Fall 2016 Update

September 20th, 2016

With the official start of fall this week, we wanted to inform you of some impending changes at Homestead Farms this autumn and winter.

The city of Fort Worth has purchased property surrounding our farm to complete the expansion of Park Vista Road.  We’ve been told construction will start this October, but we aren’t sure where or how quickly progress will go. At some point, demolition and construction will be only feet from our front field, entrance, and parking area.  Obviously, this is going to affect our business in the coming months.

We will have pumpkins to purchase and be open regular hours this October, BUT we are keeping our Harvest Days VERY simple and minimal.  We hope construction won’t affect us too much until slower winter months, but we can’t risk investing in any extras this October.   Remember you can always purchase a treat bucket in our store to feed the animals while purchasing pumpkins.

Again, due to the unpredictability of the surrounding construction, we expect this to be an extremely slow winter.  Starting in November, we will be open Fridays and Saturdays 10 am-6 pm only and have a limited produce inventory in our store

Check our facebook page before heading out, we’ll post construction updates when needed.  As always, we appreciate your continued support as our family farm evolves.

A mid-2015 Update

August 2nd, 2015

As we head into fall of 2015, Homestead Farms is at a turning point and on the cusp of great things.  We have come a long way in the last 8 years, and have all of you, our amazing customers, friends, and family to thank.  We’ve evaluated, re-evaluated, and have made some big decisions that we hope will improve our farm and family.

First, good news; the City of Fort Worth FINALLY, after 23 months, purchased our Keller Hicks Road frontage for their Park Vista expansion project.  We do not own the house at the front and a small portion of land off Keller Hicks, but we also aren’t strapped with that mortgage anymore.  We are working on a portable sign for the road and putting up fences on our new property lines.  The city has 4 months to demolish the empty house so our farm will be visible from the road.

When completed, the Park Vista Expansion will be great for Homestead Farms because it will run parallel to our farm pastures and we envision a new store right off this new road, giving us much better visibility and accessibility.  Unfortunately, the project is currently on hold, so we are stuck in our current store for the time being.   We anticipate the construction and the headaches it brings as they build a 4 lane road adjacent to our road.

On a bittersweet note, we’ve decided to slowly shut down our goat dairy.  The liability and labor involved in running a raw dairy are draining on the entire farm and our family.  This will be a gradual process over the next few months, but it’s time for our farm to expand and focus its attention on less demanding and more profitable and promising enterprises.

This year we’ve added registered Herford pigs to our farm family (they produce a flavorful dark pork,) we planted about 700 (sadly, about 300 drowned this spring) blackberry bushes in hopes of a “you-pick” field, and we will be purchasing more cows to add to our grass-fed beef herd.  Our agritourism program is blossoming, and we’d love to see our farm become an agricultural education leader within our community.   It’s been an honor to provide families with our raw goat milk, and we thank each one of you who purchased, told someone about, or even tried it. We hope you will continue to support our family farm through these changes.

As our farm grows and moves forward, it’s pertinent that we purchase the remaining 2/3 of family land at our Keller Farm that we (Homestead Farms/Sarah and Michael) don’t own.  The family has been gracious enough to let our business carry on and grow in their backyards, but it is now 100% necessary to buy them out.  If we can’t buy this land, we won’t be able to continue to expand, and without growth Homestead Farms will have to shut its doors for good.

Because the land is worth so much, being right in the middle of town, farming alone cannot support a mortgage for it in the first few years, especially with construction starting up at any point.  Thus, we are kicking off a fundraising program to raise enough money to make payments on a loan for the first few years.  You will start to see more details on this issue, plans for its future use, and many opportunities to help us reach our goal over the next few months.

When we started Homestead Farms 8 years ago, we were a young couple trying to make our dream come to life, and we now have each one of you to thank for helping us make it a reality.  We’ve poured blood, sweat, and lots of tears into our little farm, and again we need your help to make a newest vision a reality, by doing what y’all do best – shopping at our store, telling friends about us, and supporting our fundraising endeavors. (See link below to donate now!)

