This blog has been on my mind a lot lately. With our growing audience across the world, we get so many of the same questions, so I'd love to dive deep into who we are, what we do here, why we do it, and how we love not fitting into every stereotypical mold.
Let's start with how we got here to Emmett Idaho. Tim and I (Ashley) were both born in Southern California. We thought we'd stay there forever. Our entire family is there, but the opportunity arose for us to make a short term move to Montana, and we took that leap. From there we decided we could never go back to California, it didn't fit us anymore and when handed the opportunity to move to Idaho, we thought that would be the perfect spot to lay down some roots. We made the move here to Idaho in 2018 with our 2 young kids and zero farming experience. We lived in a hotel for 6 weeks as we looked for the perfect home. I found this place and knew it was IT the moment I laid eyes on it. We knew we wanted more space for the kids to run around and this was it. Now to just convince Tim. It worked!
Back track to living in Montana, one day on a road trip we came across a commercial sunflower farm east of Glacier National Park, it must have been thousands of acres. At that moment I swore wherever I ended up I would grow TONS of sunflowers. I loved its beauty, the vibration of the earth around it and I loved the idea of feeding pollinators. Ok back to Idaho. The week we moved in I planted 222 sunflower seeds in a garden area that is now the Sunny Room. I planted them before I had boxes unpacked. We never had big goals to start farming full time, but it seems the sunflowers were just the gateway to the future.
Tim and I didn't come from farming families. I had horses growing up, that's about it. Tim had dogs, so we never made full plans to get animals. But moving onto a property that's fully equipped for them really makes you crave it. I fantasized about learning to live off the land, process our own fibers, etc. I am a crafter/creator and I always have been. So, all my choices are driven by a desire to learn and experience something new and exciting. I don't always lay out a big plan and execute each task in order. I usually just jump in, zero experience, a dash of research, a desire to learn and no fear of failure. This led to the first animals we adopted, the sheep.
I researched a bit about the best wool for rug felting and came across an article about Icelandic sheep. That was it. I needed to find some. Not only would they provide exceptional fiber, but they can also graze down our giant grass pastures. I found some locally and had them delivered while Tim was on a business trip. SURPRISE!! He was shocked and not shocked all at the same time due to my past "issue" of pursing things quickly and without much thought. I knew I could dedicate myself 100% to them, so I wasn't afraid of my lack of knowledge going into it. Caring for them was very much a " learn as you go" style with the sheep.
Another back track. We have been vegetarian for 10 years. Never once were any of the animals we adopted going to become food. We are huge animal lovers, so each one that arrived on the farm became a pet on top of helping some way on the farm.
Back to the sheep. We adopted 4, one which was a ram named Bruce. He helped grow our flock bigger very quick since the sheep have twins every 5 months. Out of fear of the flock growing bigger than we could handle, we gave our ram to another farmer who wanted to grow their flock too. So, he's basically living the life, meeting new ladies all over the valley. We stopped growing our flock at 13 and that number allows us to comfortably control them if need be and its more than enough wool.
Each year we grew our garden a little bigger. First it was sunflowers and basic vegetables, then it grew to saffron and wine grapes, progressing up to the acre of garden we have now. Once again, we didn't grow up farming and growing produce like this. We have been learning as we go and letting the farm organically grow into whatever it needs to be. We quickly added out first beehives around this time to help pollinate our gardens. We didn't start tending bees to collect honey. But in certain circumstances we harvest honey when shrinking the boxes for winter, or if a hive absconds (meaning all leave at once). If the honey is left in the boxes, it will attract wasps/rodents etc. We save most frames to offer the other bee and we collect the rest for ourselves.
At a couple years in, I decided to start the farm business as a way to sell the goods I was making and growing and support the farm side financially. Tim still works a regular 9 to 5 job which supports the household, but we needed a way to support the growing farm business and animals and that's when Wildroots Farm LLC was born. I applied for the business license to help with the farm expenses. The tax break alone was enough to help us with large farm projects we needed to do like fencing.
As the farm and business started to grow, we wanted to make sure we were also doing our part environmentally. I had done a lot of research on regenerative and sustainable farming, and I knew that was how I wanted to run this farm. We started to look for all ways we could contribute to cutting plastics in the business as well as running the farm as sustainable and earth friendly as possible. We began packing all our items with zero plastic, recycled boxes and made sure our products were reusable and/or earth friendly. Next, we set our focus on doing our part to grow organically, feed and tend to the soils, and build a biodynamic growing environment.
