By: Autumn LaDuke, Board of Directors
Katie DeFelice has deep roots in farming. She grew up in a small agricultural community in New York, roughly the size of Stevensville, surrounded by a family of farmers. She recognized early on that working the land and growing your own food are powerful tools for reconnecting with the rhythms of nature and increasing personal well being. She envisioned a working farm that gives back to her community and aimed for an opportunity to explore these evolving ideas about the therapeutic benefits of farming.
After obtaining her master’s degree in Social Work, she found a homebase to do just that when she put down roots in the Bitterroot Valley. Katie has served youth and families in our community for the past four years at the Linda Massa Youth Home and BEAR, and apprenticed under the close guidance of her friend and mentor, Laura Garber, owner/operator of Homestead Organics Farm and director of Cultivating Connections. Although this year has presented some unique challenges for Katie, she has started the difficult but rewarding process of building her farm, with a working name of Hammer & Hoe Agro (HAHA Farms).
This is Katie’s first year of cultivation on her farm and so far has planted a large vegetable and seed garden. She hopes to grow food for her own family, as well as enough to give abundantly to local food pantries. Katie volunteered to grow five varieties of bean seeds for the O’Hara Commons seed library and has dedicated a 50’ bed to their production. She also plans on learning about agricultural hemp by planting a small crop of 150 plants this year, as a satellite location for Homestead Organics Farm. Katie sees multiple possibilities on her farm for giving back to the community and hopes to balance them with developing a financially stable lifestyle. She’s actively pursuing the idea of a worm composting business as a central component to her plan, generating palpable excitement for the future, even over the phone.
When asked what other new farmers looking for a way to a more sustainable life should do, she suggested: Find good mentors to shadow and ask lots of questions. Start with what you have, be frugal, and see the value in your resources. Dream big, but start small and grow for yourself first. Be patient and stick to your vision. Reach out to your community network, borrow equipment, if needed, and accept the generosity that is offered. Don’t be afraid to ask for help.