 

 

Fall, Pumpkins, and Birthdays

September 23rd, 2014

Happy second day of fall!  I know it’s been quite a long time since I’ve posted a blog; somehow loose goats, answering emails, making dinner, running a store, driving to gymnastics, paying bills or an ever growing pile of laundry seem to be more important than putting thoughts on to paper.

It’s a fun time of year as we look forward to finally getting some relief from miserably high temperatures, the colors of fall starting appear, and all things pumpkin arriving (and taking over.)  Homestead Farms is celebrating with our annual Harvest Days, October 4-31, and some fun special events.  Check out the link at the bottom of the post.

Why come to our farm for your family’s pumpkin fun?  We NEED your support.  With months of road construction blocking our drive way, moving our signs, and making it almost impossible to get to the farm, we suffered a huge financial blow.  We are hoping to have a very successful October, as we head into the slow winter months.  Please consider supporting our family farm by telling all your friends about, and participating in our Harvest Days.

We stay away from all things scary and tricky, and instead celebrate the fun of autumn: gorgeous pumpkins, corn pits, hayrides, farm animals and more!  You won’t have to fight crazy crowds, or pay an insane amount for a pumpkin.  All our pumpkins are $2 -$12.  That’s right; the biggest, best, awesomest pumpkin you can find will only be $12!

Best of all… We are celebrating our 125th BIRTHDAY!!!   This October, Farmer Michael’s family has been farming this land for 1.25 centuries!  Our Sammy Jo makes 6 generations to pour their blood, sweat, and tears into the soil that’s supported multiple families over the years. (Okay, so Sammy doesn’t do too much heavy lifting yet, but let me tell ya…There’ve been tears.)  We’ve opened up our farm to the community to try to hang on to this farm land, and preserve the rich family heritage…Please come see us!

CLICK HERE FOR MORE  INFO!!!

Ice-pocalypse at Homestead Farms

December 17th, 2013

Being super cold, wet, and icy, naturally the worst time for the milking machinery to break, it would.  The cold weather caused the shaft in the vacuum pump to break. Meaning we had to milk 29 goats by hand for 4 days. Thankfully, we have the best employees and family who all pitched it, gloved up their frozen hands, and helped hand milk. The milk pump is now fixed, and last Friday morning, when that usually annoying loud hum came on, you would have thought we all won the lottery.

Boo, one of our Great Pyrenees got dog napped.  Well, not really. But someone from the neighborhood next to our farm thought he would be too cold in ice and put him in their garage for the night. Our mountainous dogs love the cold weather, and when they hear neighbor kids playing the love to go check it out.  After figuring out where he was, Michael went to free him, Boo bolted and never looked back.  He might not ever go visit the kids playing on a snow day again.

Two goats got sick, (one with a kick to the hip, and one with a cold) and the vet had to be called well after dark one night.  We’re all feeling their stiff and soreness since everyone busted on the ice at some point.  Have you ever tried to carry buckets of baby formula or feed on an ice skating rink? It wasn’t IF you were going to fall, but how bad and would anyone be around to laugh at you.

All this went on while Farmer Michael and Dillon worked other full time jobs at the Operation Christmas Child processing center. I’m so very thankful for these two hard working fellas who worked round the clock to get the milk pump operational and help with chores, all while battling icy roads to work their other jobs.  My sister in law, Mindy, who’s been around since our start, but is new to our payroll, has been worth millions, and I wish we had it to pay her this last week!  She and her husband were out suffering in the cold EVERY single milking shift helping hand milk, and keeping the animals warm and well fed.FamerMindy

When it ices it pours, right? For some reason, this week was just horrible for everyone who lives on the farm in our personal lives as well.  I let my truck run out of gas (what adult actually does that?,) Sammy’s been cutting molars, Mindy’s sink and toilet broke, and Dillon’s water had to be turned off due to a froze water pipe.  Oh well. You have to focus on the good news right?  Katie our store clerk graduated this last weekend, Sammy and the Doggies had a blast sliding around the ice, and despite not being able to thaw out, it’s heartwarming to know our Homestead family can all gather out in the dairy barn, help, and make each other laugh (even if it is just  to keep from crying.)