Learning to repair the soil and working to create a small carbon sink was done with a bit of research and just the common knowledge of knowing that adding compost and fertilizer to feed the microbiome in the ground is what needed to happen. Since our soils are solid clay, they needed to be amended often. We needed to add ALOT of organic matter back to the ground for the best crops. Cue the MOO CREW'S arrival. We needed lots of manure to add to the garden as well as help to eat down the pastures and crop fields at the end of the growing season and this was the answer.
Once again, we have never owned cattle. I'm not sure we've ever even came face to face with a cow until we got ours. So, in classic Ashley style, I immediately looked online locally and found someone selling their highland cow. Back track one step...We decided on highlands for a couple reasons,
A) They are freaking adorable
B) They are known to be smaller and more docile than other cattle
C) Being they are smaller, that would benefit the pasture grass because their hooves wouldn't tear it up as much as larger breeds
Ok, on to Rhona. She was our first cow. Her original owners were changing up their farm and needed to find her a new home. Plus, she kept breaking their fence and running down the road. We all hit it off so well when we met, they even decided to drive her too us. Which was great because we didn't have a trailer. Rhone arrived and we immediately knew she needed a friend. Cows are herd animals, and it was clear the sheep didn't want to add her to the flock. They were terrified of her.
Next came Betty and Thor. We went to another local farm to get Betty. She was the only cow we had plans to get, but when we got there Thor wouldn't leave the side of the pen that Betty was in. Thor was so curious, and they were also looking for a home for him. Now, in NO way did we ever set out to get a bull or even breed cows. We wanted 2 cows and that's all. But not knowing where Thor would end up, we quickly said yes to taking him in. We accepted the fact that when it came to calves, we couldn't keep all of them, but in our head, we were potentially saving Thor from becoming a breeder for meat cows and that just felt right for us personally. We knew we'd be able to find great homes for calves in farms that need a regenerative farm team of cows or just wanted a pet to spoil.
During all this I started documenting it all on social media. I would have never imagined what it would grow into. I wanted to share happiness and lighthearted, family friendly content all while advertising fun things we make and grow for our business. I was unaware at the amount of people desperately looking for a positive, lighter side of social media. A place they could feel good about digitally disappearing into so they could shed the stress of the day. A place they could enjoy with their kids and build a connection with. At this point the business started to grow further into content creating for the greater good. I take great pride in providing this content. I love to encourage, inspire and educate when I can! I do not claim to be doing everything the "right" way, but I share what has worked for us.
Through this journey we have come to realize we love giving back. We started a Seed Swap program in our community where we share seeds for free in hopes to encourage others to grow their own food and share their own seeds. We also have started to grow food to donate to those in need. We want to care for the animals and care for the people around us. We hope in the future we can offer more educational videos that are free to teachers to use in classrooms. This life is short, and we want to do the best we can for us and those around.
With all that said, here is a quick recap of the facts and details
I'm not a fan of labels, I sure wish the world would stop demanding everyone fall into a certain category but since most people prefer it, I'll clear some things up. We are not vegan. We would be considered vegetarian. We eat our unfertilized chicken eggs and honey. We eat what we grow and harvest, which is mostly plant based. We are not here to citizen how you and your family eat. This is your choice, and we respect that.
We are not a tax write off "sanctuary", but we are a sanctuary to the animals we have. This is their safe place and any animals that leave the farm will only be going to another safe home. The word sanctuary should not be used only to identify an organization that falls under a certain tax bracket, but more openly used for a place that animals can live happily ever after. We also aren't a certified "rescue", but we've rescued animals that could have had a worse fate.
We didn't set out to breed cows for profit. We are letting our animals live a natural life and reproducing is part of that.
Not all farms with cattle are bad for the environment. Farming with animals can actually be very beneficial to the health of the land.
We don't raise honeybees to exploit them for honey, but we do collect and occasionally sell extra honey from empty colonies.
We don't raise chickens to exploit them for eggs. They break apart cow manure on the farm for us, supply natural nitrogen rich fertilizer, and help aerate the soils as they dig around. And biologically they lay eggs, so we eat them instead of them going to waste.
Our animals all have very important jobs on the farm. We see and treat them as family members and teammates. We live this journey in a way that suits us, not what the world always says is the "correct" way, or in a way that fits in one category. And we like it that way.
Our name Wildroots was fitting to us, as we've now laid roots in California, Montana and Idaho. Who knows what's next!
We're just here spreading good vibes, the best way we know how! You're welcome to join us on the ride or jump off anytime you want. We're thankful to have you with us!
Stay Wild Friends!