Type: Vegetables, Goats, Chickens
Years in operation: 3.5
Annual revenue: < 10k
(Average over last three years)
We are a 15-acre farm located just south of the DC Metro area. Here, we have a eighth-acre vegetable garden that will expand considerably with an addition of a high tunnel this fall. We also have 6 goats - 2 Nigerian dwarf, 2 cashmere, and 2 fainting, and we will be breeding them this fall for winter births with the intention of selling some of the kids and seeing if we can sustain milking for soap and lotion. We also have 21 heritage-breed hens and 1 ornery rooster named Xander. Xander keeps the girls safe, and they, in turn, give us beautiful brown, white, and green eggs. At present, we make our income from a small pay-what-you-will farm stand at the end of our lane, and in that stand, we also run a Little Free Library. Additionally, we sell our goats' cashmere and have a bunk room in our barn that is available as a retreat space for writers. The two of us, Andi and Philip, do all the work to run the farm, and occasionally, our parents - Mary Lou, Galen, Woody, and Adrienne - help us with major projects, like completing the bunk room and bathroom in our barn and putting up fencing. We do not hire any help at this point.
Inside the Farm
How is your approach to farming different than other farms in the same category?
Our approach to farming is based on a model that involves community participation at every level, except the work of the farm itself. We regularly open our barn for concerts and public readings by musicians and writers from across the U.S., and we designed the barn with that intention. We also invite guests often - both in the bunkroom and in our farmhouse as overnight guests and on the farm for regular visits with our chickens, goats, Great Pyrenees and hound dogs, Mosey and Meander. In the grand scheme, we hope to add a cut flower garden to the property and open our space for events like weddings, business meetings, and the like. Ultimately, our goal is to create a place where people can come and rest and relax and see a simpler lifestyle in action. Our space is now - and will always be - a place where all people are welcome regardless of race, ethnicity, nationality, sexual orientation, or religion. Our hope is that God's Whisper will be a respite from a too-fast world that seeks to separate us from each other. We want to bring people together in this beautiful place that we are blessed to call home so that they can relax and learn about the processes that bring their food to the table, all at the same time.
How does your different approach contribute to a long-term profitable growth strategy for your farm and other small farms like yours?
Our long-term growth strategy is to continue to grow the ways we can invite people into this place. Our first two years were building years - that included a relocation of the farm to a larger, more manageable property. For the past two years, we have also held a writer's retreat on the farm, and this year, we will be expanding that event (come join us, Brent-) to include 30 guests, some of whom will camp here on the farm. All guests will also receive 4 home-cooked meals (made by Andi's mom and Philip's mom) that use our own eggs and as many vegetables as we can possibly include. This event will gross $6,000. Additionally, we have monthly events that range from concerts to film screenings to readings by authors to craft shows with local artisans that bring people to the farm and introduce them to our vision and our work here. These events do not, currently, bring us any income, but because we have the infrastructure in place, they do not cost us anything beyond time. This past year, we began the farm stand, which brought us ~$700 in profits. This year, we have grown the farm stand business (with over $350 earned in the first five months of the year) and will be opening our newly-finished bunk room for guests at a reasonable rate that will cover both our expenses and bring us a regular income. Next year, we plan to open our barn for weddings (we had our first for Woody and Adrienne this year, and despite the rain, it was a great success) and other events. We will also be expanding our vegetable business with our new high tunnel that will extend our growing season considerably and allow us to have fresh produce in the farm stand for most months of the year. In the next 3-5 years, we plan to add a cut flower garden in what is now a hay field that our local sheriff hays, and we also plan to add a yurt and a "tiny house" to the property so that we have more locations for people to rent and relax. Our plans for the next two years also include remediating the springs on the property that have been damaged by our neighbor's free-ranging cattle and creating a pond on the property that we will stock with sustainable fish while also continuing to allow our neighbor's cattle to use our land with a more environmentally-sustainable water supply. At present, we cover most of our farming bills by working full-time, Philip as a senior engineering technician at the Insurance Institute of Highway Safety and Andi as a writer, editor, and writing coach.
How would you specifically use a Mortgage Lifter Lift or Mini Lift?
To continue building our dream for God's Whisper, we took out a loan to build our beautiful 40'x60' barn that now houses Philip's mechanical workshop, our goat's feeding and weathering room, a bunk room, a bathroom (with shower), and a large performance space with full kitchen. We would use the Mortgage Lifter Lift or Mini Lift to pay toward or pay off our barn loan, which is approximately $19,500 at present. Then, we would take the funds reserved for loan payments and begin further work to beautify the space around the barn, work on our pond, and begin the labor involved in installing the cut flower garden as well as do needed improvements like painting the farmhouse and the 4 original outbuildings.
Please share why you are so passionate about your farm and/or farming in general.
We love God's Whisper farm - the land, the animals, the community around it, and our vision for it because we believe this dream is viable and needed. We are blessed to have this 15 acres, and we want to share it with people whose lives are busy, whose work leaves them drained, whose relationships are trying, whose physical lives are painful, and whose spirits simply need a lift. We also want to use this place for more than just the two of us and honor all the people who lived here before us. The farm was established around 1800, and it has been the home to only two families and approximately 13 enslaved people before us. Our hope is to honor all these people, particularly those who built this space without a choice in their work, by making this a place of healing and hope for anyone who visits. To that end, we have installed a memory bench in our growing memory garden, and it is dedicated to the people who were enslaved here on this farm.
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