Loads of Winter Squash

October 31st, 2013

butternutsquash

Hope y’all like butternut squash as much as I do.  Yep, that’s an entire truck bed full of ‘em! And, that’s only the last few Farmer Michael frantically picked the other night before the big storms (that never actually came!)  He saw there was a chance of large hail in the forecast, recruited help from his sister and our farm hand Dillon, and they tromped out to the fields with flashlights at 8pm! 2 hours later they had picked the truck bed full of butternut and a tractor bucket full of acorn. Some were slightly damaged by a previous hail storm, but that just means a better deal for you!  The spaghetti squash are still on the vine, hopefully turning color any day now.

We’ve never grown an entire acre of squash, or winter squash on a large scale, but we are super happy with our bumper crop this fall! There’s nothing like simmering butternut squash to put you in the “fall” mood!  Here’s what I did with butternut squash this week…

 

Disclaimer: I’m not a chef, and I never use recipes. I’m just a mom and farmer’s wife who wants to feed her family quickly and healthily, creating the smallest mountain of dishes as possible. Sometimes this is hazardous, sometimes it’s magical.

Butternut Squash and Pear Sauce

My two year old still loves the baby food pouches or mash ups of fruits and veggies, so I put a spin on applesauce to create mash up of our own.

                Fill your crockpot with peeled, cored, seeded, cubed pears (or apples) and winter squash.  Cook on low for 6-8 hours.  Use potato masher to mush it right in the pot (a great job for older kids, but it will be hot.)  If you want it smoother, just let it cool a bit and run it through a blender or food processor.  I threw in some cinnamon and a table spoon of brown sugar.   You can use honey, or leave these out.

I stuck extras in the freezer, in mason jars for later. This is what we had on hand, but I’ve used apples instead of pears and sweet potatoes instead of butternut squash as well.  This year I invested in an apple corer, and peeler – best $20 I’ve ever spent, and Sammy loved helping!

Butternut Squash Soup

There are a million recipes and variations of this rich favorite, but here’s how I did it.  This is one treat I look forward to every fall, and I could have eaten the entire pot by myself. Most recipes call for cream of some sort, but I didn’t have any on hand (stinkin’ goats are making much milk right now,) and the squash are pretty rich by themselves, so it turned out great.

                Sauté onions, carrots, and celery in butter until translucent.  Add in about two medium sized butternut squash peeled, cored and cubed and about 3 cups of chicken stock and simmer for about an hour (until squash is easily mashed.) Season with salt pepper and herbs you have on hand – I threw in thyme and a touch of cinnamon. Let cool a little and put in blender, or use an immersion blender (totally on my Christmas wish list this year.)  I like it with a dollop of sour cream and grilled cheese. 

How do you like you Butternut squash?

Farmgirls on Vacation

August 12th, 2013

Last week, my little farm girl and I had the chance to visit some family around the Portland and South Washington area.  I grew up in the Northwest until I was 8 and visited often growing up, but this was my first visit as a farm owner and crunchy mom.  I’ve heard glorious things about how progressive and widely available their organics, farms, and markets are, so I seized the opportunity to do some research!  (Farm girls don’t really take a week off, right?)

We visited a little farm and farm store very much like Homestead Farms and met some sweet farmers at the very large Vancouver Farmer’s market on Saturday. We couldn’t get enough of the fresh in-season berries and the prolific flowers blew my mind! They had HUGE hanging baskets at the farm store and vendor after vendor selling cut flowers at the market.

I got a tour of their MANY natural grocery stores (like our Central Market/Sprouts) and was excited to find raw milk, raw kefir and raw soft cheese is legally for sale in stores! They brew their Kombucha a little longer up there, tuning it to alcohol, so you have to be 21 to purchase it.  My family thought this was funny since I ‘d been telling everyone how much my two year old loves to drink Holy Kombucha… no wonder they were looking at me funny!

