• BEST IN STATE—Senior Courtney Schoen Lewis was named Best PR Student in Utah. Story

Growing goats, chickens and children on a small farm? Not an impossible dream for one Nibley family

May 3rd, 2011 Posted in Arts and Life, Business

“It is calming. I feel rewarded and a sense of accomplishment. I feel more competent and yeah, I love it!”

Story and photo by Stephanie Zollinger

NIBLEY — “There are three reasons why my wife and I decided to start our own small farm,” Wade Olsen, a small farm owner in Nibley, said. “First, it is to become self-sufficient and prepared for emergencies. Second, it helps our children deal with responsibilities and fears. And lastly, I love it.”

When Wade and Amber Olsen first moved to Nibley, about 10 miles south of Logan, they looked for a place that they would be able to raise and take care of a small family farm. They found a great home with an acre lot, big enough to do what they wanted.

“The first year we had four chickens,” Amber said. “We were nervous that we wouldn’t be able to do it. Even though we didn’t know what we were doing the chickens survived and pretty soon we had 12 chickens. Then we got some meat birds and then a turkey for Thanksgiving. That was all in our first year.”

Wade and Amber married 12 years ago in August. They are the proud parents of four beautiful children. The oldest is Chloe, 9, and she has most of the responsibilities on the farm. She makes sure the animals are fed every morning around 7 and when she get home from school she will gather the eggs. During the winter, feeding the animals is done in the dark and they have to feed the animals more because they can’t feed on insects and other greens. Another thing Chloe has to do is “hang out with the pigs and get them comfortable with her so she can take them to the fair.”

Other times Wade will have to work in the dark. “Anytime there is something that is going on that is out of the ordinary like when there are new baby animals. I like to make sure they are settled properly next to their mom at night. Or when the weather is bad I will check them and make sure they have proper shelter.”

Leif, 5, is still too young to do many things but can help with gathering the eggs. Sometimes he will do it alone if Chloe can’t do it. Isaac, 3, likes to run around and pretend to help, and the Olsons have had a brand-new addition, Gideon, who was born April 5.

Wade grew up in the thriving metropolis of Logan and Amber in Rexburg, Idaho. Both were interested in the farming life and wanted to give it a try.

Clark Israelsen, an agricultural agent with Utah State University Extension, says small farms for many don’t save any money and are done just because people love it. “We all have a right to starve to death to do what we enjoy doing,” he said.

Starting a farm “is a little like buying a house,” Israelsen said. “You just need some extra land to fit the animals that you want to raise. Look through your finances and plan out what you can afford and go from there. Sometimes it takes some help from friends or family to help start it and later on you can pay them back.

“It is called brutal economics,” he said. “[Another thing to consider] is do you have enough time and resources to take care of the land and animals? We get a lot of calls from people who have just started and they don’t have the machinery or means to run such a large operation. People then complain and say they need help with taking care of it. It takes a lot of time, mowing the lawn, shoveling the way, taking care of the land multiplied by two acres, or three or four, the work is more and more.”

The second year, the Olsens decided to get some animals that they could raise for some meat. A cow would be too big and need more room then they had. They talked to some people in College Ward, a neighboring community, and were instructed to try meat goats. “They said they tasted very similar to cows, so we got two Boer goats which are easier to raise.” In the third year they expanded with two pigs, and this year they will try honeybees along with some fruit trees.

Israelson shared many advantages of having a small family farm. “People are more self-reliant assuming they are taking care of their land. Our ancestors lived out of their garden.

“It does improve a family and even a community to not be so dependent on the industries,” he continued. “The kids who come from these homes have a strong work ethic. We have gangs in society because kids want something to do. So they get into trouble. So a benefit is the children would stay out of trouble and busy.”

But it isn’t always such a good experience.

“Some of the disadvantages happen with the next door neighbors,” Israelsen said. “They are concerned with sights, sounds, and smells that come with the farm. Let’s use an example like a horse. A horse poops, attracts flies, the neighbors have a picnic and now have to deal with the extra flies. Sometimes there will be a steer that will get out and trample the neighbor’s lawn, or garden, or other damages. The owner of the cow feels bad and making things fair is hard. Also, there are many people with dogs and those with backyard chickens need to be careful because dogs like chickens.

“We have more small farms now than we did 20 years ago. Right now less than 2 percent make their living farming. Forty years ago it was over 4 percent,” Israelsen said. He continued to explain that the farms are getting larger and there are less of them. But there are more people that work a full time job and then come home and will work on their small farm and that is why the amount of income farmers are going down but small farms are going up.

Running a small family farm takes more than just time and effort. It takes money as well.

Asked if he was saving money, Wade Olsen laughed and said, “No. It is often more expensive. The cost of a dozen eggs from Walmart is cheaper than raising our own. The chickens are able to run around and have a healthier diet. In the end you will have an egg with less cholesterol and more Omega 3, which for us makes it worth it.”

A study done by Organic Monitor on the U.S. organic market’s growth said that the market size was just less than $15 billion and the market growth is 16 percent. The largest market for organic foods is the United States. For more information on organic food, check out their main website.

Wade has been able to contact the Extension office on several different occasions and feels they are “a good resource for knowledge. They will help with the 4H club, test your dirt, and will help with pest control.”

Wade and Amber also subscribe to two magazines: Hobby Farm and Hobby Farm Home. They find a lot of helpful hints on farming and baking with organic foods. Wade has also found YouTube to be very helpful. He was able research when his goats were going to have babies and when he was going to slaughter his chickens.

The benefits that the Olsens have seen continue to affect the children. Cloe is 8 and has many responsibilities. She and her brothers have to feed the chickens, goats, and pigs. Then with the eggs that she gathers she can sell them to her neighbors and can be self-sufficient. Their youngest son was “scared of every animal but now he is fine. He now can be with dogs which he was deathly scared of before.”

Although there are many reasons the Olsens have decided to have this small farm, in the end it’s because, as Wade shared, “It is calming. I feel rewarded and a sense of accomplishment. I feel more competent and yeah, I love it!”


Tags: , ,

Sorry, comments for this entry are closed at this time.