Sara never dreamed of becoming a family farmer. Farming wasn't something she considered until her husband Chuck was diagnosed with colon cancer.
"During Chuck's treatment, we would visit farms outside of town and chat with the local farmers,” Sara remembers. “There's something healing about getting your hands in the earth."
At the time, Sara and Chuck only had six more years in the military, and they started making plans to buy a farm to grow healthy, organic food. In 2011, however, Chuck lost his battle with cancer at the age of just 36. In honor to her husband, Sara decided to live out their dream on her own.
In 2012, Sara started Blue Yonder Organic Farm in Indiana, now a thriving enterprise that produces pastured meats, eggs, maple syrup, honey, berries and mushrooms. For Sara, what began as a form of therapy to cope with the loss of her husband is now a calling to help other former military members start farms of their own.
It hasn't been easy, but it sure has been rewarding.
“Farming gives me a connection to something deeper – a chance to be a part of new life and new beginnings,” Sara says.
American Farmland Trust first met Sara at its recent Woman Learning Circles program in Indiana. The program empowers and educates women landowners on topics such as soil erosion, cover crops, conservation easements, and basic land management.
Keeping farmers like Sara on their farmland not only helps to maintain the nation’s fresh food supply, but also can ease the transition for men and women returning from active duty to civilian life. Today Blue Yonder’s Operation Groundwork program provides veterans with small-scale agricultural training.
“This August, we welcomed Caroline as our first incubator farmer,” Sara excitedly reports. “She’s a former army paratrooper, medic, and linguist fresh out of the military. She’s starting out building a farm business with her goat herd here on the farm. We’re excited to partner with her and help her grow her business and next chapter in life.”
At American Farmland Trust, we are inspired by the spirit, dedication and hard work of family farmers like Sara and Caroline. For the past 35 years, we have helped save more than 5 million acres of fertile farmland from development for the next generation of family farmers.
To help support family farms, farmland, and next generation farmers, designate a gift to EarthShare member organization American Farmland Trust (CFC #10631) at the workplace this giving season.