I grew up in Boulder, CO, and when I was 9 years old, my parents bought Autumn Hill Equestrian Center. And they didn’t know a damned thing about horses or farming – it was the modern day Green Acres, and it was magical. As I grew older, I pulled away from the farm and steered my own course towards a career of international business consulting. I had studied Spanish and Chinese abroad, and had dedicated 8 years of my life towards this trajectory.
But the world had a different plan for me. I ended up working with an old friend in Boston, helping him with his moving company, Small Haul. I thought it was going to be a 2 week temp job, but here we are, 5 years later, and now I have my own branch out in Boulder, CO, and Small Haul is an integral part of the larger project I came home to steward: the transition from horse facility to regenerative demonstration farm.
Sounds like two things that could not be any more incompatible, but you would be surprised at how much the work at Small Haul has prepared me for this role at the “Yellow Barn Farm”. Website design, payroll, business strategy, heavy lifting, community building, product pricing, social media. It was a good thing I got my ass kicked at a moving company, or else I would never have been able to keep up on the farm.
Being a young woman showing up to a moving job always received the same reaction: “Wait, what? I thought I hired you guys for the muscle” or “Is the other guy in the truck?”. When you show up to a job and the first reaction is not only doubt, but actual anxiety, the bar is raised 7 notches higher than your male crew mate. Making a mistake was not an option. It forced me to truly pay attention, to everything I did. From moving furniture, to sending quotes, to handling claims, to project managing software. If you made a mistake, it was on you to un-do it and do it right. So I learned how to do it right the first time.
And moving back to Colorado, to jump into a project in a field I knew absolutely nothing about, didn’t feel as daunting as it would have been a few years back. I saw the patterns and similarities between business and land, and how both are living organisms. They react to the amount of energy you put into them. And so we built a brand and a community to support it in under a year. We weren’t afraid of the grind, and we could keep up with the farmers.
So here we are, 1 year in, and we have erected the hoop house, planted 3,500 trees (in 2 days with 175 volunteers), we have launched a compost business with 150 buckets donated from Home Depot, built a team of 5-10 dedicated people, launched Small Haul, purchased 2 chicken tractors for rotational grazing, utilized pigs to create 2 market gardens that will be planted this season, and still managed to get 8 hours of sleep (most nights).. It has been a rollercoaster of a first year, but we are so grateful for everything we have learned that is preparing us for the years ahead.
what principle do you value most?
At Yellow Barn Farm, we are working to create nature-based systems for everything we build here. From land systems, to people systems, to business systems. Nature has taught us that everything is in a constant state of seeking equilibrium. We do not see exponential growth patterns without an eventual fall, so instead of pushing ever higher, we are seeking a smaller scale of ups and downs.
Seeking equilibrium allows us to keep the project within a specific size. The Goldilock range, not too big and not too small.
We cannot sow seeds with clenched fists. To sow we must open our hands.
Adolfo Pérez Esquivel