Fat Toad Farm
“If I hadn’t taken the HMI classes, I would have quit farming.”
When Calley Hastings of Fat Toad Farm, in Brookfield, VT thinks about the homestead where she grew up, she remembers ‘endless weeding.’ Those memories helped fuel her desire to pursue Environmental Studies at The University of Vermont. But as time passed, Calley began to experience a feeling of hopelessness and despair about the state of the world, and made the decision to switch to Sustainable Agriculture. The switch filled her with optimism and the knowledge that by farming, she could actually make a difference.
As new farmers, Calley and her family wanted to do it all– and they did, adding goats, pigs, sheep and chickens to the farm. This resulted in long hours, high stress, and little profit for the farm. At this point, Calley wondered if farming was a mistake.
Just as Calley began questioning her decision to return to the farm, HMI began its Beginning Farmers & Ranchers: Women in the Northeast program. Calley was one of the first to enroll. “Taking these classes has really improved the quality of my life,” says Calley, going on to say, “If I hadn’t taken the classes, I would have quit farming.”
Applying the Holistic Management Decision-Making Framework helped Calley take stock of her priorities and begin to focus on what she really wanted. Using the seven testing questions, Calley and her parents were able to determine that focusing on goat milk production and producing and marketing a specialty product was the right course of action for their farm. So Calley and her family built a milking and production infrastructure; leasing nearby land for grazing pastures. Once this was complete, the family decided to get rid of their sheep and pigs to focus on their new goat milk production. Today, Fat Toad Farm focuses exclusively on producing and marketing Cajeta; a traditional Mexican goat’s milk caramel, which they sell online and through specialty retailers.
But Calley’s use of Holistic Management didn’t stop there. Using aspects of Holistic Planned Grazing, they were able to see a difference in their leased land as well. “The land we leased had been used for hay production in the past – so the soil was depleted when we started using it,” says Calley. “But after five years of intensive grazing and changing paddocks every day, we now see a definite increase in organic matter, more diverse species, and increased milk production.”
The practice of Holistic Management has had such a profound impact on Calley that she was motivated to become a Holistic Management Certified Educator, so she could train others in the practice of Holistic Management. “I really love the communication and leadership classes in particular,” says Calley. “It’s very rewarding to see people through the process and make great decisions.”
HMI’s classes also provide a strong community for participants. “A lot participants have told me that one of the best parts of being in the class is the ability to connect with others – feeling less alone in what can sometimes be a hard career choice.”
“Taking these classes has really improved the quality of my life.”
Calley is optimistic about the future of farming. “I find a lot of creative, innovative, and cutting edge young people are driven to farming and ranching and Holistic Management gives them a solid foundation in the financial, marketing, and decision-making skills that they will need to succeed.”