The Women of Bee Tree Farm and Dairy

Today we’re diving deep into the lives of the women who run Bee Tree Farm and Dairy in Manor, Texas, just a few minutes from the heart of downtown Austin.

Jenna Kelly-Landes

After realizing her love for raising animals in her suburban backyard, Jenna moved to the country and founded Bee Tree Farm and Dairy. Throughout that grueling process, she’s gone from farming mentee to mentor.

Kathryn Ivey

Kathryn’s family has a history in agriculture. A few years ago, she realized her passion for working with goats, and since then she’s worked on several farms. At Bee Tree, she offers a helping hand during kidding season.

Filipa Rodrigues

Filipa moved to the US from Portugal as a photojournalist. While she still works in the industry, the rest of her time is spent working as herd manager at Bee Tree and on her own operation, Saudade Farms.

In 2008, Jenna was on a much different path than she is now. She was in graduate school, on her way to becoming a lobbyist. On a whim, Jenna bought a few chickens to care for in her backyard. That’s when everything changed.

The first egg laid coincided with Jenna’s growing desire to see what other animals she could raise. That weekend, she and her husband started the hunt for land to call their own. Eventually the couple found their new home on 15 acres of raw countryside, just outside of Austin city limits.

“I desperately wanted to raise a few goats. My first two goats were sisters from a local goat dairy—Pearl Snaps and Jolene. They had their first babies one year later, and I milked them on a wooden milk stand I bought off of Craigslist…

It was the experience of raising them and then milking them that caused an epiphany at a time I was already certain I didn’t want to live in high heels and at conferences: I wanted to build a life around these goats whose love for me, and mine for them, was powerful medicine. I had never felt so certain about anything. From that moment on I was determined to figure out how to make a living with goats.”

-Jenna Kelly-Landes

Over the years, Jenna added more acreage and animal life to the farm. She read books and articles, teaching herself what she needed to know. From the beginning, she wasn’t afraid to ask farmers for help. Two women, Fran Sharp, who owns a raw milk goat dairy in a nearby town, and Amelia Sweethardt, owner of Pure Luck Farm and Dairy in Central Texas, were Jenna’s mentors—playing a crucial role in the development of Bee Tree Farm and Dairy.

Jenna’s herd continued to grow, as did the need for goat housing. That’s when the arduous and lengthy process of securing a construction loan and barn plan approval by the Texas Department of Health’s Milk Group began. It took 2 years before they could even break ground. Once the barn and dairy were completed, Jenna earned the licenses to sell cheese made from the milk of her own goats in 2016–8 years after purchasing the land.

“The building and licensing processes alone were enough to discourage most people, but I’m stubborn as hell and I was determined to be a professional goat dairy and cheese maker. I had no idea then that actually BEING a dairy farmer would be 10 times harder than the process to become one.”

-Jenna Kelly-Landes
Yes, every goat is loved and known by name.

“We currently have 54 goats and we are milking 40 goats this season. We make fresh cheeses entirely from the milk of our own animals which means we only make farmstead cheese: we never buy milk from other farms for our cheese. Every cheese is 100% created from and on the farm. This is a distinction that I think most consumers don’t know much about and is important to understand.” -Jenna Kelly-Landes

The Women of Bee Tree Farm in Austin Texas / Crafted in Carhartt

Then came 2020, a year for the history books that has taken a toll on small businesses and the folks devoted to keeping the lights on. When many restaurants and shops shuttered around the world, farmers kept at it.

“The thing with a dairy is that the lights can’t be turned off, the employees can’t be sent home. On farms that rely on and revolve around animals, their immediate needs continue despite the state of the world. They would still be lining up at the dairy each morning to be milked and I needed to make sure I continued to find an outlet for their milk and way to pay for their food.”

-Jenna Kelly-Landes
The Women of Bee Tree Farm in Austin Texas / Crafted in Carhartt
Filipa wrangles sheep into a pen before milking.

In 2012, after experiencing instability when the recession hit Filipa’s home country, Portugal, she took her professional expertise in photojournalism to Texas. She continues to work as a freelancer with her skills in photography and cinematography. The rest of her time is devoted to farming.

Born and raised in the city, Filipa didn’t have any experience with agriculture. That is, until she began working with Jenna. She put in the hours of hard work and became herd manager at Bee Tree. Filipa now lives on the other side of the property, where she runs her own operation, Saudade Farms. There, she raises a few animals of her own and sells eggs to the community.

Filipa’s advice for beginning farmers:

  • Be ready for a lot of hard work, humbling and heartbreaking moments.
  • Always be patient and dedicated. Keep a clear mind on what your goals are.
  • Everything in farming takes time, a farm is not built overnight. There are a lot of setbacks and unforeseen situations that will make you question yourself, but also bring the opportunity to constantly think outside of the box.
  • You’re dealing with living beings and unpredictability is always there. But when you love it, you pour every single ounce of yourself into it. As cliché as it might sound, farming is truly a labor of love.
The Women of Bee Tree Farm in Austin Texas / Crafted in Carhartt
The Women of Bee Tree Farm in Austin Texas / Crafted in Carhartt
Kathryn bottle feeds one of her favorite kids.

Before joining the team at Bee Tree, Kathryn worked at a goat farm in Vermont. Agricultural work runs in her family.

“My grandparents on both sides are very connected to farming and animal husbandry. My grandmother raised dairy goats, so I’ve been running around with and loving on goats since I was young. She hand milked her goats everyday, twice a day, and sold their milk to a cheesemaker. She inspires me.”

-Kathryn Ivey

Kathryn was brought on to help during kidding season. Her tasks included helping with births, feeding expectant mothers, and bottle feeding the kids a few days after birth.

“It’s amazing to watch them grow. They eventually go from the bottle to the lambar bucket. They get excited to see me when I bring them their milk and start running around. It’s adorable. There’s something so calming about them. Some are affectionate, some are funny to just sit and watch.”

-Kathryn Ivey
The Women of Bee Tree Farm in Austin Texas / Crafted in Carhartt
Jenna and her twins enjoying the farm’s newest additions.

