Farmer feature: For love of place
Interview with Khaiti Hallstein, Owner and Farmer of LTD (Living the Dream) Farm
[Editor’s note: Khaiti Hallstein and partner Ben Hopper steward Living the Dream (LTD) Farm outside of Clayton, Wisconsin. Farm Table purchases a variety of produce from LTD, including garlic and elderberries. What follows are Khaiti’s reflections on their farm and farming these days.]
What drew you to farming?
Neither of us grew up farming. We found our way here because of our love of delicious food and our desire to cook with the best ingredients. Farming also allows us to be self-employed—and, although it’s not been terribly lucrative, there is a quality about farming that feels like living the dream every day as we grow nourishment from the soil and gossip with the green beans rather than around the office water cooler.
How do you describe your farm–what you grow or raise or market or the practices you use?
Our 39-acre farm in Clayton, 15 minutes east of Amery, is a diverse, beautiful, biological paradise, intentionally. Providing space for migratory birds to nest and feed and nurturing the soil helps our farm thrive. In a drought year, we have lush green fields.
We raise a wide variety of organic produce for a few wholesale accounts and for 32 families, our CSA (Community Supported Agriculture) members. We sell at one farmers’ market and next year will sell at one in New Richmond as well. One other important part of our farming venture is the homesteading we do for ourselves: canning, freezing, pickling, foraging, hunting, curing, smoking, and butchering much of what we eat throughout the year.
How many people work on your farm?
It’s just the two of us here, and we like it at this scale. Sometimes friends come out and get roped into some work too!
What are you thinking about these days?
I think about how this climate change bus might not be able to turn around. And I see humans around the world fighting over the past, fighting for control, not accepting that everyone is equal. What is wrong with us? How can so many of us live without a thought for our planet, our beautiful home? It disgusts me and I find it very depressing most days. I am glad I chose to not have children.
Climate change is much, much more than just something to get through. For one, it means drastic weather events. Plants don’t produce well when temperatures fluctuate wildly, or drenching storms follow summer-long droughts. This year we lost many garden beds to premature maturation as radishes, cabbages, lettuce, and spinach bolted to seed. Last year many beds of produce drowned in torrential downpours.
In face of these huge challenges, I do also think about all the permanent and resilient crops we have planted in the past couple years: asparagus, perennial herbs, elderberries, pear trees, and blueberries. Our beautiful large-clove garlic is a trooper through thick and thin. As farmers we have to roll with it as best we can, but the truth is that climate change is already here and already impacting us, all of us.
What would you like eaters to know?
Eaters who want to be as ethical as possible: know that you will have a direct and immediate positive impact when you buy food directly from the hands that grew it. Especially in the growing season, eat local all the time! Consider learning new skills like how to preserve food; empower yourself and avoid being so dependent on stores for everything you eat. Buy cases of in-season produce directly from the farm—you’ll make the farmer’s day!
As you think about farming, both your own farm and the broader world of agriculture, are there policies you’d like to see enacted that would support the kind of farming you do?
First off: CLIMATE CHANGE HAS TO BE DEALT WITH. Otherwise, nothing matters. Second, old school policies, like “go big or go home” government programs, literally pay commodity crop farmers to continue wasting (all of our) resources, while very little of what they grow is actually produced for human consumption. The whole system is so wasteful. Demand change. Email, write letters, and call your state representatives to demand action to combat climate change. They don’t know what your priorities are unless you tell them. Keep trying.
What makes you sad, or disappoints you, as you think about your life as a farmer?
Compared to other professions, this one ends up being more like being paid in room and board to be honest. Sometimes that is hard to deal with.
What makes you happy as you think about your life as a farmer?
Farm life makes me happy because I can take all the feelings I’ve been talking about here and I can do something about it. We love being on our farm here and are proud of what we do. It’s hard work but keeps ya fit! We’ve also been donating a good amount of produce to various food pantries the last three years and that makes us happy.
How could readers support your work and farm?
Get a CSA (Community Supported Agriculture) subscription next season! You’ll receive a box of our finest garden produce each week during the growing season. To sign up for our CSA, or to get further information: email firstname.lastname@example.org, call 715-541-2789, or find us on Instagram @ltd_farm. Visit our open house on October 16 to purchase fall produce and pick up a cool LTD Farm t-shirt while you’re at it!
Thank you to Scott Streble for the beautiful pictures in this piece. See his work at: http://www.scottstreble.com/