This is the second in the series, The Story of 7 Stands Farm: Giving "Nevers" a Second Chance. In today's story, Jamie and Sarah, owners of 7 Stands Farm will discuss the importance of encouraging others to try farming and their desire to mentor and educate those who are interested in learning more about farming. If you missed the first story, below is the link: https://www.farmerrhodesgranddaughter.com/post/the-story-of-7-stands-farm-giving-nevers-a-second-chance
Sharing what they have learned as small family farm owners is important to the Miles, whether it be face-to-face at the Farmers’ Market, hosting interns from the local community college and high school, or through their YouTube Channel. Encouraging others to try farming, mentoring and educating are just a few of the many aspects of the farm life they truly enjoy.
7 Stands Farm is a regular on Saturday mornings at Ashe County Farmers’ Market in West Jefferson, and here the Miles use this time to not only sell their products, but educate and share their family farm story.
“There are people who come to the Farmers’ Market because they want to meet the people working there, they want to meet the farmers,” Sarah points out. “We have a lot of people stop and ask questions and a lot of them are younger people. Not necessarily older per se. Some are retired, but a lot of younger people come through and they ask a lot of questions, like what would you recommend. We have had some say, you all are living our dream.”
“We have figured out at the market, we are selling our story,” Jamie explains. “They want to hear the story of how they (animals) were raised, how we do our farm. You can just kinda see, like Sarah said earlier, people say, Man, that’s what we would love to do. You are living our dream. Selling the product, that has to be good, but the story of your farm I think that helps as well.”
Sarah adds with a chuckle, “What they don’t see is when you are standing knee deep in mud trying to get a pig on a trailer and take it to the processor and you are sliding in pig poop. And you are holding on to a grown pig by its tail and its ear and trying to steer it like a car and it’s not going anywhere. Good times, good times!”
The Miles, both high school teachers, have a passion to teach the younger generation about the importance of farming and have opened their farm for tours for agriculture classes from the local high school along with agriculture students at Wilkes Community College. In addition, they have hosted interns from the high school and college students in the past.
“I think us at the high school working has helped and we are able to meet the (high school and college) AG (agriculture) classes there,” Jamie explains. “We have met some of the people who work through the AG department (at WCC) and I think they are on board with the same thing we are. And we are mentoring one student there (WCC) now, helping her to get her (Work-Study) hours, and there are chances of mentoring other people at the farm.”
Another marketing and educational tool the Miles use to promote their farm is the 7 Stands Farm YouTube Channel. Another dream of Jamie’s--the farm’s YouTube Channel has grown to feature 187 plus videos, with over 1200 subscribers and 4000 watch hours recorded--in a little over a span of a year.
“It’s doing well,” says Jamie with a grin. “That’s just another one of those crazy dreams. Chuck, my friend had done YouTube and I watched him, then I thought nah, I can’t do that. And then one day I said I’m going to do it. I got started and I won’t say it took off. I don’t know if 1200 subscribers right now is huge, but in fourteen months I’ve almost reached 1200 subscribers and almost 4000 watch hours. I enjoy it and it is fun. It kinda started more as a marketing tool and people could see how the animals were raised and what we are doing on our farm.”
“And to teach other people about what we are doing,” Sarah points out. “Like the drill pump video. There was one video where he (Jamie) engineered this water system where he got water where he needed it to be.”
“That video I believe has gotten four or five thousand views and some people have commented, I didn’t even know there was such a thing.” adds Jamie.
“Or (the video), how much freezer space does half a hog take?” notes Sarah. “People were like that is really helpful because a person might order it, but then have no idea it’s going to take up a lot of space in their freezer. So for me, that’s been the coolest thing to see is how we have learned to pass on to other people trying to farm on a smaller scale.”
Many small family farms are facing challenges during these uncertain economic times and when asked what advice they would give to a person who wants to get into small-based farming, Sarah summed it up perfectly when she replied, “We (Jamie and I) have said, farming is not for the fearful. It’s for the faithful.”
“The prices of everything have gone crazy,” James says. “And finding processing dates.
I mean I have processing dates that are scheduled through 2023 for pigs that I don’t have a clue how many I will need. They (processors) are like just schedule three or four a month and if you don’t use them, we’ll cancel them because there might not be dates if you wait. That’s been crazy finding people to process.”
And Sarah comments, “And reputable processors. The processors have had problems having enough labor. And then that leads to–for example, bacon. It might take us 12 to 16 weeks to get bacon.”
With increases in fuel, feed, labor shortages, finding reputable meat processors, and other aspects of farming, Jamie and Sarah both agree doing the research is the most valuable tool a farmer should use, whether new or established. But the Miles will be quick to lend encouragement to a new farmer and say, don’t ever allow obstacles to hinder you from trying.
“Do the research and figure out what is going to work for you with what you have and don’t go into debt, unless you absolutely have to,” Sarah explains. “You are held to the economy, you are held to gas prices, (and) feed prices. There’s nothing but uncertainty. You have to do your research. But you can’t have a fear of flying. You just gotta go!”
Jamie adds, “You have to put in the research, but once you get to the point where you have researched it, then you just have to step out and do it. I would say one thing about somebody starting–I see a lot of people and read a lot of comments on YouTube that they’re scared to death to try it. You just have to step out and try it. I mean you could do things wrong and you could maybe hurt an animal. But if you have got any common sense at all–just try it. Because you can do it. If I could pass on any message at all and I try to do that in some of my videos–just do it. One pig or two pigs or four chickens. Just do it if you want to.”
Stay tuned for the continuing story of 7 Stands Farm. Chapters 3 and 4 coming soon! Stories which will include, More Advice to other Small and New Farmers, Their Unique Partnership with Sheraton Farms and Why that is Important to the Small Farms Today, Summers on the Farm, Long Term Plans and Vision for the Future, and much more!
To keep up to date with the happenings at 7 Stands Farm, follow along on their social media pages and YouTube Channel. Links are below along with information about their website. You can also visit with the Miles each Saturday morning at the Ashe County Farmers' Market.
Photos courtesy of the Miles' family
A humble thank you to Jamie and Sarah Miles for sharing their story with the readers of Farmer Rhodes' Granddaughter. Subscribe to Farmer Rhodes Granddaughter at http://www.farmerrhodesgranddaughter.com and follow us on Facebook.