“I opened the dairy when my twins were almost 1 year old. The first 3 years of their life are truly a blur – and for that I have regrets. I birthed 3 babies in one year essentially: the twins and this dairy.

I do wish they could have been older before I started. But then, I don’t think I ever would have started the dairy because the work has been so intense. I will say that as they’ve gotten older, I have been so grateful to share the farm and the animals with them.

While I do not include them in milking or cheese making, they do participate in goat care and spend a lot of time with the baby goats. It’s made them brave and strong and tough and caring in a way that I think would have happened had we stayed in Austin.

I wish I were more present. I wish I weren’t always worrying about the business or my animals, but it also forces them to see that while I love them more than anything, they are a part of this entire farm – they are not the center of the universe. And I personally feel that’s a valuable lesson for them to understand.

Hard work can have major benefits, but you have put in the work.” -Jenna Kelly-Landes

What Jenna wants everyone to know about goats:

  • Goats have an incredibly well-organized and structured hierarchy.
  • I wish people knew how passionately goats live and how honest they are with their emotions.
  • Goats raised by humans love their owners deeply – and sometimes they also hate their owners too, depending on hormones.
  • Whatever a goat does, she does it 150% and it’s something I have admired about them from the beginning.
  • They are absolutely herd animals and must never live as an only goat.
  • They are fierce protectors of their herd and fierce lovers of their people.
  • They have evolved alongside people being one of the first livestock to be kept by humans for meat, fiber, and milk. I personally believe this is why humans today have such a deep unknowable connection to them: we have walked beside them forever.
  • Fran told me years ago that goats are simultaneously incredibly hardy and fragile: they are extremely prone to parasites and as long as that’s kept in check they tend to tolerate all sorts of temperature and condition extremes.
  • They thrive when living in their most natural habitat which is rocky terrain with a lot browse.
  • They prefer browsing to grazing because of their parasite issues: grass always has more parasite growth so they tend to look upwards to for food first for leaves and vines and all the scrubby things that sheep, horses and cows might overlook.

Jenna cuddles Legs, whose limbs were unable to straighten after birth,
but with a little extra love is now able to walk and play with the other goats.

“Professional farming requires a person to relinquish nearly all of their control over…everything. All of the factors so essential to the business operations or almost completely beyond the realm of our control: animal health, weather, feed prices – etc. Twenty-twenty hit me like a train, as it did for everyone.

I do feel that, being a farmer, I have learned to adapt to change in a way that I wouldn’t have in many other types of professions. Farmers must be prepared to pivot constantly and they must be prepared to endure unspeakable heartbreak, bear witness to unspeakable sights, sounds, and smells. This work is for those people who have no need to make money and whose hearts rely on the intangible bonds made and trust earned with beasts. If you don’t feel rich from those relationships, then this isn’t for you.”

-Jenna Kelly-Landes
The Women of Bee Tree Farm in Austin Texas / Crafted in Carhartt

Follow Bee Tree Farm on instagram for live updates.

Austin Farmer Tiffany Washington

Tiffany Washington, also known by her farmer alter ego Nancy Farm Fancy, operates the only black owned farm within Austin’s city limits. She’s a food justice warrior, protecting her childhood home by planting a nutritional defense around her community.

The experiences of her past have greatly influenced her current path.

I enlisted in the US Navy straight out of high school. I come from a family of community activists and military servicemen. As an Intelligence Specialist I deployed onboard the USS George Washington in 2004 during OIF/OEF. My job was providing research and information to higher ranking personnel.

While faced with the hazards of combat, I was also subjected to the ugliness of sexual harassment and racial discrimination while fighting for my country. This lead me on a spiraling path of depression, self-doubt, and a battle with PTSD that I continue to push through today.

Finding farming after service has provided the safe space for my healing and self-care while handling the effects of trauma. In today’s atmosphere, my farm has become a beacon of hope within my community. It allows me to continue my public service work with purpose.

Farming is the most underrated public service in the United States! Every community deserves the benefits of sustainable food practices, especially those used on small scale farms such as mine. Urban farming is the road to increased local food consumption. A healthier food system will emerge from the sharing of small farm culture.” -Tiffany Washington

Tiffany racked up experience before digging deep into her own ventures.

  • She took an 18 week beginners course with Farmshare Austin.
  • She completed a year long program, Battleground to Breaking Ground, for veterans at Texas A&M.
  • She worked with a mentor, providing hands on training for 100 hours on her own property.

Austin Farmer Tiffany / Crafted in CarharttTiffany signed her first commercial land lease in September of 2018. She worked with a local property owner willing to let her farm a quarter acre of their land. This tiny plot and founding place of Dobbin-Kauv Garden Farm is located in the neighborhood where Tiffany grew up. Unfortunately, that area and the folks who call it home, are now facing gentrification at an alarming rate.

Through that lease and the cultivation of the land, Tiffany’s mission is:

“to highlight and preserve Black Farm Heritage in Austin, Texas by growing quality produce, using organic practices. We connect families and communities with local Food and Farmers.”

Austin Farmer Tiffany / Crafted in CarharttThe hectic life that surrounds a large family doesn’t prevent Tiffany from her public service. In fact, her kids inspire her to keep pushing, fighting for their neighborhood, and ensuring a place in society for small farms like hers.

I have 4 children ages 13, 7, 5, and 4. Three boys and one girl. My kids are sponges, so they want to learn everything. I think I work for them sometimes because they tell me what to do on the farm all the time!

Also I’m raising 3 black boys in a very scary racial climate. They are able to see what it means to make a difference amongst adversity—building a purpose beyond color.” -Tiffany Washington

Austin Farmer Tiffany / Crafted in CarharttAustin Farmer Tiffany / Crafted in Carhartt

As a veteran who has turned to farming as way to further her own personal treatment, Tiffany has advice for anyone struggling with PTSD.

Never be afraid or ashamed to ask for help. For years I struggled because of pride and the traditional idea that women of color are so strong that they never break. I come from a line of black women who’ve faced atrocities. That thought breaks me some days.

I depend on my friends, family, and doctors to support my growth. It’s okay to be vulnerable. There is someone out there who loves and supports you.

