Backbone Food Farm: Growing Kids, Food, and Skills

The entire Dubansky family takes part in tending to their organic food farm and providing other families with fresh, seasonal food.

  • The Dubanskys have one greenhouse and three hoophouses on their 106-acre market farm.
    Photo by Crede Calhoun
  • Intern Dustin Atik helps the Dubansky family grow organic crops, including shiitake mushrooms.
    Photo by Crede Calhoun
  • The entire Dubansky family helps out on the homestead.
    Photo by Crede Calhoun
  • The Dubanskys' farm is located at the foot of Backbone Mountain in Oakland, Maryland.
    Photo by Crede Calhoun

Max and Katharine Dubansky, along with their children, Grace, 19; Leon, 17; Iris, 10; and Tessa, 6, live on a 106-acre organic food farm located at the foot of Backbone Mountain in Oakland, Maryland. The Dubanskys, one of three families designated as our 2016 Homesteaders of the Year, sell Backbone Food Farm’s products through a community-supported agriculture (CSA) program, as well as to local markets and restaurants. Now in its 17th season, the farm is well-established, and the whole family helps out on the homestead. Max, Katharine, and Grace work seasonally at the nearby cross-country ski center for fun and a little extra money. The Dubanskys grow shiitake mushrooms and various other types, and they raise pastured pigs and beef cattle. Their team of Percheron draft horses provides the farm with true horsepower. Backbone Food Farm’s CSA operation supplies 50 families with a significant portion of their fresh, seasonal food. In this interview, the Dubanskys discuss the pursuits of their family and farm.

What inspired you to seek this self-reliant path?

We wanted independence and had a need to be outside. Plus, we were interested in traditional methods and have had a lifelong enthusiasm for organic, homegrown food. We wanted to make a living while working together on the farm and spending time with our children. We also found it important to peacefully confront the consumerist culture of our society and find a livelihood that wouldn’t be detrimental to the environment.

Describe a day in the life at your homestead.

We have breakfast, and then folks do their respective chores, such as feeding the animals, milking, bringing in firewood, watering plants in the greenhouse, and moving manure. We home-school the kids, so they do their schoolwork throughout the day. The family and farm crew eat lunch together and then resume work. We take a late afternoon break, and then we work a bit more, do the animal chores again, and eat dinner together. Our days off are dictated by nature. In winter, we love cross-country skiing. Spring, summer, and fall bring hikes, visits to swimming holes, horseback riding, mushroom hunting, and food foraging.

What crops and livestock do you have?

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