminated Bottle. Hills of Milk and Honey was the cover story for the Hill Country View Magazine in April and the farm received the award of Runner Up for the Dripping Springs Century News "Best Of" contest in the category of Entertainment Venue this year. I have to pause right here and say...

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THANK YOU SO MUCH to everyone who has helped make the beginning of this very unique business journey a success! You are all appreciated very much! It is because of your willingness to pick up the phone and encourage friends to register for events with you, or your sharing of social media posts, and even your commitment to putting on your boots and volunteering your time on the farm to get the work done, that's helped us continue to move forward with our plans every single day.

Here's the thing...in the beginning of any business, there are two things that are needed: capital and hard work. And I mean REALLY HARD WORK. I have never felt more physically, mentally, or emotionally as strong in my life as I do right now. Farming can do that to you. I call it a benefit. It allows me to continue to remain flexible and focused on my holistic goal of teaching others the importance of regenerative agriculture and growing and raising nutrient-dense food. It does not mean that I have super powers. It just means I am committed to the process, and will do whatever it takes. Right now, I know what it is going to take in order for the next phase of the farm to remain successful and sustainable. It is going to take being real and raw from here on out. So, here goes...

We've had some unexpected, crazy turns of events stacked on top of each other like a not-so-beautiful parfait here on the farm so far this year. As a family, and as a business, we have relied on our faith and our family and friends to help us navigate through some honestly tough times. My side of the family has sadly lost three loved ones just in the last several months. It is a bit heartbreaking to not live in the same state as the majority of your loved ones during times like these, but life goes on. Goats still need milking twice daily, chickens continue to lay eggs, and the humans still need to eat. One foot in front of the other. Smile. Teach. Muck stalls. Eat. Sleep. Repeat. All the while, dreaming of hugging your family miles and miles away.

In addition, the farm suddenly encountered a large number of big ticket repairs one right after the other this year including major electrical, major plumbing, several sudden appliance replacements, a septic nightmare and a complete water pump replacement for our well. Also, our truck that we rely on heavily took a turn for the worse, and needed a sudden costly repair to hold it over for awhile, but desperately needs to be replaced. Our Livestock Guardian Dogs have been amazing at protecting our animals, to the tune of way-too-many trips to the vet for general anesthesia to pull porcupine quills as well. Yes, savings to the rescue (thank you Dave Ramsey's Financial Peace University training), but y'all, this was an absurd number of financial nightmares to juggle at once. 

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On top of it all, I ended up in the hospital with an acute kidney related issue that required an unplanned surgery and recovery to care for my solitary kidney. This was all happening while I was in the process of hiring my first employee and trying to raise money through an all-or-nothing Kickstarter Campaign to build an air-conditioned classroom space for summer camps here. I was so fortunate to find an amazing chef, willing to wear several hats, and jump in to do it all - Chef Jana! Nearby friends took care of so much here including shopping, meals, farm chores, and even milking goats at o-dark-thirty in the mornings. There are no words adequate enough to explain how grateful I am for everyone's generosity. And, although the Kickstarter Campaign did not fund, I received several direct donations sent to the farm from complete strangers because people "believe in what I am building here on the farm" and they wanted to provide money towards the farm's goals anyway. Talk about tears of overwhelming joy and gratitude when I open the mailbox to find gifts like these!

I recovered fully, and got back to the grind as soon as I could in the spring to fully prepare for a season of summer camps. In order to pull off providing necessary air-conditioned space, we reconfigured our home for a season so that it could be used daily for the camps. Although I was happy to provide the air-conditioned space so kiddos could cool off, I was very happy to move our furniture back into our home and have our space to ourselves again. I live, breathe, eat, sleep, and nearly never leave the farm. So, giving up our home for a bit was a stretch and we are working hard to have a building in place by next summer for our campers for sure.

These last few months here may not look much different from other folks, or even you. Appliances break, loved ones pass away, illnesses happen, and life goes on. In our case, so much happened all at once, and tore through our savings, required a constant restructuring of plans, and caused there to be literally no down time whatsoever, that we have taken a step back to give ourselves an honest look at the future and this is what has been determined...

Hills of Milk and Honey provides a unique service to our community as well as to our own souls. It is a real treat to hear a child "get it" when you teach about the importance of dung beetles, or you hear the squeals of delight when they get to place their ear literally up to the glass of an observation beehive to her the collective buzzing of honey bees, or even learn how to milk a goat. I was born to teach. I know this with every fiber of my being. I was also born to farm and combining the two is a no brainer. These are my strengths and teaching others is how I impact my community in a positive way. This is important. It's my calling.

Do you have strengths that you can offer to the farm? Maybe you have a bit of time weekly or monthly that you would like to commit to volunteering here. If so, contact us. Perhaps becoming a Buying Club Coordinator to get our eggs out into the hands of our community sounds appealing to you. You might even be interested in joining others in financially supporting the farm, or you or someone you know may be interested in discussing investment opportunities to help us take the farm to the next level. Whatever your interest might be in joining in the Hills of Milk and Honey community, we look forward to seeing you soon! 

Register for our July 21st Breakfast with Bo!

The very best way y'all can support us right this minute is to register for a breakfast event this summer, or sign up for the fall home school program, or book your parent and preschool days on the farm. Tell your child's school about field trip opportunities here and help us get in touch with decision-makers to plan those field trips. Small farmers and producers like us love pouring our heart and soul into providing nutrient-dense food and educational opportunities like this to our community, but we can't do any of it without your support. Thank you, thank you, thank you!