If you want to farm, go outside and get started. Seek out groups and local farmers. Volunteer. Take agriculture classes, business classes, and pull your britches up because this lifestyle is real.” -Tiffany Washington

Austin Farmer Tiffany / Crafted in CarharttAs a small farmer, fighting the economic and cultural roadblocks that prevent many sustainable growers from prospering, Tiffany offers her advice to other food justice warriors.

  • “Don’t be afraid to face your fears: the fear of being too young, too old, or too few in number.
  • Go out there, seek the information, and get into action.
  • Everyone should grow food regardless of farming aspirations.
  • Start with a local Farmer. Call one up they’re probably in a phone book!” -Tiffany Washington

Austin Farmer Tiffany / Crafted in CarharttTiffany is seizing this moment to reach out to the community and tap into resources for the farm.

Crowdfunding is our current objective. It provides us the chance to have our community and neighbors involved in the journey and growth of the farm itself. I’m extremely classic, so I’m all about direct mailing letters and updates to our friends!

We hope to expand the farm to a full 2 acres in the next 5 years. This would include buying the entire property.

We hope to have a commercial kitchen to develop value adding products like baby food and freeze dried snacks. By connecting with resources and increasing sales, we will see consistent growth that could place us in a position to venture into Agritourism.” -Tiffany Washington

If you can, make a donation to Tiffany and her amazing vision. Today’s work and hustle will lay a foundation for future generations to thrive and support one another.

The Women of Hare Farm Hideaways in Sussex

For most, winter feels like an endless epoch come January and February. But this time of year on Hare Farm in East Sussex, everything and everyone are abuzz. Temperatures are still quite chilly as spring barely peaks over the horizon. In just a few days, lambing season begins. It generally lasts about 3 weeks, and over 1,700 lambs enter the world. The Howard family holds this time dearly. Not many people get to experience life multiplying in such a beautiful way.

“March. The month when new life emerges with gusto. When one pair of farm hands is multiplied by 5. When all eyes focus on the woolly kind, and when the valley turns green again.… It makes you remind yourself that, despite the tired limbs and small earnings to be made, working in the lambing sheds in the Spring is a special place to be.” -Jo Thompson

This sprawling grassland, once a hop farm dating back to medieval times, became fully dedicated to sheep in the 1990s. The pastures stretch across Brede Valley, rolling softly into marshlands and riverbeds. Several of the original structures still stand on the property. True conservationists at heart, the family restored each building with great care, using local and historically accurate supplies. The craftsmanship and perfectly positioned facets speak to how greatly tradition is honored.

A chance to experience the farm first hand is within reach in several ways:

  • The folks of Hare Farm offer a lambing course every March where you can witness this natural marvel up close. Students learn through instruction, observation, and by pitching in. The in-depth class covers the full lambing cycle—from tupping to weaning, basic sheep care, and other valuable tidbits.
  • The oast, where the hops were originally dried and stored from the 16th to the 19th century, is now an idyllic country home that sleeps 12. It’s available for rent as a guest house, allowing for a rare inside look at life in the countryside. As all farmers know, opening your backdoor and stepping right onto the pasture is a treasured perk of the job.
  • There is even an authentic shepherd’s hut where you can camp on the land as sheep herders did during the Victorian era.

Lambing class starts March 11th this year, but there is much to be done around the farm in the mean time. Some of those tasks include: shearing expectant mother’s backsides, vaccinating the sheep, setting up 145 lambing pens—each one housing a new mother and her babies, and planting a final line of hedging.

The Howards partner with Natural England as stewards of the land. The 500 acres they call home are happily shared with neighboring wildlife. You’ll easily spot rare birds, laughing frogs, badgers, and boars. There’s no telling what creatures you’re bound to see on the property, and that’s just the way the Howards like it. Creating a healthy equilibrium between raising sheep and nurturing the environment is paramount. Hedgerows, waterways, and areas dedicated to the wild coexist with the herds.

Hare Farm Hideaways in Sussex / Crafted in CarharttJo Thompson is co-owner of Hare Farm Hideaways. The land, along with the farming lifestyle was passed down by her parents. About 7 years ago, she started a lambing class unlike any other, allowing 8 to 10 students to spend time on the farm learning straight from the farmers’ mouths.

“There’s nothing like it. Farms don’t tend to open themselves up to the general public. Or if they do, hundreds of people show up. The courses I run are very hands on and helpful. It helps us educate the community and helps us promote British farming and sheep.” -Jo Thompson

Hare Farm Hideaways in Sussex / Crafted in CarharttHare Farm Hideaways in Sussex / Crafted in Carhartt

Paula Gwynne began her work at Hare Farm 2 years ago, since then she’s rapidly advanced. She plays a major role during lambing season, watches over the herds, tends to the gardens, and even runs the farm when the owners are away. Hare Farm Hideaways in Sussex / Crafted in CarharttHare Farm Hideaways in Sussex / Crafted in CarharttHare Farm Hideaways in Sussex / Crafted in CarharttHare Farm Hideaways in Sussex / Crafted in CarharttHare Farm Hideaways in Sussex / Crafted in Carhartt

Hare Farm Hideaways in Sussex / Crafted in Carhartt
Jo Thompson, Annie Howard, and Caroline Maddocks

Annie Howard lives on the farm. Her many responsibilities include managing the oast guest house, bottle feeding orphaned lambs, and ensuring that everything runs smoothly.

“Lambing time is draining, both physically and emotionally. From the month’s of build up beforehand making sure each ewe is in prime condition, feeding, preparing the sheds and planning for all eventualities.

Once lambing has started, we hope for kind weather and not the challenges of rain, wind and occasionally snow. The best time is seeing a ewe leave the shed, go out into a lush, green field on a warm sunny day, closely followed by her two healthy lambs.” -Annie Howard

Hare Farm Hideaways in Sussex / Crafted in CarharttHare Farm Hideaways in Sussex / Crafted in Carhartt

Hare Farm Hideaways in Sussex / Crafted in Carhartt
Caroline Maddocks and Paula Gwynne

Caroline Maddocks is a full time crop sprayer. With five and a half years of experience, she’s quickly worked her way up the ranks. Aside from tractor driving, she diligently looks after cattle. Caring for animals is in her blood.

