It was a cold night on the eve of December, snow piling above the boot top. The sun was setting behind heavy snowfall. Cutting through the silent snow was a persistent bellow demanding a certain type of attention that no human can give. Honeysuckle was in estrus.
For me, it is hard to be concise when speaking about the farm. The upcoming summer of 2018 will be my third season as a workshare at Teton Full Circle Farm.
There are several words that come to mind as I contemplate my time spent at and around the farm. First, the COMMUNITY that has been instilled around the Valley is absolutely remarkable and will keep me coming back year after year. The people I have worked beside and for (Ken & Erika) over the last two seasons have become some of my closest friends in Teton Valley.
The next word that comes to mind is FOOD! I have become passionate about food over the last ten years and have been chasing quality food for the last 8 years. The treatment of this piece of land allows us to harvest the most incredible food from the ground. This food, from what I have found is unrivaled in color, quality, and taste. We do things differently than most (using biodynamic practices) at Full Circle Farm and this allows for the soil to be optimal for the plants we are working with and for.
The last word that comes to mind is LOVE. The amount of love that pours into this farm is what got it up and running, and will continue to keep this farm going for many years to come. This all starts with Ken & Erika and the dream that they share. Over the years they have brought this dream into reality and have allowed many people to continue to provide the love that it takes to provide for a piece of land.
Working at Teton Full Circle has been nothing but positive experiences since day one and I am truly inspired to continue farming and gardening at Full Circle. I am very excited to see what the coming years bring, and we will see you all out there in the fields!
“It is fortunate, perhaps, that no matter how intently one studies the hundred little dramas of the woods and meadows, one can never learn all of the salient facts about any one of them.” - Aldo Leopold, A Sand County Almanac
Visiting my parents this winter I picked up a copy of A Sand County Almanac by Aldo Leopold. Diving into his detailed portraits and feeling into his emotions has inspired a deep appreciation for the new farmland. Though few can write with the beauty and precision of Leopold, I hope that I can paint a picture of a place that is so dear to us.
The soils on the east side of the 21 acres are some of the best we have ever seen. Without mattock and spud bar, we have planted trees nearly two feet deep without hitting a single rock in the dark, loamy earth that crumbles like deliciously moist cake. The west side of the property has some rocks near the top of the soil surface, but falls squarely into the luxurious category by Teton Valley standards.
There is one large tree on the property - a stately cottonwood who stands sentinel over the field. Our neighbors who once owned this land call it the Lightening Tree after a close call some decades ago. We often see and hear raptors in the lightning tree. A Red-Tailed hawk likes to watch as we work. The husky hoots of owls greet the dusk. And every so often, a majestic Bald Eagle reigns over the farm from his lofty throne. Attention meadow mice: steer clear of the lightening tree.
In wintertime, we find evidence of a happening night life across the property. It is our delight to know that snowshoe hare, moose, deer, fox, and wolf all visit the farm as we sleep. Sometimes, however, these visits are less welcome. At the beginning of January we discovered that the local elk herd gorged itself at our hay stack. We have since secured it from any future chomping, so the herd will have to make do with whatever the largest in-tact ecosystem in the continental US can provide. Perhaps the wolves will help keep our ravenous guests from lingering too long.
The land is smothered by alfalfa monoculture, but not for long. At the edge between field and forest, the natural tendency of this land is toward a diverse mix of grasses, herbs, shrubs, and trees. So far we have seeded at least a dozen new species of grass, legumes, herbs, and wildflowers. These will slowly establish beneath the alfalfa, only to surprise us with dense forage and beautiful blooms as they take over. Our new calf, Honeysuckle, dozes off to dreams of pasture like this.
Anchored along the irrigation ditch on the northeast side of the property, serviceberry, hawthorn, and willow shelter the local songbirds. Before long, these birds will enjoy new residence in newly planted trees ranging from stout conifers to delicate flowering shrubs.
The more time we spend on the farm, the more it surprises us. Constantly changing, growing, evolving, the land perpetually offers more to see, hear, and feel. Stay tuned, the performance at Teton Full Circle Farm promises to be quite the show.
To keep this show on the road, please support Teton Full Circle Farm’s efforts to protect Teton Valley’s prime Farmland. Please visit Farmland Forever to make a contribution today. Thank you for your commitment to this important work!
It is really no surprise we farm. We both grew up in families where much of the food we ate came from the backyard. From a young age we learned how to raise, care for, and take pride in a productive home garden. As we got older, we became more and more spoiled on an abundance of good things to eat. Gardening became a passion, a way of life.
“…For all things produced in the garden, whether of salads or fruits, a poor man will eat better that has one of his own, than a rich man that has none.”