Cheers, from a farmer focused on pivoting towards quality of life a little more, which means you may see me off the farm from time to time here pretty soon!

-Farmer Amy

 

 

 

 

It's a WHOLE New Year!

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Hills of Milk and Honey family, you are incredible! It is because of your valuable feedback, input and requests that we have developed a calendar full of events for all ages to take part on the farm during the spring and summer of 2018! Our training in Holistic Management teaches us that we must consider all aspects of the farm, as a whole, when we implement new farming practices. Our health and wellness training teaches us that we must consider our whole self (mind, body, and spirit) when implementing new wellness practices. And, we all need outlets to be able to just dream, be in the moment, rest, be creative, connect with the land, love on people, and foster healthy intergenerational relationships. Everything we are committed to in this new year rests on these principles.

Join us this year and learn about the whole process of self-care, land care, and care for others as we gather our community together to learn from each other. Check out all of the possibilities!

Spring Classes

Our spring calendar is full of classes including keeping backyard chickens, composting with worms, learning about wellness through healthy eating and self-care, meditation, companion planting in the garden, building easy raised bed gardens, creating a pollinator-friendly garden, raising dairy goats, and more.

Special Event

We also have a special event on April 21, 2018 (weather permitting) where we will provide an outdoor screening of Farmers For America. Watch the trailer. This film screening event takes place on the same day as a shelter building workshop with optional overnight camping. Those building the shelters will have the opportunity to join in on the screening and then retreat to their shelters for the night and enjoy farm fresh eggs for breakfast the next morning! The film screening is open to all ages, but the shelter workshop is geared toward ages 13-18. This will be a fabulously fun weekend on the farm, so mark your calendars now and register today!

Intergenerational Farm Activities

In an effort to create intergenerational learning opportunities on the farm, we are offering a workshop for teens and seniors to join up and take part in an abstract art lesson together after touring the farm. Teens also get a dedicated workshop just to themselves as well. In addition, we have a wonderful program that gives preschoolers a chance to enjoy the farm, seniors a chance to enjoy the farm, and a special time for the seniors and preschools to enjoy the farm together. What is better than a 3 year old and 83 year old giggling over finding worms in the garden together?

Farm Produce and Eggs 

Our gardens are in their infancy and we are giving our community a chance to take part in making sure they thrive. We contemplated offering a small CSA this spring, but opted instead to use this year to experiment first. So, from time to time you will see us offer chances for folks to come garden with us and in exchange for your help, we will send you home with vegetables as a thank you. Keep a look out this spring for upcoming dates to participate in these garden days! And, as soon as our chickens start earning their keep again, we will have eggs for sale this spring, so stay tuned for details on purchasing pastured eggs from our farm. They are currently taking a winter break, but production should begin again shortly. :-)

Home School Program

This past year we have hosted many home school groups on the farm, so we decided to launch a program just for home school families. We are offering a eight week spring session on Thursdays from March 22 - May 10, 2018 from 9-3 each day. Families have the opportunity to choose between leading small groups and receiving a discount on the program, or paying full price for a drop-off program.

Summer Camps

We have made plans to offer a summer full of fun for all ages through our summer day camps, including a preschool camp, an elementary camp, a middle school camp, a camp for children with autism, and a camp for teens and young adults with autism. This year campers all get to become a Farmer for the Week! We've been working on curriculum all year and can't wait to host our campers this summer for these day camps on the farm!

Volunteer Opportunities

If you are craving some time to get in on the action over here, there are ample opportunities for teens and adults to volunteer to help with routine farm chores or special projects. We sign off on volunteer service hours for high school and college students, so jump in and help out your local farmer. We have fun and usually get a great workout in at the same time!

Guest House Stay on AirBnB

Our guest house has become a popular destination for travelers visiting the Hill Country, as well as locals looking for a quiet night not too far away from home. We've even earned Super Host status in our first year on AirBnB. Reserve your stay today! Almost all spring weekends are booked already, but we have plenty of weekdays still available. Visitors staying in our guest house help out our farm immensely as the income we receive from the farm stays helps off-set our livestock feed costs. So, thanks for supporting your local farmer.

Girl Scouts

We offer Girl Scout troops the chance to visit the farm to complete badge requirements, participate in overnight camps, or even partner with the farm on Take Action projects and Bronze, Silver and Gold Awards. We would be happy to add Boy Scouts as well if any troops are interested. 

Job Opportunities

Up until now, we've operated on a very sparse crew that consists of me, myself, and I - Farmer Amy! On occasion, when larger groups visit, an extra hand or two joins in to help out. With everything we have planned this year, it's time to provide some employment opportunities to our community. We have several options for those looking to work with the community in a farm environment, and hiring is completed on a rolling basis until openings are filled. So, check the job postings, and send us your resume and cover letter. Let's have some fun working together on the farm!

More

We also continue to host private group tours, birthday parties, special events, photography sessions, and more. Take a few minutes to navigate our website and check things out. We can't wait to meet you!

Gratitude

Farming is not easy. Not even the slightest bit. It requires an amount of persistence, flexibility, patience, endurance and creativity that really can't be compared to much else. So much of what happens on a farm is completely out of the control of the farmer. Mainly, the weather. It's risky business. When you attend a class, buy a dozen eggs, or volunteer your time on the farm, you are making it possible for a small, local farmer to continue the goal of healing the soil and providing nutrient-dense food for the community. Our most treasured gift is you. Every time you tell someone else about the farm and invite them to take part in our community, you provide job security for a farmer. So, thanks for sharing, networking, and connecting others to Hills of Milk and Honey! Let's make it a great year, together.

- Farmer Amy