We are often asked, “What do Farmer Training Program participants go on to do?” We are in the process of compiling current profiles of past Farmer Training Program participants – Stay tuned for updates this summer!
Stephanie Stillman – Muddy Feet Farm
What are you up to now?
In 2012, I started a one acre vegetable farm called Muddy Feet Farm. In the beginning I had the support of 12 members but that number grew to 40 members this season. Next year we are expanding onto another acre property with the intention to feed 70 members. After my first year of farming, I became certified as a Yoga instructor and am now studying Ayurveda. I feel passionate about growing food and teaching others to do the same and have a vision for Muddy Feet Farm to become an educational hub and resource center for living sustainably. Right now we focus on vegetables, but we are working toward integrating Yoga, Ayurveda and holistic living into what we offer. I like to think of Muddy Feet Farm as a gateway for individuals to experience a closer relationship with their food, farmers and ultimately their innate connection with Nature. This season I partnered with a wonderful farmer, Kelsey. She too worked with Calypso years prior to my season there. It is serendipitous that she applied to work at Muddy Feet farm and I am so looking forward to working with her toward a greater Muddy Feet Farm.
How have you been able to apply what you learned at Calypso?
Calypso taught me how to farm. Prepping beds, planning fields, planting seeds and starts, harvesting… everything. If I had never worked at Calypso, Muddy Feet Farm would not exist. Not only did I learn the workings of the field, I was inspired by all the passion, creativity and knowledge of the people at Calypso. That fueled me. I felt fully supported when I left Calypso to pursue my own farm and confident that I could accomplish anything I set myself to. The greatest gift I was given at Calypso was the inspiration to follow my dreams.
Do you have any advice for people pursing a life in farming?
- Ask for help
My biggest flaw when I began farming was fear of asking for help. I was afraid of failing and didn’t want anyone to know that I was struggling. Once I got over myself and started asking for help, life and farming became a lot smoother.
- Get connected
Meet farmers in the area, old and new. Farming can be an isolating experience- working in the field day in day out. To feel connected with other people farming is so helpful. My second season I met a farmer friend about my age. We would periodically call each other and just talk about what was happening in the field. It was so nice to be able to share struggles with her and to hear that she was in the same boat. Of course, we shared our successes too. It’s been so helpful to be able to bounce ideas off others and learn from those around me. I am still getting connected in this area. My introverted tendencies sometimes get the best of me, so I have to make extra effort to put myself out there. It’s so worth it.
- Practice non-attachment
Plans are great. I love putting together my planting schedule and field map. But honestly, it never turns out the way I had planned. Be open and ready for change. We’re working with Mother Nature – the master of unpredictability. Have a plan, a back-up plan and acceptance for when all plans fail and you’re working on the fly.
This may go against what I said above, but DO have a financial plan. This is a shortcoming of mine. I often have the attitude of “it’ll all work out”, but that left me unpaid my first two seasons. I suggest creating a financial roadmap so you have a clear plan of your financial goals.
- Know your assets
We all have our specialties. Mine is being able to adapt and innovate. I can see the bigger picture of things but am not great at the details. Know what you’re good at, harness that and seek out help with the areas that aren’t as strong. For me, that is financial planning and strategic planning. Basically any long-term plan is not my forte. So that is where I ask for help. Be honest with yourself. Yea, you can do it all but that places you on a fast track for getting burnt out. Hone in on your skills, and partner with or seek out people who have strong skills in areas that make you feel drained.
Oh yea, make sure to take time for yourself – off the field! If that means you schedule it in your calendar than so be it. Make sure you have some time to relax and rejuvenate. If you plan to be farming for the long haul, then this is especially important. After my first season, and not knowing how to take a day off, I was ready to throw in the towel. Emotional exhaustion is a real thing. Just trust me on this one… take time away from the farm. The farm will survive.