Gleaning from Steadfast Farms: An Interview with Homesteaders Chuck and Kari Self
How many of us have daydreamed about unplugging from the hustle and bustle of urban or suburban life and reconnecting to the land on a farm in the country? (Insert hand-raising emoji here)
This week I get to share with you about what happens when the Lord opens a door, and a family actually gets to do just that. Our friends, Chuck and Kari self, along with their beautiful daughters, followed a dream and stepped out in faith by moving to a twenty-five acre farm a little ways outside of Birmingham in Blount County Alabama. In 2015 they established Steadfast Farms, a small family-owned farm committed to producing all-natural, chemical-free products for their local community. They raise all-natural blueberries, local honey, pastured poultry, and free range eggs.
Recently, I got to share in their first brood of pastured chickens—truly, the most delicious poultry I have every prepared at home. Over the next few days I will post about how easy it is to roast a whole chicken and use up every last little tasty morsel of it.
But first I wanted to share with you a conversation I had with Chuck and Kari about their life at Steadfast Farms. I think there is a lot we can glean from the fruit produced by a lifestyle that churns on simplicity and doesn’t shy away from hard, honest work. I’m thankful that my family and I have gotten to tangibly benefit from that fruit as we have enjoyed visits to the farm to pick blueberries. When tasked with considering a life-change, whether small or large, that requires counting the cost in terms of giving something up or sacrificing comfort, I so often forget to also count the harvest of contentment and other good things that come from listening to the call of the Spirit. I’m encouraged by their story, and I hope you will be too.
In Their Words
Talk a little bit about your decision to move to the farm.
Looking back today, it’s hard to believe the many things that led us to this special piece of land. After hearing that the farm was for sale and coming to look at it, Kari and I both stopped and asked ourselves what we wanted the remaining years we had to look like for us and for our family. We had a strong conviction that this farm was for us and that we should move forward with it. Although at the time we couldn't envision all that was in store for us.
What were your hopes and dreams going into it, and how does that compare to the reality now?
We both had a desire for a simpler and slower paced lifestyle. We had finally realized that acquiring more stuff, having a bigger house and a nice car, or going on extravagant vacations would never satisfy. We both loved gardening and we had some chickens for a few years, but never in our wildest dreams did we contemplate living on a farm.
We both desired a place we could raise our family while teaching our girls to appreciate hard work. We wanted to give them a love for gardening/homesteading and a love for animals and nature. We also wanted to create a place where our community could gather, slow down, and enjoy each other away from all the distractions that the city can sometimes bring.
It could be simply gathering around a camp fire talking or fishing in the pond. There are many people who have never gone to an orchard and picked fresh blueberries, fed a donkey or goat, seen a beehive up close, or gathered fresh eggs from a hen house. Our dream is that we offer a place where people get to experience the heartbeat of nature by seeing it up close. After purchasing the farm, we all prayed for God to give us a vision beyond what we could see or imagine for this land and our lives. That vision is still unfolding today. Ask us in another couple of years and our answer will probably be quite different.
The reality is that this farm has surpassed our dreams on every level. It’s been amazing and, at times, very humbling. One example: for the last two years we have had an amazing partnership with (Birmingham’s fabulous local pop shop) Steel City Pops for our entire blueberry crop. They have truly been a blessing to us and worked with us every step of the way since we acquired the farm. Our family has the support of so many people who are interested in seeing us grow.
What has the most surprising aspect been?
The most surprising aspect has been how nurturing to the soul farming is. It's hard to even articulate how natural it feels—whether tilling, planting, pruning or harvesting something, caring for baby chicks or simply the daily caring for the animals. It’s a connection to land, and the care of everything on the land, that has made us feel as though we were made for this.
How does farm life affect your family dynamics? Community dynamics?
We are now tied to the farm. We haven't been gone for more than a day since moving here. Everything revolves around the animals. For example, if we go somewhere, we have to think about what time we will be home to close in the chickens so a predator doesn't get into the coop. The notion that we can pack up and go to the beach or a weekend trip is not a reality anymore. This is the life we have chosen and the reality that comes with it.
What are some rhythms of your days/weeks/seasons on the farm?
The structure that farm life brings is really healthy in our opinion. It doesn't matter if you are tired or it's raining or you are sick, the animals still need to be moved to fresh grass and given fresh water or food. You don't get to sleep in or not feel like doing it one day—you are their caretaker and they depend on you. Every morning, day, and evening there are things that you must do, regardless of how you feel.
Another aspect is respecting the rhythms of nature and the way it was designed. You can spend a lot of time fighting nature, but if you look at how God created things and work with it and not against it, life is so much more manageable.
For example, during blueberry season we work so hard, day in and day out, but it’s just for a brief seven-to-eight weeks. We are not designed to run at that capacity for the entire year. If we did, we would burn out. We have come to recognize that when there is a busy season we work hard during it and then we can allow ourselves time to rest and recover to prepare for the next.
What are some new habits that you have developed as part of farm life?
Slowing down and being thoughtful in whatever task you are doing. Often in life, we have so many things going on that our mind isn't fully present in our work. On the farm, not being fully attentive can cause mistakes that could cost an animal or a person their life.
Perfection cannot be obtained. Sometimes good enough is perfect—that's one of our sayings around here. On the farm our to-do list is constantly a mile long, but things never go according to plan.
Being flexible. You can’t plan the details of your life enough to isolate yourself from harm or hurt. Learning to roll with things as they unfold and doing it with a good attitude makes you and your family happier.
Giving ourselves grace when we fail. Things will die. Predators will come. Our plants will fail to produce and diseases will devastate. This is our condition—on the farm and in life. We are learning to stop fighting it and know that tomorrow is another day and there is hope.
Being content where we are today. We have hosted so many people at the farm and had countless friends in our home, especially during blueberry season. Our house isn't perfect, not where we wish it was today, and it needs a good bit of work. We have had to just let it go and realize that our true friends and community don't judge our house. And if they do, that it is not our problem, it’s theirs.
Connect with Steadfast Farms!
Instagram - @steadfastfarms
Facebook - SteadfastFarmsAL