A week ago, we noticed a comment our Food, Inc. Facebook wall from a commentor called “Road to Simplicity”:
We were VERY inspired by Food, inc to the point that we moved to a 30 acre farm and started growing/raising our own food….
We love stories like these. We followed up.
The commentor, Rosie Bolin, is a mother, a farmer, and—in our eyes—an activist. She has a great story to tell, and she shared it with us so we could share it with you. Prepare to be inspired. You might just find yourself digging into the dirt any day now…
TakePart: You told us that Food, Inc inspired you move to a 30-acre farm and start growing and raising your own food. Was seeing the movie the first time you had thought about farming your own food?
My husband, Lee, grew up on a small farm in the foothills of the North Carolina mountains. His family has farmed in that part of the state for countless generations. He really wanted no part of that life, went to college, moved to the “Big City” and became an engineer with IBM.
I, conversely, grew up in a more urban setting, and always wanted to be a farmer’s wife. I won, and Lee has discovered that you can’t escape your roots, which is a good thing, because they not only keep you grounded, they nourish you.
So…we had decided, prior to watching Food, Inc. that we wanted to seriously simplify our lives. We wanted to move out of the suburbs, but were on the slow train. After we watched Food, Inc., we hopped onto the bullet train and made the move.
Which parts of “Food, Inc” affected you the most?
We knew about animal cruelty on factory farms, but the only way we, personally, were making a stand was not eating at KFC. After seeing the film, we just couldn’t, in good conscience, support an industry that so mistreated animals.
Joel Salatin [one of the farmers in Food, Inc.] said that his animals are happy every day but the last. That’s what we wanted. The other thing that horrified us was learning about GMOs [genetically modified organisms], specifically Monsanto. We are so impressed at the public outcry that was inspired by Food, Inc. shedding such a prominent light on this issue.
What was it like transitioning to farm life? How did you get started?
We did a great deal of research. We homeschool our teenage boys, so we had them do presentations on raising animals. We bought several homesteading books, joined a local homesteading meet-up, and scoured the internet for any information we could find.
We started very slowly, adding just one type of farm animal at a time. Our first was a bull calf. Because Holsteins are primarily dairy cows, we found that buying young bulls is very inexpensive. Ours was only $75. Grass feeding is pretty much free, so that has been an amazing return on investment.
Next, we got goats. We found that there were many goats, mostly male, that were free or cheap on Craigslist. We got two females and four males that way. We mated both of the females; one gave birth to two kids in March, and the other is due in July. Whew, what an adventure that has been. Goats are fun, hysterical to watch, and very friendly, but they sure have a tendency to get themselves into trouble!! If there’s a fence, they’ll either leap it, or get stuck trying!
Our chickens came next. We bought seven-week-old Rhode Island Red and Buff Orpington pullets. We love the chickens and keep them in fully-enclosed tractors, which we move every two weeks so they are both protected from predators and have constant access to fresh grass.
We also feed them table scraps. When we toss in their favorites, one piece at a time, it’s like a football game. One will grab it and run across the yard, dodging the others. There is, inevitably, at least one turnover, where the competition will grab it and run the opposite direction. We find this much more entertaining than actual football.
This month we’ve added 20 more pullets and 6 breeder rabbits, which are also housed in mobile tractors. We should have our first baby bunnies in two weeks. Can’t wait for the show!
As for gardens, last year we were way too ambitious and planted two acres of everything. We didn’t have irrigation (other than me with a hose), so I ended up watering, by hand, for two hours every night during one of the hottest, driest summers in North Carolina history.
Sadly, the two hours weren’t enough, so some of the late crops never came in. While we were thrilled with our tomatoes and cucumbers, we only got a handful of peas and beans, and the 100 pumpkins we planted failed to fruit. Our big lesson was to shift to a lower-impact, higher-yield method, so we’re moving most of the crops to aquaponics.
In July, we plan to start selling our eggs on the property. We’re making educational trails so people can view and learn about the various animals. We have been so inspired to make a positive change that we are anxious to share this journey with others. If people would like to follow our farm online and get tips on simplifying their own lives, they can go to Road to Simplicity on Facebook. The cool thing is, regardless of your living situation, you can incorporate some of the farm into your life.
Paint us a picture of your farm. What does it look like? Which animals do you raise? Which crops?
Our farm was formerly a commercial dairy farm on 30 acres just outside Raleigh, NC. The property was owned by the same family for generations. My favorite outbuilding is an old tobacco barn made from hand-hewn logs cut down on the property. Funny, the previous owners added a stable around the tobacco barn many years later. The stable is about to fall down, but the tobacco barn is still standing strong—a real testament to old-fashioned craftsmanship.
We have two other well-used old barns, two of the most beautiful stocked ponds I’ve ever seen, and acres of rolling field and woods. When I look out my kitchen window while washing dishes, I can see the pond, rabbits, goats, chickens an old pear tree, more birds than I can name, barns that look like they inspired Norman Rockwell, and if I’m lucky, a herd of deer. That’s the payoff, and I wouldn’t want any other job!!
What do your kids think of the change?
They love it. Riley, 13, wants to be a vet, so he really enjoys the animals. Just as they showed Joel Salatin doing on his farm in Food, Inc., we process animals on our property. Riley has taken part in this with curious amazement. Sheesh, talk about a biology lab!
Adam, 16, is much more interested in the gardens and fields. He loves nature photography and spends a great deal of time noticing things in the grass that most of us would pass by.
More importantly, this experience has taught them responsibility and work ethic. It doesn’t matter if you stayed up until 2 a.m. talking to a girl on the phone. When the sun comes up, the animals need food and water. When we first moved here, they complained about how physical, hot and dirty the work was. Now, they brag about their muscles. (Farmers don’t need to join a gym.)
What advice do you have for someone who wants to opt out of the industrial food system and grow their own food?
The internet is an amazing source of information. A lot of it is contradictory, so much of what you learn is through trial and error. If your beans don’t grow this year, try again next year. Life doesn’t happen in half-hour increments, but in seasons. Enjoy them all!