The dream of eco-farming at the Rough Draft Farmstead
Everybody has their own dreams, some of us even have this one big dream which we adore and which we want to put into practice one day. Hannah and Jesse also have such a dream. Every day they work really hard on its implementation: against all odds the two have created their own little farm on their own little piece of land. They grow vegetables and raise animals for their daily self-subsistence, and for selling produce to the people in the proximity. Many thanks to Hannah and Jesse for answering a few questions about their big adventure.
Hannah, who’s originally from Versailles, Kentucky, and Jesse, who grew up in Richmond, Kentucky, lived a fairly normal life, and went after their interests. While Jesse discovered his interest in cooking, and short time later his passion for naturally produced wine in New York, Hannah studied painting in Nashville, moved to Italy and later to Chicago, where she met urban beekeepers and became interested in their work. At that time their paths had not crossed yet. But it’s the point in both their lives, in which they discovered their interest in farming and producing natural food.
Independently of each other they decided to engage in agriculture and to learn from an eco farmer. They first met in a local coffee shop in Nashville. At that time Hannah was getting ready to start an internship on the farm, where Jesse had been interning, and had plans to intern again, talking about what the farming experience would be like. They moved to Bugtussle farm in Kentucky which seemed to be the right place for this project. And so it happend that the two got to know each other. It’s the place where they fell in love and decided to spend the rest of their lives together realizing their dream of a little eco farm.
What do you like most about your time at Bugtussle farm?
Hannah: Obviously meeting and working with Jesse was great, but also living with the Smith family and their children. I didn’t know if I would like or even be good at farm life, but meeting this family helped me realize that I was ready to settle down and commit to a person and a place.
Jesse: we both went from living in big cities and expected the farm to be quite a shock, and it defintely was. What we didn’t expect, however, was how much we fell in love with that shock, and to be drawn into a simple life, like the one our mentors lived, and like the one we lived on the farm. In short, everything was my favorite part.
Did you have any idea of what the future would hold for you while working at Bugtussle?
Jesse: I knew after an admittedly hard six weeks or so that farming like this was the life for me, but had no idea how in love with it I would become. Then, when I met Hannah, who was willing and wanting to live this way, too, I knew exactly what my future looked like.
Hannah: I also knew pretty quickly that I loved growing food and raising animals, but I didn’t know that I would end up married to the other intern, or that we would end up back at Bugtussle someday.
It’s November 2011 when their project finally began. Hannah and Jesse were overjoyed to get the permission to cultivate their own 11 acres 40 straight minutes and 6 windy ones from Lexington, Kentucky. The land, on which they now planned do build their farm, was owned by Hannah’s family and Hannah lived there for a brief period when she was young. In the beginning our young farmers didn’t have enough money to start farming, so their families found random projects and jobs for them to do – nearly anything which gave them a valid excuse to hand them money.
How did the idea arise to start your own farming project?
Jesse: after Bugtussle,I couldn’t imagine living any other way. It was not a matter of IF I wanted to farm anymore. It was now a matter of making it happen no matter what.
Hannah: Even while Jesse and I were still interns, we would often talk about „our“ farm, how we would do things when we had „our“ farm. We didn’t know how or where, but we were constantly imagining our future farm.
I like the name of your farm, „Rough Draft Farmstead“. What’s the idea behind it?
Hannah: We like the name for many reasons. For one, we hope and plan to use draft animals ( horses, mules, or oxen) to farm one day. But we are also both creative people, writers and artists, so the idea of a rough draft spoke to that. And after all the changes and hardships we went through in our first year farming, the idea that our farm is a rough draft, never finished and always evolving, was perfect.
Soon it became apparent that the two would have to leave their beloved land. They found another piece of land, now in Danville, Kentucky, and started at the scratch. And then, the most terrible thing happened, and they were asked to leave again. The dream of their own farm had collapsed overnight for the second time. Everything which they had painstakingly built, they had to leave behind and start from the beginning in a different place once more.
What was your first thought when you heard about loosing your first farm?
Hannah: We basically had to make the decision to walk away from that farm ourselves, which was very difficult. It felt like walking away from our dream, because we had already envisioned our entire lives there. We knew we had to do of, though.
What have you had already built up at that time?
Jesse: We had invested all of our money into that project. We had built fences and compost piles and made our own soil mix and spent weeks collecting mulch, all of which we had to walk away from.
Have you ever thought about giving up and going back to your previous jobs?
Hannah: No! Never. Even after losing our second farm, it just wasn’t an option.
Jesse: hear hear, I couldn’t agree more. As hard as it is, even impossible sometimes, I cannot imagine doing anything else.
As hard as some calamities are, sometimes those lead into something very beautiful, even though you may not believe it at first. Only a short time after their loss Hannah and Jesse found a piece of land near the farm Bugtussle at which they once had met. They decided to buy that small piece of land and to start all over again. With the help of a fundraising campaign they managed to raise the money necessary to build a new cabin.
Could you tell us something about your actual cabin? (What materials did you choose? Have you built it completely by yourself? Are you using recycled materials?)
Jesse: We did not build our cabin entirely by ourselves. Our neighbors at Bugtussle Farm helped us get in contact with a guy who loves to build small cabins and we hired him to help us in building the frame and roof. Everything else – the siding, the insulation, drywall, etc – we did ourselves using lots of different materials from lots of different sources. Some new, many old, We used cedar from our woods, and old barn wood where we could. In fact, our outhouse and greenhouse were both almost entirely scrapped. The siding is Sassafras, which we got from a local sawmill for a great deal, and we have used that all over the inside of the cabin as well for building shelves and the closet.
What do you like most about your nest?
Jesse: for me, i enjoy the evolution. Now that we’ve lived there a year, its fun to see how far it has come and how far it still has to go. This time last year, we were sitting on bags of chicken feed for chairs. Now, we’ve got couches and chairs and it’s deeply comfortable.
Hannah: I love the size of our home – it is small enough to force us to be organized and efficient with our decorating. We have a lot if open shelving because there is limited floor space, and so I have to keep everything neat and tidy since we can’t hide it behind cabinets. We have to decorate practically, using little details and small items to make it personal. Sometimes I get envious of homes with giant, clean white walls and minimal furnishings, but that’s just not our life. We are messy, colorful, and utilitarian – and I love that our home reflects that.
In retrospect, what do you think about your loss? Did it help you to find something even better?
Jesse: I’m not a fatalist really, but I do believe that, as hard as our first two years of farming on our own were, our cabin and life now make it all worth while.
Hannah: I agree. I don’t know if I’ll ever understand “ why“ we went through what we did, but being back at Bugtussle, in our own home living next to our mentors is exactly where we are supposed to be.
And last, but not least, what does a nest (home) mean to you?
Hannah: A nest is a place for living – a comfortable space to hold everything you care about….your family and the objects of daily life that become precious to us. I think a nest should be lived-in and practical, but also contain elements of personality and comfort, shelter and protection.
Thank you both for the interview. We wish you well for the future, and all the best for your little farm. We hope that you will be spared from further disasters.