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Farm Alchemy: When $500 in Straw on a Small Farm Becomes Food for 50 Families

Fifth Generation farmer Kelli Foreman shares about her life and work on a small farm in Alaska, lessons that apply to communities everywhere.

Small farmer Kelli Foreman bottle feeds baby goats on her small farm in Kodiak Alaska

Amidst the rugged beauty of Kodiak Island, 5th generation farmer Kelli Foreman and her family work their small farm and provide local food for their community. But it's more than that.

Growing up on a small family farm in Nebraska, Kelli initially moved to Alaska to take advantage of the beautiful and abundant great outdoors, not to farm. But farm roots run deep and it was to that tradition she turned as she began working with kids in the community. It's easy to get kids to pay attention to cute little goats and baby bunnies, after all.

Kelli believes deeply in her work. The food she produces -- goat milk, meat (beef, pork, goat, chicken), and eggs -- provides nourishment to a community that is otherwise dependent on food coming in by boat or plane. The farm also provides important lessons to her own three boys and other children she works with through her role at the Baptist Mission. With all that Kelli does, it's hard to imagine that, like more than 84% of modern farmers, she also has an off-farm job.

Through hands-on experience -- family chores and internships -- the kids experience birth and death on the farm, which most of us are sheltered from in modern life. By participating in the stewardship of animals, they develop empathy and compassion and begin to understand the relationship between small-scale farming and societal well-being.

Kelli shares life on the farm on this remote island with the rest of the world -- with humor, reality, a big smile, and a lot of grit -- on her Instagram account @kodiakgoatdairy so you too can be a part of the farm. She shares daily milking and even the harvesting of a small herd of cattle that live on a nearby island eating grass and kelp.

Straw on a small farm

In the Talk Farm to Me episode where Kelli is featured, she talks about a small grant that she got from the For Farmers Movement. When she saw the grant opportunity, immediately a light bulb went on over her head (bing!). Straw! So, that's what she applied for and that is what For Farmers awarded her a grant to buy.

Now, straw does not seem so all-important, does it? Generally, goats eat hay. Straw is used for bedding. With kidding season approaching, Kelli needed straw for bedding as the baby goats arrived. Straw in abundance keeps them clean, warm and dry. That kidding season yielded 50 baby goats. Here's what Kelli had to say about that straw:

"Those goats fed 50 low-income families here that could not afford to go to the grocery store to get this meat. Fiftyfamilies that are migrants into Kodiak that are not traditionally from here, but goodness, having goat is such a big cultural deal for their families and to be able to pass those things on."

And this:

"Yeah, it's straw that actually fed a lot of families. I hadn't really put all that together until right now [the $500 grant for straw that fed 50 families] that the entire situation, is such a community builder and a lot of those families are what continue to keep our island moving. It's just It's neat to see that."

Kelli Foreman reminds us how important the legacy of small-scale farming is. She invites us to recognize the transformative potential of local agriculture.

Listen to the full episode here.

xo Dana

Dana DiPrima is the founder of the For Farmers Movement. For Farmers supports American farmers by sharing their stories, replacing myths with facts, and providing them with grants and other helpful resources. Dana is the host of the Talk Farm to Me podcast featuring farmers and farm issue experts from across the country. She also authors a weekly letter; you can subscribe here. And you can join the For Farmers Movement to support your farmers here. You can also follow her on Instagram.


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