During lambing season, you’ll find Caroline helping out on the ground. Born and raised on a farm herself, there’s no one more suited to lend a hand as new life emerges in the valley.

“I couldn’t think of a better way to spend my life.” -Caroline Maddocks

Hare Farm Hideaways in Sussex / Crafted in CarharttHare Farm Hideaways in Sussex / Crafted in Carhartt

“I remember being told that lambing time is like a marathon not a race, it’s hard physically and mentally, you need to pace yourself where you can, to be able to make sound decisions about when to intervene and to last the duration of lambing time. We work roughly 12 hour shifts every day for that duration to ensure continuity of care, so burning out early isn’t ideal. That shift is very busy, you need to keep an eye (and ears) on everything whilst carrying out all of your tasks.” -Paula Gwynnne

Paula’s advice for aspiring farmers:

  1. Know your fears and be prepared to manage and challenge them. Work through the low points and keep on at it. You’ll feel proud of yourself.
  2. Don’t give up if it doesn’t work first time, it may not be the right fit for you. I’ve been so lucky to have great mentors around me, they were definitely the difference between success and failure.
  3. Lastly, if you’re older like me (I’ve bought up my kids and had lost my confidence along the way) remember that you’re not past trying something new.

Hare Farm Hideaways in Sussex / Crafted in CarharttHare Farm Hideaways in Sussex / Crafted in Carhartt

To find out more about Hare Farm Hideaways, click here.

Brooklynn Roszak of Four T Acres

Electric yellow corncobs and the burnt orange woolen coats of Highland cattle pierce the blankets of blinding white snow in Burlington, Wisconsin. At a distance, with a sturdy fence between, this Scottish breed can give an impression of ferocity. Their wavy locks frozen into icicles, dangle like a spiked breastplate. Steam billows audibly from their nostrils. Their horns reach up tot he sky in a power stance that could quite literally knock you off your feet.

However, the closer you get to one of these long-haired beauties, the more you realize how flawed first impressions can be. Yes, these mighty beasts are huge—weighing up to 1,800 pounds—but they are surprisingly docile and good tempered. If they see you coming, they’ll slowly head your direction, hoping for a good brushing session. Highland cattle are well suited to cold temperatures, luckily enough for the four legged inhabitants of Four T Acres who often find themselves in winter flurries. And those terrifying horns are tools to dig for plants to eat beneath snow’s surface.

In a stark contrast to the large mammals slowly plodding across the pastures, you’ll find sixteen year old, Brooklynn Roszak, briskly making her way along the snowy slopes of her grandparents’ farm. She feels a bit less at home in the low temperatures than her shaggy companions, but that won’t keep her indoors for long.

The property has been in Brooklyn’s family for generations. But there was a time when it fell dormant. That is until 2003, when Rich and Jean Gruenert introduced 3 registered purebred Scottish Highland cows and 6 calves to the land. The entire family felt immediately connected to the gentle giants, eventually increasing their numbers into a herd. Those once intimidating nostrils, breathed new life into Four T Acres.

Brooklyn, like the rest of her family, has a deep affection for Highland cows. She is part of the Junior Association, supported by the NCHCA (North Central Highland Cattle Association). Each year, she participates in 2 to 3 cattle shows and has won many awards along the way. As a junior in high school, Brooklyn participates in a lot of activities. Some of her favorites are trap shooting on her school’s team and hunting with her dad. She even holds down a job on top of it all.

Life on the farm has brought Brooklnn closer to her family, instilled a great appreciation for detail and thoroughness, broadened her sense of community, and allowed her to meet new people as she travels to cattle competitions in new places.

Four T Farms / Crafted in CarharttFour T Farms / Crafted in Carhartt

Jean Gruenert, pictured above, is Brooklynn’s grandmother. The farm was originally her grandfather’s, passed down to her father, and it now belongs to her. Jean loves when folks visit the farm. There’s a lot to learn about Scottish Highland cattle, and she’s anxious to share. The Gruenerts host school field trips, allowing young people an opportunity to learn about farming first hand while getting closer to their food source.

Four T Acres has participated in several studies, gathering information on various beefs. Time and time again, the results have proven that the meat from Highland cattle is superior to Angus on scales of tenderness and flavor.

Four T Farms / Crafted in Carhartt

“The Highland breeds are the coolest breed of cattle you will ever meet and by far the most interesting. When it comes to iconic domestic animals, the Highland cow is instantly recognizable across the globe. With their fluffy coats and long horns, they are an important part of Scotland’s culture. These cows are perfect in many ways. They adapt to harsh conditions, they’re the oldest registered beef breed of cattle in the world, and they have an outstanding beef quality so their meat tastes delicious and is also very healthy.” -Brooklynn Roszak

Four T Farms / Crafted in Carhartt

“I love being able to grab one of the combs and walk into the pasture and go spend some time with the animals. Having them walk up to me and letting me comb them is so fun and it makes me feel good knowing I have their trust and they are comfortable with me.” -Brooklynn Roszak

Four T Farms / Crafted in Carhartt“I’ll admit, it was scary to enter the show ring for the first time with everyone watching, but with my family by my side to guide me through everything, it was easy-peasy. Each show I have won awards, whether it’s ribbons, trophies, or plaques to hang on my wall. With being a part of the Junior Association and showing in general, I have met so many new people from all over the country and made many new friends!” -Brooklynn Roszak

Advice from Brooklynn about working with Highland Cattle:

Highland cattle are known for their calm nature and easy going disposition. That being said, there are some techniques and rules that people will learn as they go through years with their own herds of cattle. Some great tips include:

  • Spend time with your cattle. Highlands are social animals. They know their herd mates and how to interact with them. Become a part of that herd. If possible, walk out among them several times a week, even if only for a few minutes. Let them get to know who you are. The more familiar they are with you, the easier it will be when you need to move or handle them.
  • This time spent with them is also a good time to check for problems such as injuries or illness. The more familiar you are with them, the easier it is to recognize when something isn’t normal.
  • Move slowly around the cattle. Fast movement indicates to the herd that something is wrong. Even the calmest animal will run the other way if you go running down to the fence or run up to the herd. Take your time when approaching them and let them know that you are there with both verbal and visual cues.