Even though my grandparents live in a farming area, I was so amazed that almost everyone had large diverse gardens. One Neighbor leaves extra produce for sale in coolers at the end of her driveway, and they even have a lady down the street who has the sweetest, hand painted sign that reads, “Grandma’s Flower Bouquets $3.00.”  I wish I’d taken a picture. I wish they were my neighbors!

In North Texas, we battle tougher weather and are a few years behind the natural movement, but I’m proud of how far we’ve come in the last few years.  So many of our customers are really supporting their local farmers and even starting their own gardens and farms.  I’m always impressed with how the Keller Farmer’s Market has blossomed since it started, and even how well our own little place has proven itself, hidden off the road. I learned a few things, and was inspired by the trip, but I’m also very glad to be home!

At the Farm Store with the HUGE hanging baskets!

At the Farm Store with the HUGE hanging baskets! Note the hoodie in August…

‘Tis the Season

May 23rd, 2013

We’ve all jumped, or in our family’s case, eased into clean eating for different reasons, but at some point you realize the importance of eating local and in turn eating seasonal. Even though instant gratification is now the norm, our bodies and appetites are really not designed to have a huge variety of foods at our disposal at all times. Here’s my farmgirl account of a seasonal eating;

During winter, the produce drought seems like a huge frustrating inconvenience and you’re extremely tired of canned and frozen vegetables, potatoes and leafy greens.  But as the days start to get longer, you realize your excitement and appreciation for food is dramatically building, thanks to the barren days of cold.
 
As spring buds and the Homestead Farms produce bins start to become colorful heaps of nutrition after a drab winter, you can’t help but to smile, and maybe drool a touch, with anticipation. New menus are created to include even your least favorite vegetables, just out of desperation for diversity.
 
Then the spring peaches make their debut. Oh the peaches.  We won’t see an abundance of them this year, due to the late freezes this year, but it’s so exhilarating to see and smell those small fuzzy fruit from our neighboring farms.
 
As the peach juice runs down our chins, we can’t help but to look forward to those sweet melons coming in the heat of the summer. A chilled watermelon is the most perfect snack for sweaty HOT days, when you want to cool off but can’t bear the thought of turning on a stove.  Of course, you’ll be enjoying those sweet field tomatoes, which just can’t even be compared to those you’d find at a big box store, no matter what time of year.
 
Circling back to autumn, when you’ve become tired of extra sweet fruits, summer squash, and hot days.  You start to crave the warm “stick to your bones” dishes that simmer all day long, featuring the yummiest root and storage vegetables.  You recognize fresh pumpkin, apples and winter squash satisfy your mind and tummy, and just wouldn’t feel right any other time of year.
 

 Spring, and all its anticipation is always my favorite and the most wonderful time of year to be a “localvore!”  Are you as thrilled as me these days, when the farm, market or CSA box has something new in it? Ask your farmer what’s new this week.  If they’re the real deal, they’ll proudly light up with the same excitement as you. I find that if you learn to appreciate and feature the abundances of the season you’re in, the limitations tend to be less inconvenient.

Guest Post – Saturdays with Katie

March 23rd, 2013

Greetings to all from one of the newest employees at Homestead Farms!

Some of you wonderful customers may have already met me (pleased to make your acquaintance), and some I have yet to meet (I look forward to it). To those who I haven’t met, I’ll give you a little insight about myself

My name is Katie Shaw.

I’m originally a Keller native, but I currently live in Denton, TX.

I’m a senior at the University of North Texas, and if the stars align I’ll have a degree in English Literature and Russian Language Studies in December of this year.

Why am I here?

I’m here because Michael and Sarah are rock stars (figuratively, not literally, of course). I dropped by the store one afternoon to pick up a few goodies, and I randomly asked Michael if they could use some weekend help. His response? “I thought you’d never ask.” I wasn’t expecting such a quick, definite answer, but the timing couldn’t have been better for both parties.

