Hi there! I’m Kyle Brisendine and I’m the farm manager here at Willow Farm LLC. Along with my parents, Tom and Candy, we own and run the 92 acre farm where we raise grassfed beef and lamb, free range hens, bees and more.
A little background…
We moved to this farm in the Autumn of 2011, but don’t think that because we have only been here a few years that we are new to farming. Tom and Candy actually started farming over thirty years ago. It started innocently enough – Candy wanted to keep her horse at home instead of boarding it. Then came raising a steer or two, later came brood cows and their calves, pigs and chickens.
The sheep were definitely my idea though. At four years old I thought we needed sheep. Mom thought she was brilliant when she told me that if I raised enough money for two sheep then I could have sheep. Fast forward a year later and we were bringing home our first three sheep (two grade Romneys for me and a Bluefaced Leicester for Candy). Fast forward another year and I bought my first registered ewe and showed at the county fair. I ended up showing in the open division with the adults as I was still too young for 4-H at the time.
A New Farm
In the middle of my senior year of high school (Autumn 2011) we moved to where we are at now. And while the farm has some amazing things going for it – a huge and fairly new barn, rolling land, three ponds and a creek, as well as fence rows and wooded areas for firewood and windbreaks.
But with all the fantastic features the farm came challenges and the farm needed a lot of love and work to bring it back. While most of the farm was fenced, it was more of a suggestion than an actual barrier to the cows and sheep and as a result significantly reduced where we were able to graze the animals until we could get more fence up. Though this has enabled Tom to work on his hobby of building fence, this is his third farm he’s had to fence.
The summer after we moved in was the horrific drought of 2012. We could sit and visibly watch the rain come towards us and then part and go around the farm. At one point Tom stopped mowing the lawn and the sheep started grazing it.
One of the biggest hurdles we have faced is the damage done by years of conventional farming practices. Previous owners left the soil bare all winter which allowed the precious topsoil to blow and wash away. Yearly pouring on of chemicals left the soil barren of beneficial microbes, bugs and earthworms. One soil test measured the organic matter of a field at 1%, levels so low we thought they must have measured the driveway by mistake. Healthy soil is at least 5%, but ideally higher.
Since we moved here we have made a lot of progress regenerating the land. All of the fields are now coated in a lush carpet of grass, legumes and forbs that serves several purposes – to feed our cows and sheep, protect the soil that is there, rebuild new soil and add organic matter back. We are slowly but surely gaining on fencing which is enabling us to better manage and utilize the available forage. We seek to incorporate regenerative practices to heal the damage to the land and create an environment that enables us to grow nutrient dense food for our family and yours.
In the middle of all this I left to attend college at the Royal Agricultural University in Cirencester England where I got my Bachelor of Science Honors in Agriculture with an emphasis in Livestock. After graduating in 2016 I came back to the farm and worked on my Masters degree through Colorado State University in Integrated Resource Management. Filled with all sorts of knowledge and new ideas, I wanted to open an on farm shop.
In October 2017 we hosted our very first Fall Festival to celebrate the opening of the farm shop. We enjoyed the Fall Festival so much that we decided to make it a yearly occurrence to celebrate the anniversary of the shop.
We love having the shop as it allows you to meet the farmers that grow your food and to be able to see how and where it was grown, ask questions and see the land that you are helping to regenerate and revitalize.
Looking to the Future
The farm has come a long way since we bought it, but we are always working to improve and grow. Last year I was able to purchase a field from a neighboring farmer who is getting ready to retire. He was thrilled to be able to sell to a young farmer. This year Tom got a hive of bees so things will be better pollinated and we will have fresh honey. Soon we hope to add pastured pigs, glamping out by the ponds and more classes.
Every week Candy writes a blog post that often includes a tasty recipe. Read her blog HERE
We also have a newsletter that goes out on the 1st of every month. Filled with the goings on here at the farm, coupons and you get to be the first to hear about our classes and events.
What sort of things would you like to see added to Willow Farm?