4 T Farms / Crafted in Carhartt

“Throughout the years of being involved with the farm, it has brought me closer to my dad and his side of the family. And that I am extremely grateful for. Along with new experiences, I have learned many life lessons along the way.

  • I have learned to value the commitment. Farming and working with cattle has taught me that in every task, may it be big or small, once it has been started you should be giving it your best and not let it be left undone.
  • Another thing I have learned is that great things take time. At first, I was the new kid from the city and I wasn’t 1st place ribbon status yet. I learned from these experiences and figured out how to accept little disappointments in my life and be patient.
  • And lastly but most importantly, family and teamwork is very important on the farm. No matter what struggles come along, we all have each others backs and help each other out in any way we can. I am very grateful for the opportunities my family has given me by showing me what the farm life is like.

I wouldn’t be the person I am today without my dad and grandparents by my side teaching me the rights and wrongs of life and all the good things farming can teach children.” -Brooklyn Roszak

Learn more about Four T Acres here.

Rebecca Krinsky of Slack Farms

Rebecca Krinsky of Slack Farms in Lake Geneva, Wisconsin has been raising sheep for almost 30 years. It’s not an easy job. It requires a mix of physical labor, a vast knowledge of genetics and breeding, and a big heart. This is a profession that calls for many sleepless nights. There will be hard times. Not all lambs make it to adulthood, and that can be heart-wrenching.

But like every farmer has uttered at one time or another, “maybe next year” rings with resilience and dedication to your flock.

“I wish everyone knew just how enjoyable and rewarding it is to see the results after you put in all the hard work. There is no way to explain the joy you get when you work hard to put the right genetics together to raise a better animal than what you currently have and actually succeed. Many people can buy a champion quality animal, but few can raise one.” -Rebecca Krinsky of Slack Farms

Slack Farms / Lake Geneva, Wisconsin / Crafted in Carhartt

All the experience Rebecca has acquired over the years has come with many awards and recognition.

From 4-H and FFA, she’s won several of the following:

  • state and national champions
  • showmanship championships on state and national levels
  • states and national FFA degrees

Rebecca’s won state fair championships in the following states:

  • Oklahoma
  • Kansas
  • Arkansas
  • Missouri
  • Iowa
  • Illinois
  • Wisconsin

Rebecca has also won many National Breed Champions and has been the groomer/handler for 2 National Supreme Champions at the North American International Livestock Expo.

Slack Farms / Lake Geneva, Wisconsin / Crafted in CarharttSlack Farms / Lake Geneva, Wisconsin / Crafted in Carhartt

Now Rebecca runs workshops in several states to coach youth on their sheep projects. In these clinics, she covers basic maintenance, grooming techniques, feeding, breeding and showmanship. She’ll often work on individual levels to further their personal skills as they navigate farming at a young age.

Rebecca is passionate about helping beginners, with no prior experience, get to state and national competitions.

“I like to help families who think that they can’t afford to have champion quality sheep by creating a plan so that they can find a way with the right guidance.” -Rebecca Krinsky of Slack Farms

If you purchase any lambs from Slack Farm, Rebecca is now offering a free clinic to ensure every customer has the information and skills they need to successfully raise sheep.
Slack Farms / Lake Geneva, Wisconsin / Crafted in Carhartt

Slack Farms / Lake Geneva, Wisconsin / Crafted in Carhartt
an ewe and her brand new baby lamb just moments after birth

“First time sheep owners should seek out information from current breeders to help find the right breed for them. Different breeds require different housing, grooming, and feeding routines. No two breeds are exactly the same. If you do your research, there will be one breed that will fit your personality, needs, and wants better than the others. If you pick the right one to start out with, you will be hooked and possibly find other breeds to connect with over time.” -Rebecca Krinsky of Slack Farms

At just 7 years old, Rebecca began her work with the Suffolk breed. Over the years her herd has expanded to also include Hampshire, Dorper and Oxford breeds.

“Raising sheep can be a great experience for so many reasons. The memories and the time you spend together is something very special and will last a lifetime. Sheep are very reasonable in price to raise and maintain compared to many other animals. Their temperaments are great and they all have their own personalities. Sheep are very smart and easy to train through repetition.” -Rebecca Krinsky of Slack Farms

Slack Farms / Lake Geneva, Wisconsin / Crafted in CarharttSlack Farms / Lake Geneva, Wisconsin / Crafted in CarharttKeep up with Rebecca and her work at Slack Farms on instagram or facebook.

The Women of Keep Growing Detroit

In the middle of downtown Detroit, just a a few blocks from the city’s lively Eastern Market, sits The Keep Growing Detroit Farm. It’s a hotspot of workshops for growers of all ages and the birthplace of the popular Motown Music garlic seed.

Keep Growing Detroit is a nonprofit devoted to the city’s food sovereignty, helping the community cultivate their own healthy produce in a sustainable way. Their Garden Resource Program, now over 15 years old, has woven a connection across thousands of local gardens, providing resources and tools to the area.

Nikolette Barnes (pictured above), a Detroit native, has been growing food since 2008. For many years, she worked alongside her dad, the farm manager of D-Town Farm. Using the skills her father taught her, she took a summer job supervising kids who were learning how to grow their own food. Nikolette bonded with them deeply and discovered her passion to teach young people about food sovereignty. Her mission is to expose her hometown to the Food Justice Movement. Through that, she hopes to see a shift in how consumers utilize their spending power, making better food choices overall.

“My title is Early Childhood Garden Development and Family Engagement Specialist. I am responsible for all facets–garden and farm to table education–in the early childhood centers. I do everything from training teachers and parents on basic gardening skills to installing garden beds at schools…Our programs provide gardeners with seeds, plants, education, and technical resources to grow and sell sustainable produce in the cities of Detroit, Hamtramck, and Highland Park.

Urban Agriculture institutions like Keep Growing Detroit are vital for communities because of the need for access to tangible resources for growing food. It’s also important that Detroiters living in low-income communities are provided with accessible and affordable options for healthy food. KGD helps to foster an environment for thousands of growers to help fill that need.