Aside from wanting to make a little extra money, I wasn’t able to answer the “why am I here?” question until after my first day. Initially, I just wanted a weekend job for a little extra cash, but working at Homestead Farms has turned into more than that. This isn’t a just a job for me, it’s a chance to reach out to my community and help educate my neighbors about how important it is to know where your food comes from, and how it’s raised. I may not be able to answer all the questions you have right now, but I’m constantly learning to better educate myself and others. If I can’t answer your question, I’ll make sure to do my research so that next time you stop by the store I am ready to give you the best answer I can.

Before starting here, I was aware that the need for sustainable farming was great, but I didn’t fully comprehend the magnitude. I don’t know about you guys, but the idea that food comes from a factory freaks me out. My life hasn’t been the same since I watched Food, Inc. during a Netflix documentary binge. If you haven’t seen it, I highly suggest you watch it.

On a less serious note, here are some of my favorite things about working at Homestead Farms:

All of you customers! Okay, that may sound a little cliché, but I don’t care because it’s true. I meet so many interesting people, and you all bring me so much joy. I’m constantly learning new things from each person, like how to properly cook and enjoy beef liver (shout out to Reed and Daneen!).

Farm Camps. I’ve only been a part of a few farm camps so far this year, but they’ve been a totally new learning experience. I get to teach children about life on the farm, the importance of farms in the local community, and the role each animal plays in their life. Seeing the knowledge slowly seep into their budding minds is pretty cool to see.

Goat Milk. It’s raw. It’s fresh. It’s delicious. Need I say more?

Kombucha. Although this is a new product, and I kind of badgered Sarah to get it in the store, it’s probably one of my favorite items. I’ve tried brewing my own time and time again, but I have a hard time getting it to taste just the way I want it. I’ll probably end up spending my whole paycheck solely on kombucha, it’s that good. For those of you not familiar with kombucha, it’s a fermented tea beverage jam packed with great bacteria and probiotics. Delish.

The Green House. I’m not even going to try to explain everything going on in the $125 greenhouse, but it’s wicked awesome. Aquaponics. Fish. Recycled water. It’s super fancy, and way over my head, so maybe Farmer Michael can it explain it all to you one day.

I like many things about this place, and I can’t wait to continue to watch the farm grow; it’s an exciting occurrence. Sarah and Michael’s passion for this place is inspiring, and their enthusiasm is contagious.

So, if you’re in the area on a Saturday, drop by the store and say hello. I’d love to meet you!

“You get what you get, and you don’t throw a fit.”

November 12th, 2012

I’ve be hearing this phrase quite a bit recently.  It probably has something to do the lots of kids picking out the perfect size and price pumpkin, but it’s been relevant in our farm’s growth too.

As you know we’ve been desperately trying to raise money to remodel the house, at the front of our property, into a new store. EVERYTHING has been much more expensive then we’d anticipated, the city of Fort Worth has given us a mountain of hoops to jump through, and our fundraising efforts have been failures.   We’ve made a little leeway on raising funds and making progress on construction, but not the leaps and bounds that we had imagined when buying the property.

A little defeated, we’ve gone about in our daily business of running a retail store and a multi-enterprise farm, and abut two weeks ago a miracle fell into our laps.  It has nothing to do with the new store remodels, but it’s almost better…almost (hey, I run the store, so I’m bias.)

10 years ago, one of the high schools at Birdville built a fancy-shmancy green house for the ag department (oh so big it is.)  We’re talking the Lamborghini of all green houses- fully automatic temperature control, hard plastic cover, automatic waterers, and a shade cloth that automatically covers the house when the temperature gets too hot.

The ag department has shrunk, and the principle wanted the “eye sore” gone.  So they put the green house in a closed bid auction.  Michael’s father works for the school district, knew about the auction, and made a low bid… a REALLY, REALLY low bid-$125. There were no other bids.

