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Ben & Meghan's Journey to Becoming Farmers

I drive out to a remote part of the City of Beloit, Wisconsin one breezy summer evening to talk to Ben and Meghan Snare. I walk into their house—a renovated farm house—and begin setting up my gear while they get their children ready for bed. We sit down at their kitchen table, the warm glow of a cloudy sunset pouring into their home.

Despite growing up around farms, they didn’t have much experience in farming; in fact both went on to take full-time jobs in the tech industry located in the suburbs of Chicago, IL. But they found themselves not really enjoying their busy schedules. “The pace that we were living and the things we were doing wasn’t really amounting to what we wanted our lives to be about, so we started talking about all sorts of options,” Meghan says. Never feeling fulfilled in their day-to-day lives, they thought about ways to get back to nature—like an orchard or a pumpkin patch. But finally they decided to go for the full experience: they bought a farmhouse, renovated it, and began their farm operation, Field & Farm Co.

They enrolled in Stateline Farm Beginnings to get an understanding of owning a farm business. It was here they met other beginning farmers and received mentorship through Turtle Creek Farm and Gardens, who instilled their belief in cooperation and community. Ben talks enthusiastically about this: “I think more partnerships, farms working together—we’ve seen how great the farming community is, everyone’s willing to share information—but I think it has to go another step further in partnerships.” They’re currently working with other farms, growing 75% of their own produce and buying 25% from other farms. Most of what they buy from other local farms is meat to put into their meat shares. To them, it makes sense to cooperate with other farms so that each farm can cut down on labor costs while simultaneously increasing quality. Ben and Meghan see it as both the future of their farm business model as well as the future of farming itself. Cooperation and knowledge sharing are what help Ben and Meghan navigate the steep learning curve that comes with starting your own farm. Adapting to all the different aspects of a farm business is one of the most challenging things for them, as well as unexpected infrastructure costs, and Stateline Farm Beginnings was able to connect them to resources and networking opportunities to overcome some of these farming challenges.

Field & Farm Co. is a beginning business, but they are growing. Their CSA shares sold out this year, but they’re still ramping up and hoping to expand to 100 members next year. They have a ten-acre farm (8.25 acres of that is tillable) and they’re hoping to add five acres next year. The farm started out with just produce, but they’ve begun expanding into grass fed beef and meat processing as well. Beyond the traditional farm business, they’re working on cultivating relationships with those who’d like to “get the farm experience” or attend one of their farm dinners. They see the farm as a diverse business meant to cultivate local food and farm culture in addition to food itself. On top of all that, Ben and Meghan still work their full-time tech jobs remotely, so the majority of their time spent outside of the typical 9-5 tech job work day is spent working on the farm. Oh—they also have two young children.

So what does it all amount to? Well, it’s about 80 hours a week, but Ben says he “feels like it’s what [he] was called to do.” It’s a lot of work, but “I’ve never felt so energized after working so much—and it’s because [I’m] doing what [I] like and what [I] love.” as he puts it. For Ben and Meghan, having the kids on the farm with them, seeing people engaged in the whole process and eating the food grown by them, and building that foodshed community is what it’s all about. They have hopes that this farm can last generations—that their children will want to take over the farm and instill into others the belief that good food is good for mind, body, and spirit.

By AJ Boucek, Farmer Training Program Assistant

Learn more about their journey by watching this interview video!

Interested in launching your own or expanding your current farm business? Stateline Farm Beginnings is now accepting applications until the end of September. Apply before September 7th to receive our early-bird discount! Scholarships are also available. Learn more.

Not ready to start a farm business? Consider joining Upper Midwest CRAFT, our farmer training alliance of nearly 200 members!