The best part of my work is being surrounded by the next generation of food revolutionaries! I absolutely am blessed to be able to teach the babies how to grow, cook, and love the food that they grew for themselves. I also love completely transforming the mindset of someone who didn’t think they could grow food or enjoy fresh vegetables. It’s pretty rewarding.

The most challenging part of my work is dispelling the myths and breaking down the walls that result from misinformation about healthy eating and agriculture. It’s also very difficult to do this work while actively fighting against the system of oppression that creates tangible barriers to families having access to fresh locally grown food.” -Nikolette Barnes of Keep Growing Detroit Keep Growing Detroit / Crafted in CarharttKeep Growing Detroit / Crafted in CarharttMolly Hubbell (pictured below) is the Farm Operations Coordinator for Keep Growing Detroit. Her background is in plant and soil science. She’s spent many years farming, working in different positions and various situations. When she’s not at work, she’s on her own farm, in north Detroit.

“I started working in nurseries 16 years ago, and have been a gardener/farmer my whole life. My mom is an avid gardener (Master Gardener), and my father passed on his appreciation for the natural world…Farmers don’t have superpowers, we rely on intuition. That intuition comes with time and patience, and can be learned by anyone willing to put the time in.” -Molly Hubbell of Keep Growing Detroit

“My back has been sore for 16 years. Totally worth it.” -Molly Hubbell of Keep Growing Detroit

Keep Growing Detroit / Crafted in CarharttKeep Growing Detroit / Crafted in Carhartt

Keep Growing Detroit / Crafted in Carhartt
Lindsay Pielack

Lindsay Pielack is a Co-Director of Keep Growing Detroit. Her background is in Resource Ecology and Management, with a B.S. from University of Michigan. She played an influential role in the Garden Resource Program, helping it grow from 70 gardens to almost 1,500 gardens in just 8 years. Lindsay has lived in Detroit her entire life, and works hard to keep the community links strong.

“On a regular basis, I am supporting residents to start gardens and for those without a green thumb, I always encourage them to start by putting their hands into the soil and grow something! Once they do, the fire will be lit with the excitement of growing their own food and from there, I would say that every year is an opportunity to get better at it! One season at a time!

I would recommend that everyone, young or old, try their hand at growing something. You don’t have to commit to growing all your own food, just get connected to where your food comes from. There are lots of ways to do this, as simply as starting a container of herbs in your window or volunteering at a garden or farm near you.” -Lindsay Pielack of Keep Growing Detroit

Anita Singh (pictured above) is the Youth Programs Coordinator at Keep Growing Detroit.
Drawing from her background as a high school science teacher, she runs the farm education program. Anita has developed youth programs in many different cities, including Cartegena, Columbia.

Keep Growing Detroit / Crafted in Carhartt

Imani S. Foster (pictured above) is the Farmers’ Market Coordinator at Keep Growing Detroit. She is a native Detroiter who found her way into farming unexpectedly as a Crew Leader with the Student Conservation Association. Her role has expanded from vacant lot reclamation to Farmers’ Market Coordinator.

“The food a person sustainably grows is so much better than what’s bought in the supermarkets. Placing your hands in the soil is healing. A person can reestablish relations with family and friends by working together…

One of the best parts of my work is helping the small gardener earn capital. Of course, I love that our customer base continues to grow. There is something so exciting about folks coming to the table and sharing how glad they are that we are back for the season. I know that the work I’m doing as the Grown in Detroit Market coordinator is retooling the culture that this is their (the gardeners’) business to grow.” -Imani Foster of Keep Growing Detroit

Keep Growing Detroit / Crafted in Carhartt
Lola Kristi Gibson-Berg, Molly Hubbell, Imani Foster, and Anita Singh

Lola Kristi Gibson-Berg (pictured below) is the Community Education Coordinator at Keep Growing Detroit. She’s a Detroit native and a proud graduate of The Roeper School in Bloomfield Hills, MI. It was during her senior year at Kalamazoo College she realized her passion for growing food. She graduated from Kalamazoo with a BA in Human Development and Social Relations and then returned to Detroit.

“Farming makes me feel hopeful. It’s a privilege to be connected to a community of people in the city who know how to grow food, enjoy doing so, and are cultivating and growing their communities.” -Lola Kristi Gibson-Berg of Keep Growing Detroit

Keep Growing Detroit / Crafted in CarharttKeep Growing Detroit / Crafted in Carhartt“As a single mother and female farmer, I struggle with having enough time to spend with my son while also being very active in the urban agriculture community. I hope to pass on the tangible knowledge of how to grow his own food on a small or large scale. Currently he is enrolled in a program called Food Warriors (housed by Detroit Black Community Food Security Network) where he is growing food as well as exploring food justice on a local and global level. We garden at my home and two community gardens. He is in charge of watering the plants at home! I also hope to pass on the importance of being an active and contributing member of the community that you live in. ” -Nikolette Barnes of Keep Growing Detroit

Keep Growing Detroit / Crafted in Carhartt
Nikolette Barnes

“I wish people knew how therapeutic farming can be. There is so much healing when you put your hands in the soil and grow something that will nourish your body. I also wish people knew how easy it is grow food at your home. People often feel like growing food is something only those with a green thumb can achieve. That is a huge myth, especially as it relates to growing on a small scale. There are so many resources for new gardeners to learn basic gardening skills..

I definitely do not have superpowers when it comes to growing food. I am still learning so much about how to problem solve as it’s related to my crops or soil quality. Farming makes me feel powerful…It’s not a walk in the park or romantic. Sometimes you will experience seasons where nothing grows abundantly or someone steals all of your melons. Stay the course.” -Nikolette Barnes of Keep Growing Detroit

If you’d like to find out more about the work these outstanding women are doing in Detroit, click here.

Hive Five For All The Dads!

Helena and Matthew Sylvester have been partners long before they were ever married. As Helena’s interest in growing food developed, Matthew encouraged her–from growing plants on their patio in Oakland to leasing a farm of their own in Sunol, California.

