by William Lundie on March 4, 2012
Bryce is a farmer, father, writer and rural economic development entrepreneur. He works with his family to raise organic vegetables, beef, lamb, chickens, goats and manage the bottomland forest woodlot in Western Missouri. He has helped to launch numerous social enterprises including a sustainable wood processing cooperative, a dairy goat cheese processing facility and a conservation-based land management company that incentivizes carbon sequestration in forests and grasslands. Bryce currently co-owns the Root Cellar Grocery in Downtown Columbia, Missouri, where the local food store operates a weekly produce subscription program, the Missouri Bounty Box (www.missouribountybox.com). Bryce, along with 135 other farmers, sells his produce through this program.
“You know, Bryce? I kinda hate you sometimes. But mostly, I love you and think this is great.”
Those are the sentiments of my wife, Jenny, and our little family’s path leading back to the family farm where I grew up in Western Missouri. She’s from St. Louis, see, which is a very long way from here. I understand what she means. We’ve had all kinds of adventures living and working on the convergence of agriculture, conservation and food issues since we met a decade and a half ago. Me as a community organizer working to stop the industrialization of the livestock industry; her as a community agriculture radio host and volunteer for numerous local food efforts. Starting cooperatives. Raising money for projects. Buying a grocery store. Digging fescue out of an overgrown pasture to try and grow our own food.
These projects were conducted in and around Columbia in the middle of Missouri. It’s the kind of pleasant college town where everyone should live for a while–a utopian city driven by the economic engine of education and creativity. Columbia has a vibrant culture and arts scene, great food, lots of parks and a very human scale.
But for me, the draw of my homeplace and its opportunities to implement a different kind of agriculture was the ultimate project. So last September we decided to jump on in to start the project of building a cabin, farmstead and carve out a niche for ourselves on the family compound. It’s kind of a ramshackle conglomeration of people, livestock, farm implements, oak trees, intermittent creeks, osage orange hedges and howling coyotes.
For the record books, we own 310 acres and rent another couple of hundred from a neighbor. We have a herd of Angus cows, Suffolk sheep and a mix of pastures and woodlots. Four families live and work the land: my grandparents, my Mom and Dad, my little brother and his family and now the four of us. We all work off the farm to pay the bills and such (like most farmers actually), but my Dad is the primary owner and decision-maker about the operation.
Jenny and I are working through developing a vegetable side of the farm and bringing in some additional livestock. We co-own a small local-food-focused grocery store back in Columbia (the Root Cellar). We raise produce for the Root Cellar and deliver it every week while we’re picking up stuff for the store from other farmers on the way. We have a weekly produce subscription program called the Missouri Bounty Box (www.missouribountybox.com) that makes the whole thing possible.
It’s kind of like a CSA, but we pool the products from farmers and food artisans all over the state. This allows us to work directly with farmers (like me) and order large quantities of single or multiple items that they can earn a good price without taking on all of the responsibilities and pressures of a CSA.
So this is my long-winded introduction to the story of our farm. Stay tuned for more to come as we have even bigger adventures as the growing season rolls out. But I’ve gotta sign off now. 4000 onions to get in the ground. Spinach to transplant into the field. Cucumbers to start. And then there’s the 20 goat kids we’re getting this week. Ahh, spring.