Urban Farmer

Season of Sunshine

By Randi Donahue / Photography By Kathryn Brass-Piper | January 16, 2017
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There's a job for everyone on this small family farm

“Do whatever work feeds your true self, even if it’s not a safe bet, even if it’s like a crazy risk, even if everyone in your life tells you you are wrong or bad or crazy.”

—Martha Beck

As I approach Kate Traugott in the pasture of the five-acre homestead she calls Season of Sunshine, she continues moving her hand-built chicken-duck tractor and its surrounding solar-powered electric fence. Traugott is small in stature with an instantly apparent and likeable calm, maternal nature.

Right on cue, farm dog Goose comes to investigate the stranger (me).

“Everyone has a job here,” Traugott says.

Goose herds goats and cattle, protects Kate from eager livestock come feeding time, catches loose poultry, and provides companionship. The chickens and ducks provide eggs, fertilizer, meat, and pest control. In the next pasture, weeds and brambles are handled by Oberhashli goats, which also provide dairy in season.

“They are a heritage breed of goat, in need of conservation,” Traugott says. “There are very few of them. They are great producers but only seasonal breeders.”

Every aspect of Traugott’s farm supports her goal to create an ecosystem as balanced as possible—from the seeds she saves in her garden to the breeds of her livestock.

“I want this to be as sustainable as possible,” she says. “I want the animals to be comfortable here and regionally adapted.”

Traugott also has a Dexter steer, Dell, which she calls her “grassfed beef project.” Dell, alongside her daughter’s 4-H project—a black show heifer named Sunshine—provides lawn control. Traugott’s kids, Kelsea, 10, and Luke, 9, are involved in most aspects of the homestead.

“If I had any way in the world of making it so this could be how they remembered their childhood, I wanted to do everything I could to make that happen,” says Traugott of moving her family and starting Season of Sunshine just over a year ago.

It is a simple plot of land with multiple pastures, an unassuming house and a small barn. Traugott is immersed in manual labor and livestock care starting at 5 a.m. daily, before heading to her fulltime job as a teacher’s assistant at Newgate Montessori. The labor of love continues beyond dark. She cannot be away from her livestock more than 12 hours at a time. Vacations are carefully planned. But she has no complaints; she is living her dream.

“It was my every intention to create a small family farm that my great-grandparents could have grown up on,” she says, one that “fed their family and was a balanced thing for the land and a source of income that allowed them to have stability.”

Traugott, a Sarasota native, spent a lot of time on the Van’s Community Farm growing up. She credits that and 4-H for much of her knowledge and skills needed for success on her farm. She also was not shy about reaching out to members of the community for advice and experience. Still, she’s had to come to terms with making mistakes. By December, due to a wet growing season last year, her 5,000-squarefoot vegetable garden, while still providing food, had become completely overrun by weeds.

“I joke that I am the living feasibility study: Like, how much farm can one woman handle while working full time and being a mom?”

More than a year into what she planned to be a CSA farm for 10 to 15 people, she is honest that the future of the farm is still a work in progress. Traugott straddles the line between what portion of her creation will generate income and how much she wants to offer for education.

Her income from the homestead is seasonal and sporadic in these early stages. She currently sells vegetable starts for both soil and hydroponic tower gardens; she may decide to sell her dairy in season.

“There has been a lot lost in the last two generations,” she says. “I think if my kids and the kids in the community don’t learn these skills, we are in trouble.”

As we wrap up, the sun is long gone and the ducks are calling out. “I joke—but not really joke—that I work for them,” she says. “That is them telling me that it’s time to go in because it’s dark and it’s scary and I need to come fix that if I want eggs.”

Article from Edible Sarasota at http://ediblesarasota.ediblecommunities.com/things-do/season-sunshine
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