After two weeks and much discussion (since they were expecting to get much more for it) by the principle, the school board, and the superintendent; Michael’s patience reached new heights, and they decided it made more sense to practically give the structure, worth about $100,000, to us instead of paying someone else to tear it down.  Ignoring the injustice to the tax payers this is, WE GET A PIMPED OUT GREEN HOUSE!!!

The boys have been tearing it down all week and are planning an old fashioned Green House “raising” next Saturday (Nov. 17- Come check it out, while you get your goods!) It’s going to be a massive chore to get the whole thing back in working order, but once it is, we won’t have an excuse not to grow you some awesome produce.  There’s all kinds of ideas running through Farmer Michael’s head, and we are hoping this new structure will justify hiring more help this spring to completely focus on produce growing!

A few days after learning of our farm’s new acquisition, I said to Michael, “I really think God just isn’t ready for us to be at the new store yet.  We don’t have the vegetable farming going good enough and the store would just be so empty. God gave us this green house because we needed it first.”   Michael completely agreed and said he’d totally been having the same thought.

We got what we got, and we’ve had a little epiphany and reminder that our farm and business is ultimately God’s and He knows the perfect timing for everything.  We are still going to plug away at the new store, but we’re also extremely grateful and excited to see where this green house takes Homestead Farms!

Farmgirl goes ‘Live’

July 13th, 2012

The story of my national television appearance. 🙂

A few weeks ago, I got a call from a Fox Business News Channel producer asking if they could interview me.  I love talking about my farm, so of course I agreed!  I learned I would be on the new nationally broadcast show “Money with Melissa Francis.” Sounds like a neat and exciting experience, right?

The reality didn’t hit me until later that night when I started to do some research. Since we don’t have cable, I googled the show and this is when the panic set in. It’s on one of those channels where there are numbers, abbreviations, and arrows running at the bottom of the screen (all three of which mean absolutely nothing to me) and housing policies, interest rates, and profit margins are regular vocabulary. I’m no dummy, but this stuff intimidates a farmgirl. What could they want from me?
Then a new panic set in…What to wear? I really hate shopping and I’m not into clothes, but I’m girly enough to freak out about what to wear on national television. Here’s the even tougher situation… What does one wear when told to wear “business casual” and she’s talking about a FARM camp?  After three trips to the mall, two exchanges, and a bunch of picture messages to my best friend I finally settled on something “me” that I bet you didn’t even notice.

The day of the filming, the producer finally gave me a list of questions, told me I would appear on the live show in a few hours, and what time the car would be picking us up! Yup, they sent a fancy car to take us to Haltom City!

When we got to the studio (after a very quiet and nervous car ride) they rushed me to make up, which I had absolutely no idea about.  I don’t even remember the makeup artist name, but I wish I did, so I could send her a cookie bouquet or something.  After scrubbing my armature job off, she not only made me look way prettier then I really am, but she was so calm, sweet and kept my mind off what I was about to do!

After hair and makeup (which is still just too funny to say out loud) they took me down to a huge dark studio with a camera and about twenty extremely bright lights pointing at a little chair in the middle of the room.  It honestly looked like a scary interrogation scene from a movie.

They put an earpiece in and touched up my makeup, told me to listen to the directions they gave me in my ear, and when the interview started to look at the camera- without looking away, and to relax and be myself (HA!) Then I sat for what seemed like forever… just me, my pounding heart, sweaty palms, and a sweet camera man with the live show playing in my ear.

And then it happened and was over  in, I swear, 20 seconds.  I answered the questions I heard in my ear the best I could (I never actually got to see Melissa, the host , just really bright lights) and tried to remember all those things you learn in speech class in school.   Of course, there are things I would change, or I wish I had done better, but at least I didn’t stroke out and go viral, like farmer Michael latter told me he was worried about.

It was a super neat experience, and I hope I get to talk more about our farm in situations like this again. I’m proud of myself for conquering such a nerve racking situation, but I know I couldn’t have done it without some major prayers and support from my family, friends, and mostly my patient husband (who didn’t get too frustrated with my little shopping spree!)