As I was preparing to write this monumental blog post, I toyed with different titles. The one above came to me just now and I realized there could be no other. It is a line from a song that was popular when I was in high school, "Closing Time" by SemiSonic. The context of the song is completely unrelated to our lives here, but the line itself is universally true.
Every new beginning comes from some other beginning's end.
And so, Andrew and my time at Foxwood Farm has ended. Our beginning, just a scant two years ago, has taught us more than any university or master's program could have hoped. With the grace of God, we have built a thriving business out of nothing. We have expanded our family from three to (going on) five. And we have met so many wonderful people both in person and online; blessings beyond comprehension; life lessons, horrible mistakes, amazing accomplishments and satisfying evenings of exhaustion.
This blog will be in two parts: What happens to us? and What happens to the farm? Let's start with us.
As you well know, we have been working with my parents to come to a smooth transition for ownership of this land. We were up against a lot of hurdles as we had no equity, no savings and some college debt. My parents graciously worked with us as we transitioned from an outside income to direct consumer sales. Still, with fresh milk being outlawed like cocaine, we found that our sales reached a certain level and plateaued (as we could not advertise). We could not get past a certain income level and therefore, our plans of ramping up our rental payments to my folks were in a holding pattern.
Time grew long and patience grew thin. We began exploring options with financing a loan and land contracts but kept returning to the fact that our income stream would not support those plans without supplemental income (read: Off-farm job). With the workload mainly on Andy, and the childrearing mostly on me, loans and other jobs didn't seem very possible.
Four weeks ago, we sent out a sort of SOS email to a select group of friends with varying backgrounds who would be able to offer wisdom and advice. We felt most certainly the farm slipping from our hands and needed to make some proactive decisions. Both families deserved some closure, and soon. There were several viable suggestions that came back to us and we began researching all of them.
A few days later our friend Brian from across the state mentioned in a voicemail that he knew of a farmer looking for a young family to take over his gardens on his farm. We were unsure what this offer meant, so we asked for more details. It turns out this farmer (Vince) was a part of our fresh milk producers group, and we had briefly met him at the Eau Claire hearings in March. He runs a certified organic farm with two farms under the name. One runs grassfed beef and organic hogs. The other runs an organic dairy and pastured poultry. The farms are about two miles from each other, and, while Vince owns it all, the dairy is run by a young couple out of UW-Madison. Across the street from the dairy is a small home and about 50 acres of certified organic crop land. This is where the gardens would be.
You see, Vince has a dream for a completely sustainable farmstead. All they are lacking is a large scale market garden, and the family he wanted to bring on would take care of building that market. Well, we had to go check this out. We saw it was a three hour drive, coordinated to have childcare and took off. We actually got a hold of Vince about an hour into the drive where we asked if we could come see his operation. He laughed and said yes. When we arrived, we got to know Vince and his background, see the farms and meet the other people who lived and worked there. We then shared our story and our visions for Foxwood Farm. He had many of the same goals that we have here. In fact, many of them are already in place and working profitably at Vince's farm. They sell everything direct and work with a food co-op in La Crosse to market the grassfed beef. We also learned that the responsibility of the "gardener family" would be to market and expand the farm and bring in new sales.
For those of you that know us and know Andy, this was right up our alley. We agreed to give Vince our resumes, a business plan for the gardens, and a marketing portfolio. In the meantime, I directed him to our website and blog, which he quickly dove into. We left that night in awe and wonder at the possibilities.
This farm would not only pay us a salary, but if we were the right fit, allow us to become part-owners and build up equity in the farm itself. Seriously, we were looking for the catch, the rub. I mean, it was like a gift from God himself.
That was Thursday, the 8th of July. The following week we spent getting our stuff together in a nice portfolio presentation. On Friday, July 16th, Vince and Kristin came to our farm to see what we were doing here. Kristin helps run the dairy with her husband. We had a nice lunch and farm tour, and we went over the portfolio. We felt like we had made a good impression the first time, and this solidified it. The kids even responded really well to them! When they left, we knew the next time we heard from Vince would be the decision. There were three other families that we knew of who were interested in the same position. Who wouldn't be?
It wasn't long. Tuesday the 20th, the email came in.
We had gotten the job!
And suddenly, in the course of a week and a half, our entire lives had changed. In such a short amount of time, we were heading a direction we couldn't have even fathomed beforehand. It was mind-boggling and overwhelming and exciting and daunting all at once.
And we have a start date of September 1st, this year! There is much to be done in a scant month. But we feel confident we can wrap things up in a timely and efficient manner.
We are leaving home, only to make a new one. The goals of Vince's farm are right in line with ours. It's uncanny; we feel as though our plans for Foxwood are simply being transferred to another location in the state.
Here is our new home: St. Brigid's Meadows
Check it out. Take some time to peruse what they do and offer. We will be taking over that website, and I will be taking over their blog.
So, our time with you is not ended. We are still here, just not in the same place. We look forward to sending our newsletters with the St. Brigid's Meadows logo as the header. We relish the idea of customer relations with new folks, as well as keeping up with you.
And we don't regret anything about our past three years here. The three years at Foxwood caused us to be qualified enough to leave. Without those years of intense learning, we would never have been able to take this position. Without the strife of familial transactions, we never would have considered leaving. To be sure, both our parents are very supportive of this decision.
* * * * *
And now you wonder, what happens to Foxwood Farm here in Omro, WI? What happens to the animals, the gardens, the products? Many people have come to depend on the food here.
We don't intend to leave them out in the cold. We are working on an effective exit strategy with my parents. And that brings us to part two: What happens to the Farm?
I will post on that soon. In the mean time, take care and God Bless you all. He is capable of so many things, beyond our scope of understanding. We are in awe of his greatness this day.
Becky, Andy, Elly, Ethan and ??
Rebekah Sell lives on a small plot of land with her husband, Andy, on which they are hoping to build a sustainable homestead. With a small business and four kids, life is always interesting as Becky and Andy live fully the idea that the journey is the reward. Find her on Google+.