We recently realized that in all the chaos of starting this new business, and our family, Ben and I have neglected to ever fully introduce ourselves to you, and our new community. In any other venture, having a personal rapport with customers may not be essential to success, but our farm doesn’t have customers does it? The Ben Kline Farms CSA has members. Ben and I believe that operating a CSA is about a lot more than just selling produce by the bushel basket all summer. It’s about coming together as a community and building a healthy food system. It’s about working together with common ideals toward a common goal of healthy, local, and sustainably produced foods. This goal is why we farm, and this goal is also why we are extremely excited and grateful every time we meet another member of our community who shares our ideals and is willing to join us in our endeavor.
Ben and I were living in Portland, Oregon when we found out that I was pregnant with our first daughter, Josey. He was working at a very popular farm-to-table restaurant and I was pursuing a career as a serial college student while working as a bartender. I never thought that I would be a good fit for city life, but we actually got on really well. Regardless, everything changed when we learned of our pending addition. We knew right away that we wanted to raise our family in Northern Michigan, so we decided to pack up and move home.
I can’t say that it’s always been our goal to be farmers, or even that it had come up as a serious option consistently. But then again, we’ve found that very few of life’s changes are ever fully planned out or formally decided upon. Circumstance, opportunity, and personal interests have all guided our trajectory toward farming. Expecting a child also changed our perspective a great deal, and we knew that from then on we wanted to build a life and career and to support our family that would also help us develop a sustainable lifestyle in line with our ideals. We want to grow a stable business that we can both depend on and believe in.
When we finally started talking seriously about the possibility of becoming farmers, all of the pieces seemed to fit together very naturally. We wanted to start a project of our own, but weren’t keen on raising young children with the ‘restaurant hours’ that come with starting a restaurant operation. We knew we wanted as much flexibility and family-time as possible during our children’s first few years, even if it meant making less money. We are also both lovers of the outdoors and enthusiastic home gardeners. Even during our city years in Portland, we converted all of the flowerbeds into small vegetable plots, and were super geeked when we discovered that rosemary bushes were growing as large as hedges along our street! So, needless to day, it wasn’t a stretch to think that we could enjoy spending endless hours with our hands in the soil.
Ben has a serious passion for food: after ten plus years of professional cooking he didn’t want to stray far from the industry. Farming presented an opportunity that would creatively enrich his ultimate dream of having his own restaurant instead of sidetracking him. All of these factors contributed to our decision to delve into the world of farming, but in addition to our desires and ideals we were also driven by the need for funding, land, and equipment (as most projects are). We didn’t have enough personal savings to fund a huge venture, and we didn’t want to start out family life under the burden of a large business loan either, so when we discovered that Ben’s dad would be willing to let us get started using his land, borrowing his equipment, and picking his brain for help here and there, it was a done deal. We were going to be farmers, come what may, and we couldn’t have been happier with the prospect! Now we are here, raising our two beautiful daughters in beautiful Alpena, Michigan, getting ready for our third growing season as Ben Kline Farms, and loving every minute of it. We are still learning everyday, but as Pete Seeger so wisely sang: “Inch by inch, and row by row, we’re going to make this garden grow! We’re going to mulch it deep and low, we’re going to make it fertile ground!” Nothing can describe our dreams for the farm, and for our family, better than that simple verse.
-The Kline Family