- J.C. Loudon, An Encyclopedia of Gardening, 1826
We fell in love the summer of 2012. Erika, a seasoned farmer and gardener was in her fourth year as farm manager at Snowdrift Farm. Ken, an idealistic intern with big ideas was fresh out of college with his sights set on farming. We became inseparable. Sharing a propensity toward simple living, a deep appreciation for nature, and an incurable gardening fever, we embarked on a path to heal the earth through organic/biodynamic farming.
In 2013, we founded Erika Eschholz LLC doing business under the Snowdrift Farm name. After completing a successful season and becoming engaged in the fall, an irresistible opportunity arose at the former Blue Flax Farm. In spring, 2014 Teton Full Circle Farm was born.
From the beginning of Teton Full Circle Farm, we sought a place to sink our roots and call home. Though we loved simple living, our off-grid yurt life with no running water would take its toll. We considered buying our farm at Mountainside Village outright, but could not afford to purchase at development prices. We looked farther afield.
“I have often thought that if heaven had given me a choice of position and calling, it should have been on a rich spot of earth, well watered, and near a good market for the productions of the garden.”
- Thomas Jefferson, 1811
We identified four property purchase essentials to guide our land search: good soil, reliable water access, supportive community, and affordable land. In 2015, we visited a property in Greenville, West Virginia complete with rolling pastures and expansive woods, only to find that despite its incredible natural beauty it lacked reliable water and supportive community.
In February 2016 Erika’s parents found a dream farm for sale near their home in Maine. It was 90-acres of picturesque fields and woodland boasting a well-kept historic farm house, barns and outbuildings. Moreover this farm was listed at below half its original market value thanks to the Maine Farmland Trust. In a novel strategy for conserving land, the Farmland Trust purchased the farm, placed an agricultural easement on the property and listed it without its development rights, making this idyllic farm not just affordable, but a screaming deal. It sounded too good to be true - and it was. Applications to purchase the farm closed the day before we called. Disappointed yet encouraged, we made contact with the Maine Farmland Trust to learn how agricultural easements make farmland affordable and protect it forever.
That spring we redoubled our efforts to find land out east. We scoured farm listings, made contact with land owners, and booked flights to Maine and Vermont. New England was charming and peaceful, but nowhere did we find all four of our criteria. We returned home heavy-hearted and back at square one. Our trip forced us to face the realities of moving and starting over across the country felt impossible. Meanwhile, our homecoming helped us realize how deeply we loved our community in the Tetons. How could we leave?
“A community is the mental and spiritual condition of knowing that the place is shared, and that the people who share the place define and limit the possibilities of each other's lives. It is the knowledge that people have of each other, their concern for each other, their trust in each other, the freedom with which they come and go among themselves.”
― Wendell Berry
Then it happened. A few weeks after our return, the perfect property surfaced just one mile north (as the crow flies) of our present leased land in Victor, Idaho. “Hey Ken and Erika, I saw a piece of property over by my place you may be interested in. It sounds a lot like what you said you’re looking for,” wrote Scott Paulson via text one evening in early July. A few days later on the 4th we visited the farm and within minutes knew it was the one. It had good soil, solid irrigation water, and the same great community we loved, and a reasonable price relative to other properties we viewed. The only problem was that, despite being more reasonable than other properties, this land was listed at development prices and out of our reach.
After all we had gone through, money was not going to deter us and we immediately set our minds to making this farm a reality. We contacted the USDA Farm Service Agency to see if we were candidates for a low-interest loan. Check. We contacted the Teton Regional Land Trust to see if they could put an agricultural easement on this property. Check. Thus encouraged, we chipped away at months of negotiations with the seller and one massive loan application from the USDA Farm Service Agency in-between harvest days. After submitting dozens of mind-numbing financial and agricultural reports from the last three years, we were accepted for a mortgage loan. Fall came, the growing season ended, and on November 4th, 2016 our dream came true.
Gardening has been a part of us all of our lives and we finally have a place to carry out our vision. On this farm, we will build soil, increase biodiversity, improve human health, and create opportunities for new farmers to pursue their passions. On this farm, community members will learn, eat great food, share knowledge and skills, and spread love. We are on the brink of something momentous, but we need your help to get there. Life just isn’t as delicious without local food and local farms. Help preserve this one forever.
Please visit Farmland Forever to make a contribution today. Thank you for your help!
Teton Regional Land Trust and Teton Full Circle Farm are partnering to protect a 21-acre farm in Teton Valley, Idaho by securing an agricultural conservation easement. Help us reach our fundraising goal of $150,000 by October 1, 2018. To show your leadership and support, make a tax-deductible charitable contribution to the Teton Regional Land Trust designated as Farmland Forever.
For more information, visit www.tetonfullcirclefarm.org/farmland-forever.html