“It was my goal, but it was a group effort. Matt was there supporting me every step of the way…While the years have aged me, the giddiness and drive are still there – as is Farmer Matt’s unwavering support (he’s now full time on the farm, going on his 5th year) – it’s amazing what you can do when you believe in yourself, but it hella helps when you have others who believe in you too.” -Helena of Happy Acre Farm

Helena and Matthew are now partners in marriage, on the farm, and in raising their son, August. Mornings at Happy Acre start early and evenings stretch out as long as possible. We all know that farmers are some of the hardest working people, particularly when you have to teach yourself everything from scratch. The daily routine is met with flexibility and a support system of their own making.

“I’d never met someone who wakes up in a good mood every day, before you. Sometimes it drives me crazy (I need coffee first, sometimes two cups) but really, I admire it. You carry that positivity with you through everything you do. We’re definitely not taking the easy road through life, our route is filled with bumps, challenges, and sometimes a change of directions – but damn than obnoxiously positive attitude of yours keeps us on track, and it’s helped bring us here.”  -Helena to Matthew of Happy Acre Farm

fathersDAYcic15This is Matthew’s second Father’s Day. Both Helena and August are so grateful to have his love and encouragement.

“As hard and stressful as some days (or weeks or seasons even) of farming can be, I am hella lucky. Lucky to be able to do what I want for a living, instead of what I need to do to get by. And lucky I get to spend so much time with my main dudes.” -Helena of Happy Acre Farm

Happy Acre Farm Family / Crafted in CarharttHappy Acre Farm Family / Crafted in CarharttHappy Acre Farm Family / Crafted in CarharttFather's Day at Happy Acre Farm / Crafted in Carhartt

Don’t forget to tell all the father figures in your life how grateful you are for them.

Helena from Happy Acre Farm

Sunny Sunol, California sits wedged between two historic railroad lines, a beacon of small town America along the rails and a remembrance of times past. Located along Niles Canyon, there are sweeping views at every turn—and there are a lot of turns. Winding roads slither their way up the foothills, then spit you out to the surrounding farms.

The population hovers just under 1,000 people. Aside from the 913 humans who call Sunol home, the tiny town boasted a rare honorary mayor, Bosco Ramos, a black Labrador and Rottweiler mix who beat out two candidates in the 1981 election. He served until his death in 1994. Now a new four legged boss rules the roost—Roux, at Happy Acre Farm. She was a rescue pup, abandoned on a doorstep in a cardboard box and adopted by Helena and Matthew Sylvester. At her new home—she’s plays the role of honorary farm dog mayor. (Read more about Roux here.)

Helena from Happy Acre Farm / Crafted in Carhartt

Helena and Matthew are both first generation farmers, originally from Oakland, CA. As they’ve taught themselves the ins and outs of ag life, they’ve learned to divide and conquer. Helena is the greenhouse master, planning out everything—from planting schedules to sharing the family’s activities on social media so their customers can embrace where their food comes from. Matthew spends a lot of his time in the fields, taking on farm projects from irrigation to soil nutrition and harvesting.

Last year, these two first generation farmers brought a second generation farmer into the world. August Wolf is already curious about his surroundings and has proven himself to be the best taste tester around.

Helena from Happy Acre Farm / Crafted in CarharttHelena from Happy Acre Farm / Crafted in CarharttHelena from Happy Acre Farm / Crafted in CarharttEvery Friday, Helena celebrates Farm Fashion Fridays on instagram. It’s a playful way to say something powerful that farmers know across the world:

“The farm doesn’t care what size my clothes are, what I look like in a bathing suit or that my husband brushes his hair more often than I do. It doesn’t judge me when I wear the same thing 5 days in a row or tell me I’m look sick when I’m not wearing make up. #Farmfashionfriday can be a lot of things. For me it’s about showing what farmers actually look like, and being silly because I am who I am.” -Helena of Happy Acre Farm

Helena from Happy Acre Farm / Crafted in CarharttHelena from Happy Acre Farm / Crafted in Carhartt

“My hopes for August’s childhood are for him to be outside as much as possible…I want him to be comfortable outside, and to be able to use his imagination and play. I want him to know the different birds and frogs and other animals we get on the farm. I want him to be able to get his energy out, make smart decisions, and trust himself, but also be able to ask us for help when he needs it.” -Helena of Happy Acre Farm

Helena from Happy Acre Farm / Crafted in Carhartt“It’s a lot of hard and dirty work, early mornings, late nights, and learning curves. We don’t get off the farm much during the season, unless you count doing farmers markets, and our date nights are usually spent in the fields with leftovers and a cold beer. But it’s worth every moment, to do something we’re both truly passionate about, and we’re excited to watch our family grow and raise our children to follow their own path, wherever it may lead.” -Helena of Happy Acre Farm

“If you want to be something, be it. If you want to do something, do it. If you want to grow something, grow it.” -Helena of Happy Acre Farm

Helena from Happy Acre Farm / Crafted in CarharttHelena from Happy Acre Farm / Crafted in CarharttHelena from Happy Acre Farm / Crafted in Carhartt

“When I first started farming, I only knew two other female farmers: my boss and her friend. Through the years that has changed dramatically to the point where I now meet more women farmers than men. I’m not sure if there are more women farming or if now we’re just able to see each other, or both. Either way, it’s magic.” -Helena of Happy Acre Farm

“If you’re inspired to start farming and are looking for tips on where to go from there, here are some things that hit home for me.

  • GROW SOMETHING. Whether you have a back yard raised beds, pots on your lanai or an allotment, grow something. Get crusty, get muddy, get hooked.
  • MAKE MISTAKES. They are inevitable, just learn from them.
  • FACE CHALLENGES. Your first move isn’t your final step – don’t get discouraged when you realize this is a lot harder than you maybe thought it was going to be.
  • LEARN. There are plenty of books + online courses from farmers like @jeanmartinfortier and @neversinkfarm
  • GET DIRTY. Help with a school garden, volunteer on a farm (and if they say no it’s probably not because of you, there are strict farm volunteer laws in CA), there are even internship opportunities at amazing farms like @full_belly_farm , or programs like @ucscfarm or the stone barn.
  • BUILD COMMUNITY. Meet other farmers or people interested in supporting local farms. Community is huge. Instagram has been amazing for broadening our farm community – and answering our farm questions.
  • DO SOMETHING. Start somewhere. Fan that flame + don’t let it go out.” –Helena of Happy Acre Farm

Helena from Happy Acre Farm / Crafted in CarharttHelena from Happy Acre Farm / Crafted in Carhartt

“Farming with a babe has definitely been a learning curve; with less sleep, a lot of prioritizing what NEEDS to get done vs what would be nice to get done, and learning to say yes and accept the offers of friends and family to help out. But seeing this butter bean suckin’ on a tomato, grabbin’ at kale leaves and trying his first roasted hakuri turnip makes the craziness worthwhile.” -Helena of Happy Acre Farm

Helena from Happy Acre Farm / Crafted in CarharttHelena from Happy Acre Farm / Crafted in CarharttHelena from Happy Acre Farm / Crafted in CarharttStay up to date with Helena, Matthew, August, and Roux on instagram.


