guest essay: nature and nurture
Q&A with Kirsten of Pecan Dale Farmstead
How long have you been farming?
27 years. Dad grew up on a farm and became a city boy after college. I grew up in the city and became a farm girl after college.
What kind of education or career did you pursue before farming?
I am a registered professional Civil Engineer
What was the impetus to pursue farming?
My husband dragged me. He wasn't a farmer either, but he knew that's what he wanted. Very similar to Green Acres plot. Now I do most of the work with the livestock because of my newfound love of soil health.
What did you do to prepare/educate yourself for this new role?
Ha! Absolutely nothing. We just jumped in with both feet. We started way before the internet was populated with information (and misinformation), so books were our primary source of information. You should have seen the first time we milked our goats! It was the stuff of comedic legend, with milk all over us, the goats, the walls, etc.
What do you do that you did not expect?
Digging through poop looking for dung beetles, reaching inside livestock to pull out breech lambs/kids, wrestling goats to look at the insides of their eyelids to diagnose anemia due to worms, running around behind the animals with pH paper to test urine acidity…
What is your biggest challenge?
Going back inside the house.
What has been the biggest reward?
Seeing new wildlife, endangered native plants, forages and animals thrive from good management
What does it mean to you to be able to farm?
Sanity. Five years ago I was ready to sell. It was hard. It was no fun anymore. After learning how to nurture soil health and trying to mimic nature, I started observing and fell in love with my land, my animals, my environment. Moving the animals every day is my joy...and my exercise!
What do you wish people understood about farming?
“Despite all our achievements we owe our existence to a six-inch layer of topsoil and the fact that it rains” — Farm equipment association of Minnesota and South Dakota
And that six-inch layer is ALIVE! It is precious and miraculous
What are some things we as can do to help create support, equality and awareness for women farmers and small-scale farms?
I teamed with a friend and we started women farmers support group. Eight of us meet once a month and critique a farm business plan while sharing a delicious covered-dish meal and a glass of wine. We can lend support via work days and are also making a point to buy from each other.
How much of your farm business is driven by community need vs your passions?
I would say that the primary driver for our farm right now is my passion for soil health. Respecting and nurturing soil health is the best and possibly only way for us to farm in harmony with nature. Research is showing that farmers can make money while working with nature, so larger farmers are coming on board and I see hope for the future. My farm is a 10-acre playground for me to experiment with soil health practices. I give dozens of tours a year, for small homeschool groups, our local permaculture society, the local technical college Sustainable Ag Program, regional NRCS representatives, the National Grazing Lands Coalition.
The byproducts of all of this are that my animals are healthier and happier, I don’t have to deworm anymore, there is more forage, I’m healthier and happier, we have new and endangered species thriving in new microclimates. I am more creative and in-tune with nature. I could go on forever…