Callie: Can you imagine a world without farmers? Food stores would be closed, restaurants would shut down because they couldn’t serve food. People would be in chaos without food. We must eat every day for survival. We should treasure farmers. I wanted to interview people who are Deaf farmers so they can share their stories about their farms, the work, and what their lives looks like. I did interviews with Ronald Johnson, Marty Vorpahl, and Blair Ramsus/Stuart Soboleski. Callie: I want to know what is your farm’s name? Ronald: Hello, my name is Ronald Johnson. My business name is, “Living Food Farm.” Marty: Hello, my name is Marty Vorpahl. I own three businesses: Rockland Diary, Vorpahl Farms, and Vorpahl Trucking. The three work together in farming but are separate businesses. Stuart: Hi, I’m Stuart Soboleski. I am a farmer and a carpenter among other skills, I live here in Northern California. Blair: I am Blair Ramsus. Callie: How did you get into farming? Is it from a family inheritance or was it a passion of yours? Blair: He farmed for a living. When we met, we connected on this and expanded. But before this he already had many years of experience and traveling. He will explain. Stuart: I started farming thirteen years ago. I didn’t intend to be a farmer growing up. My family didn’t pass this on to me. I went to Switzerland on a backpacking trip in the mountains and when I talked with locals, they welcomed me to it. Three days led to three weeks and to three months, and it turned to five summers where I would stay there and learn about their lifestyle and how they traded. It was family, food, animals and I was just fascinated with it. I looked at myself and my upbringing in America, I felt detached from food and nature, I didn’t know where my food came from. I felt disgusted by this. When I came back, I decide to do research and worked on various farms in Vermont and New York. Throughout my travels, I’ve started my farm. Ronald: I started when I was a young boy, about 7 to 10. I visited my grandparents who always worked on their garden. I saw them making sour — sauerkraut — I smelt it and my grandma would say it’s important to plant it. I learned a lot from my visits. My grandma lived up to 107 years old. That’s how I got my passion. Marty: I grew up farming my whole life. I am a 7th generation farmer. I did farm work with my older brother. We bought a farm from my uncle and father. My older brother is the president and CEO who runs the farm. I am the vice-president. I manage the grounds, the building. I help with the planting. I run the heavy equipment, the excavator, the plower, steering, big tractor. I have a CDL license. Callie: What is the size of your farm? How many acres? Marty: I own 3,000 cows. They make milk for cheese, which I sell to a cheese company. I have 5,500 animals total, including cows. It is a big farm. I have 4,200 acres with 54 employees. My farm makes about 11 gallons per cow, which means in a day, we make over 30,000 gallons of milk. Ronald: My land is 70 acres of forest and 30 acres of open field. I use 6 acres of garden. It is the size of six football fields. Stuart: Do you have to fit an “ideal farm?” No. For me, our situation — we rent a farm with four acres and grow vegetables. We just do our own thing here. We grow herbs and some vegetables. We have goats here, with the combined land 150 acres. We use 5 to 10 acres. We don’t use it all, just here and there. Blair: My childhood home is here in California. I did some gardening, but it was not much. Now that we met and connected, we want to do more, but not farming as a business, but to meet the unique needs of the deaf community, disabled community, and other local communities. This is by offering programs, educational activities and various experiences. We’ve done a few, but we hope to do more. We are only just starting. Callie: Do you have tips for Deaf farmers or those who want to start out in farming? Ronald: What is my advice for other Deaf farmers? To tell the truth, it requires a lot of work If you want to be successful with good soil, it takes five to ten years for it to improve. You can’t do it in an year. If you see on my website what I do, you’ll see what I do, there are many wonderful pictures and ASL there. Marty: My advice is this. Whoever wants to start a new farm, for 100 cows, it is a million dollars. Expensive. Whoever grew up in a farm or mentored with motivation in learning and working hard, can succeed. Stuart: When I first started farming, I thought it was competitive, that I had to seize that market or something like that. But I now realize it is a part of our culture, our society says we must compete and be against others. This isn’t good. In times ago, old farmers shared seeds and wisdom. This is because the seeds we share, with the pollen that comes, it helps our crops. So I encourage this thinking to become a part of the Deaf community. There might be controversial topics, but we need to share our “seeds” in a collective environment. I am still learning that. Right? Callie: Wow! Thank you for sharing. I am fascinated. Ronald wanted me to share this with you, he is 72, really enjoys working on a farm, and doesn’t know how to retire. You can look at their websites and social media to learn more about how they live on farms. Are you considering going into farming? Thank you to the three for sharing their stories.
Blair and Stuart: https://www.instagram.com/aslfarmer/
Living Food Farm: https://www.facebook.com/livingfoodfarm/ http://www.livingfoodfarm.com/
Vorpahl Farms: https://www.facebook.com/pages/Vorpahl-Farms/168748309807270