Brit McCoy of The Wood Cycle in Wisconsin

In 1999, Brit McCoy’s father, Paul Morrison planted the seedling that would turn his basement hobby into a flourishing business, The Wood Cycle. Brit was only 8 at the time, but those moments cemented in her a love for hard work and a respect for chasing you passions till they become the central pillars of your life. She would help her dad with small tasks like sanding, finishing, grounds keeping, and cleaning.

“Since day one The Wood Cycle has focused on urban trees. These trees, whether in someone’s backyard or on a fenceline in a farmer’s field, are coming out for reasons other than timber harvest. We work with arborists to get these trees removed, and the rest of the process we handle at our location. With this approach we’re able to utilize more of the tree; whether to burn scraps in our wood furnace for heat or using the sawdust for livestock bedding at my farm, we aim to dispose of our waste responsibly.

I have a table that my dad and I designed together. We call it the Stack Table. It’s a table designed to use our ‘shop scraps’, or the ‘cut offs’ from boards that were too warped to use in a project. We designed it together around a burning fire while we threw our scraps into the flame to heat our home. We always loved talking about new ideas and these caught our attention for some reason that night. That table is still one of our best sellers and our first prototype is in my home.” -Brit McCoy

Brit McCoy of The Wood Cycle in Wisconsin / Crafted in CarharttBrit McCoy of The Wood Cycle in Wisconsin / Crafted in CarharttBrit McCoy of The Wood Cycle in Wisconsin / Crafted in Carhartt

Brit left her hometown to major in Landscape Architecture at Iowa State University. Upon returning to Oregon, Wisconsin, she and her husband Matt founded their own farm, first selling their ethically raised meat locally, eventually expanding their reach. You can even order a box of their fine products on her website:

At a young age, Brit’s eyes were opened to the reality of owning and operating a company. Her upbringing taught her “hard work and the down and dirty part of owning a business. Not every aspect of owning a small business is glamorous, but it is certainly rewarding to follow your passion!”

My business started just like my father’s, to make our hobby our career. I started raising livestock as soon as I could afford to feed them. I started with sheep but always wanted to have cattle, now I have both because I realized I don’t want to choose one over the other. I had a degree in Landscape Architecture so raising our livestock on an all-grass system fit not only my educational background but also my desire to feed my livestock in a way that reflects nature. After starting the farm I realized I really still loved using the ‘design side’ of my brain so I transferred my media from computer drafting to designing flowers for weddings. The blend of farmer and florist is my perfect fit.” -Brit McCoy

Brit McCoy of The Wood Cycle in Wisconsin / Crafted in Carhartt

Brit is a woman of many talents. She’s a full time farmer, running her own flower business, all the while working at The Wood Cycle. Making strides in her career alongside her family is the most challenging and most fulfilling part of the job.

“Working with family is incredibly rewarding. You’re working looking towards the same goal, the same future and are focused on the same dream. However, it does have some challenges when the family doesn’t see exactly eye-to-eye.

Urban wood is an incredibly beautiful way to share our stories with future generations. The urban trees we use in our shop have incredible ties to family stories and we love helping other families let their stories live on through fine furniture. We are honored to be a part of that process, tree to table.” -Brit McCoy

To find out more, visit

Barbie Thompson Lee of Lucky Dog Ranch

Barbie Thompson Lee left the advertising world to become a farmer in Valley Center, just outside of San Diego. She invested many years developing her own company, but felt it was time for something new. So she went out in search of the perfect plot of land to begin her new adventure—where she’d have to start from scratch, and self-teach her way to success.

“I think some people have a picture of a small farm as an idyllic place that’s kind of laid back and simple. The reality here is that there are always so many things that need to be done and sometimes it feels more like warfare than a laid back place. It’s a constant battle to keep on top of the various bugs that are out to eat your plants, the birds, squirrels and gophers who are found of eating them too, the broken or chewed through irrigation lines. You can’t ever let your guard down.” -Farmer Barbie Thompson Lee

Lucky Dog Ranch / Crafted in Carhartt

Tomatoes are Barbie’s favorite crop.

“I start the seeds in the greenhouse in February then plant when we think it’s safe from frost. Most of the plants go through September or October if we’re lucky so it’s a long time you spend with them. There are so many different varieties that it’s really fun planning out what you are going to grow and adding new varieties to your favorite producers.” -Farmer Barbie Thompson Lee

Although Lucky Dog Ranch is named for Barbie’s pack of happy dogs, she also has quite a few other four-legged friends. There’s Tigger and Tom, a set of barn cat brothers, and horses Buddy and Joanie.

“There really isn’t one Lucky Dog. We really liked seeing how happy our dogs were when we moved out here. They had so much room to play and just be themselves that the name just came about.” -Farmer Barbie Thompson Lee

Lucky Dog Ranch / Crafted in CarharttLucky Dog Ranch / Crafted in Carhartt

I asked Barbie what skills from her previous career translated into her new lifestyle. It turns out having a sense of humor has been crucial in her journey.

“Farming can be really humbling and your plants don’t care how important you think you are or what promises you’ve made on their behalf. They are just going to do what they are going do. You can’t take yourself to seriously. They are really the ones in charge. You just need to do what you can to support them…Never give up! It’s a very rewarding lifestyle. You’ll learn a lot about yourself as well as how to bring a crop to market.” -Farmer Barbie Thompson Lee