Choosing a New Life on the Farm

A couple start a new life on the farm in Missouri to begin their transition towards sustainable living.

| October/November 2002

  • Chart: Calculating home living costs on the farm.
    Chart: Calculating home living costs on the farm.
    MOTHER EARTH NEWS STAFF
  • A new life on the farm was just the challenge this couple was looking for.
    A new life on the farm was just the challenge this couple was looking for.
    PHOTO: TATJANA ALVEGAARD
  • A new life on the farm was just the challenge this couple was looking for.
    A new life on the farm was just the challenge this couple was looking for.
    TATJANA ALVEGAARD
  • Chart: Average income from the farm's natural meat business.
    Chart: Average income from the farm's natural meat business.
    MOTHER EARTH NEWS STAFF
  • Even the movable electric fencing for the paddocks is solar- (and human-) powered.
    Even the movable electric fencing for the paddocks is solar- (and human-) powered.
    TATJANA ALVEGAARD
  • Alice and David use rotational grazing to heal damaged croplands.
    Alice and David use rotational grazing to heal damaged croplands.
    TATJANA ALVEGAARD
  • A solar powered fence on the farm.
    A solar powered fence on the farm.
    TATJANA ALVEGAARD
  • A work in progress, this arbor has been planted with grapes and honeysuckle to provide shade.
    A work in progress, this arbor has been planted with grapes and honeysuckle to provide shade.
    TATJANA ALVEGAARD
  • The livestock pond purposely was placed at the land's highest point, so gravity would do the transportation work.
    The livestock pond purposely was placed at the land's highest point, so gravity would do the transportation work.
    TATJANA ALVEGAARD
  • A converted exercise bike serves as a water pump. Five to 10 minutes every other day is usually all that is needed to supply their daily water needs.
    A converted exercise bike serves as a water pump. Five to 10 minutes every other day is usually all that is needed to supply their daily water needs.
    TATJANA ALVEGAARD
  • To keep the operation running with as little maintenance as possible, Alice and David take advantage of natural animal tendencies.
    To keep the operation running with as little maintenance as possible, Alice and David take advantage of natural animal tendencies.
    TATJANA ALVEGAARD
  • The homeowners enjoy a quiet moment together.
    The homeowners enjoy a quiet moment together.
    TATJANA ALVEGAARD
  • The Dishwasher in Alice and David's house may have hands, but off-the-grid living still leaves space for several creature comforts.
    The Dishwasher in Alice and David's house may have hands, but off-the-grid living still leaves space for several creature comforts.
    TATJANA ALVEGAARD
  • Jenny the Guard Donkey protects sheep.
    Jenny the Guard Donkey protects sheep.
    TATJANA ALVEGAARD
  • Silkie bantam chickens help with pest control.
    Silkie bantam chickens help with pest control.
    TATJANA ALVEGAARD

  • Chart: Calculating home living costs on the farm.
  • A new life on the farm was just the challenge this couple was looking for.
  • A new life on the farm was just the challenge this couple was looking for.
  • Chart: Average income from the farm's natural meat business.
  • Even the movable electric fencing for the paddocks is solar- (and human-) powered.
  • Alice and David use rotational grazing to heal damaged croplands.
  • A solar powered fence on the farm.
  • A work in progress, this arbor has been planted with grapes and honeysuckle to provide shade.
  • The livestock pond purposely was placed at the land's highest point, so gravity would do the transportation work.
  • A converted exercise bike serves as a water pump. Five to 10 minutes every other day is usually all that is needed to supply their daily water needs.
  • To keep the operation running with as little maintenance as possible, Alice and David take advantage of natural animal tendencies.
  • The homeowners enjoy a quiet moment together.
  • The Dishwasher in Alice and David's house may have hands, but off-the-grid living still leaves space for several creature comforts.
  • Jenny the Guard Donkey protects sheep.
  • Silkie bantam chickens help with pest control.

A couple discovers choosing a new life on the farm changes their lives for the better.

The hardest part is knowing what you want. "I know it sounds strange," Alice Dobbs says, "but it's true." She's sitting on a bench, the unusually warm autumn sun at her back. Her statements are quick and pointed: She doesn't gush.

But as she makes this simple statement, you can feel the truth. How hard was it for Alice and her husband to give up their urbane lives to move to a culturally isolated, rural area? Easy as pie. How difficult was it for them to break away from chemically dependent conventional agriculture to attempt a better, more natural and profitable strategy? A walk in the park. Design, build and operate a livestock operation and off=grid home and derive most of their income, security and shelter from it? No problema.

The hardest part, according to Alice, is finding the courage to ask yourself what you really want, not what others want. Not what society or tradition or Marge at the Piggly Wiggly thinks you should want. Not what special interests or advocates or activists expect you to want. Once you know what you want, everything else falls into place.



Choosing a New Life on the Farm

Alice Dobbs and David Schafer lived in Denver. It was pretty much your standard-issue 1970s American life. They were both working for Trans Globe Tours, a natural choice considering their backgrounds. Alice had spent most of her childhood in South America. David had attended high school in the Philippines and Puerto Rico.

It was a good life.





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