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Karolina's First Year of Farming

Karolina Kowalczyk grew up in a small town in Poland where most people around her “farmed, kept livestock, and were self-sufficient,” which created a sense of community. It was this environment that gave her a love of growing food to share with other people. Karolina began her farm dream by taking Angelic Organics Learning Center’s yearlong farm business planning course, Stateline Farm Beginnings (SFB). She graduates from the program next month and has been working hard to make her farm dream a reality —  working nearly fourteen hours a day, seven days a week.

Her farm business is still in the beginning stages as she transfers to farming full-time. The majority of her income comes from her full-time, off-farm job. Working this job in addition to farming makes it challenging to expand as fast as she’d like to, and right now, the extent of her business consists of setting up at one farmers market per week where she sells a variety of vegetables, herbs, and flowers. It’s a busy period of transition, but also a time of learning. 

Learning is her favorite part about farming, as she talks about how she enjoys observing the effects all aspects of environment have on her vegetables. But farming is about much more than just the food grown, and Karolina is passionate about local agriculture because it “builds community, supports local families and builds on the human connection. It preserves farm land that would probably be developed if not used and revitalizes land that may have been underutilized.” In addition, she loves being in the market, chatting with her customers about food or life in general. She finds great joy “knowing that they are leaving with produce that [she] cared for that will contribute to their health.” For Karolina, farming is all about connections made between people and the earth, and it all ties back to her childhood in Poland.

While her first year of farming has been a lot of hard work, she is achieving her goal of making farming full-time a reality. She’s made enough money this year and will likely be able to pay off the loan she borrowed for start-up costs. Karolina is thankful for Stateline Farm Beginnings, which she says “completely shaped my approach to farming. I had no idea how I was going to do this. All I knew was that I wanted to grow food for the community.” The program provides farmer-led education which benefited Karolina the most, she says “It was extremely helpful to hear from farmers in various stages of their careers. It was very inspirational, but they were also very realistic about the challenges  and what to expect.”

It’s important to confront the realities and hard work needed to start a farm, and Stateline Farm Beginnings can help beginning farmers like Karolina to carve out the path that works best for them. Her plans for the future are bright. Farming is hard work, but slowing down isn’t something that interests her.  She’s hoping to expand her business by buying more land and transitioning into farming full-time. All of this is done while maintaining the food-community philosophy that drives her farm, because “so much good can happen when you bring people together with fresh, healthy food that is grown by people who respect the land, the community and want to see both do well.” 

Follow Karolina on Instagram!

By AJ Boucek, Program Assistant

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!