In 2015, Jessa and Jeff met at—of all places—a steampunk convention. They hit it off immediately, first bonding over their mutual experiences of single-parenthood and then geeking out over ideal pantry contents. Jeff was hooked as soon as he saw Jessa’s glass jar collection of bulk ingredients and the chicken coop in the backyard. Things moved quickly after that, and soon afterward Jessa proposed they move in together via ring-andouille sausage. Jambalaya was constructed, moving vans were commissioned, and a new family was born.
Combining two families of three wasn’t an easy feat. The family first settled in Milwaukee in a three-bedroom townhome, but continually sought different options. Jessa soon stumbled across an ad for a ten-acre farm rental, and it was a no brainer. They held six collective breaths and jumped in feet first, and thus in late 2018, Growanstede Smallhold came into being.
Two years ago we successfully completed our very first CSA season using organic practices; feeding nine families with regular shares and an additional ten in the autumn with our Feastival boxes and heritage Norfolk Black turkeys and Welsh Harlequin ducks, as well as selling nearly 500 dozen chicken and duck eggs over the course of just the growing season. That’s somewhere close to 1,000 eggs sold a month! We expanded for 2020, adding meat chickens, expanding our turkey and duck flocks, and creating additional share options. This year we’re going even bigger! It feels wonderful to be in a constant state of growth personally as farmers and as a business. We can’t wait to farm for you again this year! We are so very proud to be your farmer. Thank you for partnering with us in this regenerative farm journey. Thank you for collaborating with us to steward this land.
This is just the beginning!
Special thanks to Troy Freund of Troy Freund Photography for the stunning couples photos of us on this page!
Meet the Fam
I’ve had a dream of farming ever since I was a young girl. Becoming a parent, however, is what ultimately launched a true understanding of the importance of real food; and I became driven to find and maintain ethical, healthy food choices for myself and my children. In 2011, after becoming a single mom, I helped to legalize henkeeping in the city of Milwaukee. Then I met Jeff, and the rest is history. He is the best man I have ever known, and this family we’ve forged is a special one. It means a lot to finally have my hands in the soil in a space we are truly working to make our own.
Using what Jessa calls my “maker” skills, I build dreams into reality; that’s my role here on the home front. I like long walks in the garden to watch the sun set with a trusty mouse-catching, rabbit-chasing cat named Marvin. He’s the not-so-silent, always meowing farmhand demanding food and attention while rubbing your face with his own smelly (sometimes crusty) one. I get to work on my farmer’s tan on the most hot and humid of summer days weeding beds, harvesting and being eaten alive by bugs, all in the name of good hard work. I never have a dull moment here as I have a magical, never ending to-do list.
I never wanted to do any farming and still don’t necessarily want to, but it’s what I must do. If there was something that I do like about it though I would say it would be having the fresh food during the summer. I love being able to go out and grab some lettuce or arugula for my sandwich. I also like having eggs from the chickens in the mornings (only the green ones though). They taste pretty good but sometimes they have chicken poo on them. During the summer is the best though, when the field is planted and growing, it looks so good.
To be entirely honest here, I am just going with the flow. Ma wanted to be a farmer, so here I am. I have to admit it was a shocker to go from derping around with backyard chickens and then suddenly being thrown into an actual farm. Its been fun. I love the chickens and the ducks (the bugs are the absolute worst though, the bane of my existence), and I love the big trees. Never have been one for gardening though. Plants wilt at my feet, even cactuses die from me-exposure. RIP Bob the cactus, I miss you every day. But the very best thing about all of this is probably the impromptu sword fights with farm equipment when we are supposed to be, well, farming.
To start off, being out in the country isn’t all that bad. We get to do a lot of things that we wouldn’t really be allowed to do if we were living in the city. For example, we raise lots of farm animals like turkeys, ducks, and chickens. If we were living in the city, the authorities would probably ask us to get rid of our animals. On the plus side, we get to do many vigorous farm chores to sustain the animal’s life and the natural beauty of the property. When we got here, we had a lot of work to do. We had to clean up the house a bunch and we had to spend a lot of time outside to get settled.
When we first started talking about moving to the farm, I was nervous. I didn’t want to come. But being here isn’t so bad. I help with the chickens, and this summer we get to buy some Jersey Giants that Mama said get to be my birds if I take care of them. I don’t really like to get up early to take care of the birds, but I had some ideas for a new feeding system in the pens and drew a diagram and gave it to Jeff. Also, we get to play with throwing axes and watching the ducks run is funny.
Look, all I’m saying is this yard is like an appetizer platter. I make a really good farm dog, cleaning up all of the chicken poo. Compost rolling is a close second for my favorite thing to do.