Welcome to our farming adventure! We are the Bevan Johnson family and we decided to raise more of our own food about 4 months after Angela started working for a large agricultural company. We began planning our entry into small family food production in September of 2010. We read everything we could on the Internet, books, magazines, blogs, and websites. We went to local farming and agricultural events, home preparedness meetings and our local farmer’s markets. We met people looking to raise food to preserve for their own families, small market farmers, preppers, gardeners, and folks like us wanting more control over what we fed our children. All of these interactions and information went into our plan that became THE DREAM.
One day it had to happen. The moment when we stopped planning and we started doing. Angela bought our first chicks, just 9 of them, in March of 2012 while strolling around one of our local farm stores. She brought them home and we began raising chickens in our backyard. Jason built a 10′ x 12 ‘x 7’ chicken coop for those little chicks and we grew our flock in the inner city of Des Moines, IA. Raising our own food was very important to us and we knew we couldn’t raise everything we wanted to in the city. We began looking for land that was big enough for THE DREAM but small enough for our pocketbook.
In spring of 2013, Jason came across an ad on Craigslist for an old house located on 20 acres of land in South Central Iowa. We packed up the kids that night to go look at it. We had found a forgotten farm. A place that time has forgotten and people have moved on from. It was the kind of property that folks drive by every day on country roads thinking “someone should do something with that place.” The house was rundown, the two barns were rundown, even the shed and garage were rundown. What we saw were the possibilities and the future we could build for our family. We made an offer the next day and won the bid!
We were about to officially be farmers… Jason bought an old 1972 Winnebago and our entire family moved onto the farm and into the RV by August of 2013. We never thought we would be living in an old RV in Iowa heat with 5 children aged 10 to less than a year old. The kids thought it was a hoot while we as parents had many nights wondering if we were a bit crazy. Then we would smile at each other, admit we were a bit nutty and then say out loud, “Living THE DREAM.” We had a lot of work to do and began immediately. We quickly found out that the entire property had been scavenged for metals, like copper, and was removed from the property as well as the house. There weren’t any pipes for plumbing or electrical wires. We had no running water in the house, no running water for our livestock, and no heat or air conditioning.
Each day was a new adventure, a new problem, and thankfully Jason is quite handy. He worked when the sun was shining, all day every day. As the sun went down we would gather as a family, have campfires under a starlit sky and be thankful we had the opportunity to work our own land. Our new adventure of rehabilitating our old house back to modern amenities, caring for our large chicken flock and clearing barns of old auto parts has kept us very busy. In essence we’ve been reclaiming farmland from a property that hasn’t been used as a farm for over a decade. When locals found out we had bought the farm they would inevitably ask, “So what are you planting, corn or beans?” It really threw them for a loop when we told them we planned on letting the land go back to nature and we were going to grow grass.
Once we had the land we went into purchasing mode and phase two of our plan. We knew what livestock we wanted to raise and the specific breeds for over a year. Our focus and energy has been on conserving endangered breeds of domesticated livestock. We are members of the Livestock Conservancy and happily support the work they do to bring a variety of breeds back from the edge of extinction. We wanted to raise a critically endangered breed of pig known as the Large Black. They are so rare that in order for us to purchase our original registered breeding stock we traveled to Arkansas, Kansas, and Texas in 2013. This year we have gone to Ohio twice, back to Arkansas two more times, Kansas again as well as Oklahoma to make critical additions to our herd. We can now proudly say we have all of the male and female bloodlines for Large Blacks available in the United States on our farm 🙂 We just love our pigs!
During all of this change our family experienced another, quite unexpected, twist of fate. Angela lost her job in November of 2013 as part of a very large “reduction in force” leaving us without any off farm income to support our beginning farm. Looking back now it may have been fate telling us that we were on the right path and didn’t need to continue any type of dependence on Big Ag but it sure hasn’t made starting a farm any easier. We’ve struggled. The whole situation has made the small victories that much sweeter and really made our family come together. Our children know the value of a dollar and we work hard as a family to live small while reinvesting into the farm. Progress is slower without a steady income but we have continued to move forward!
It is very important for us that every animal on the farm has a purpose. We raise animals for meat, milk, and protection of our livestock. Even our cats hunt vermin and our livestock guardian dogs (LGD) protect our animals from natural predators, trespassers, and roaming dogs. On our farm we raise Large Black pigs, Devon milking cows, a flock of heritage laying hens, heritage meat birds, guinea fowl, a small herd of meat goats, rabbits, geese and ducks. Whenever possible we choose endangered livestock breeds for the farm. We find them to be hardy and a perfect fit for our hands off approach to raising livestock.
If you are into letting Nature be natural, extensive farming practices, outdoor grass fed animals, meat that was treated with dignity, and animals raised as naturally as possible without hormones, antibiotics, or inhumane body modifications than you have a friend in us. We keep it simple, let the animals be who they are, and live as peacefully as possible on a diversified family farm that we now call home.
The Family behind Lucky George Farm ~ Jason, Angela, Sidne, Rian, Harrisen, Ari, Fremont, and Wallace