By Celeste Baumgartner
HAMILTON, Ohio – Neither Wes nor Mindy Flach grew up on a farm. Yet they recently settled, with their three kids, on Weathertree Farm and farming is how they want to live their lives. They came to this point from different angles.
Wes got interested while in college in West Texas. He was part of a Christian community living in a lower income neighborhood and looking for a ministry. They bought some abandoned lots for the price of the back taxes and created a half-acre garden complete with chickens and fruit trees. They got the neighbors involved.
“I had some friends that were into urban farming in that town so I had a chance to work with them,” Wes said. “That sparked an idea for farming long-term and having a community farm where folks could come and heal from addiction or affective disorders. That was a far-off dream. It kicked into high gear four years ago when I was in seminary and felt like this was the Lord saying ‘This is the next thing.’”
When Mindy was growing up her family moved a lot and “we never could keep any plants alive,” she said. But at the end of and after college, she had a few experiences with urban gardening. That sparked an interest in being connected to the earth and to what she was eating and growing.
She met Wes and he talked about gardening and farming. Things clicked but as a long-term goal.
“Then Wes was in seminary and he was trying to decide between two classes,” Mindy said. “It ended in an existential crisis of, ‘What am I trying to do here?’ One of the classes was a farming and faith class and through that decision process, we decided that this was what we wanted to do next. Turned out the class was already full – but the decision was made.
Two years ago, an opportunity came up on a farm in Augusta, Ky. A Cincinnati family owned the farm. They hired Wes as a farm manager. He planted a big garden, had chickens, pigs, and got into the commercial side of farming.
Eventually, they found a farm in Hamilton for sale by owner. Their families helped with the downpayment. Wes and Mindy and their kids, Jacob and Abi, moved into the farmhouse. Eden was born a couple of months later.
“It is a beautiful property and God situated us here for a reason,” Wes said. “Especially as we’ve met neighbors and it’s very clear this is the right spot for us. It has been a real blessing. We have come to love this piece of ground and are excited to steward it for our lifetime and maybe our kids’ lifetime.”
Since then, they have built a greenhouse, remodeled the 100-plus-year-old barn into a wash/pack station for the vegetables and a farm store, and started a 20-member community-supported agriculture program (CSA).
“We put in a quarter-acre growing space for our CSA and farm store,” Wes said. “We ran 400 feet of trench electrical lines out to the various out-buildings and ran eight frost-free hydrants around the property. We put a new well pump into the old dug well, and dug lines out to the cisterns to be able to water the greenhouse and gardens out of the cisterns.”
They invested in the right farming equipment; Wes had to learn how to work on and maintain it. That was a learning curve, he said.
“We got laying hens, and we’re on our second round of pigs,” Mindy added.
The plan next year is to double the CSA membership and more than double the size of the garden.
“We’re prepping ground to put in a quarter-acre of blackberries, a quarter-acre of raspberries, and a quarter-acre of asparagus in the spring,” Wes said. “I’m going to spend time this winter grafting fruit trees to put in an orchard. I bought a couple of used caterpillar tunnels this year so next year we’ll have more covered growing space.”
Everything they grow is free from synthetic herbicides, pesticides and herbicides.
“Currently Mindy works off the farm,” Wes said. “I like to say that Mindy supports my farming habit while we’re getting this farm business up and running. But we are trying to structure it to be a profitable farm business that will allow me to draw a salary somewhere down the line. Now we’re just pushing all of the profits back into the business so that can fuel growth. She works as a project management consultant and can do that from home.”
They have exceeded the modest financial goals they set for this year. The farm store has succeeded beyond their expectations. Most of that was because of Mindy’s frequent Facebook posts.
While Mindy is not very involved in the farm work, besides social media she makes Mindy’s Anytime Granola, which has customers returning for more, dries flowers for arrangements, and custom greeting cards.
“While I manage the day-to-day figuring out what needs to be done when, Mindy and I collaboratively do the long-term planning sessions that need to happen a few times a year to make sure that we’re saying on track and that the right goals are in the right priority and setting financial goals together for the farm,” Wes said.