Fort Rock Farms: The Beginningby Kaylee Baker
- Though my personal zero-waste and health journey I have had the privilege to meet many outstanding and inspiring individuals. But none have been as influential to me as the cutest husband and wife duo Amy and Joel from Fort Rock Farms.
I first became aquatinted with Joel and Amy about six years ago when my mother started trying to source our food closer to home (we lived in one of the hottest places in the world that is inhabited year round: Lake Havasu City) . Through the years and small chats we became closer though our shared values and passion. They have both always supported the vision of ZippNada and are passionate about producing and distributing nutritious, naturally grown food to Lake Havasu City and Arizona. They have become family and are my mentors in sustainable agriculture and what it means to truly live off the land.
Fort Rock Farms is a small collective of families with shared values. Animal husbandry, earth care, soil building and water conservation and are directed by Permaculture principles, the philosophy of working with, rather than against, nature.
This blog post is the story in Joel's own words of twists and turns of how Fort Rock Farms came to be a concept.
Fast forward to September 2011. On a whim, we cancelled our annual trip to the Sand Show in Orange County and instead hopped in the wife's Jeep and hit the road for a week to start looking at rural property. These trips became the norm for us over the next year and a half. Idaho, Montana, Wyoming and Northern Arizona all made the short list with Idaho in the number one spot. Realtors were contacted, meetings with our attorney and accountant to discuss the sale of our company etc.- the wheels were turning and we were set to dive head first into something exciting and terrifying all at the same time. A serendipitous meeting with a rancher from Northern Arizona on my doorstep changed everything. He was in Havasu shoeing horses as a side job and responded to a Craigslist ad I had for a old spare tire a friend of his needed for a truck.
After paying for the wheel/tire he mentioned his 100+ mile trip back home which sparked a conversation that lasted the better part of two hours. He lived in a small community of full time ranchers a couple hours from us, pretty well off the beaten path. As he described his neighbors, the weather, available water and good soil I was hooked but did my best not to seem too excited. I had passed the exit on my way to Flagstaff a thousand times and never even wondered what was back in those hills. We hit the road that weekend to go check the area out and immediately loved it. Only problem we found- nothing was for sale and rarely did anything in the little area hit the market. When property trades hands it is usually to a friend of a friend or one of the ranchers buys to add to their current range holdings.
I can't even count all the trips we made up there. It didn't take long for some of the locals to stop and chat with us while passing on dirt roads. The cold reception was expected as it is a very small and tight community, not more than 20 families in the whole area. This is where we wanted to be. Period. We threw the short list away, Arizona is where we were staying. Far enough from Havasu to escape the heat but close enough to be able to hang onto the business while we built ourselves a new life. We went back every chance we got and introduced ourselves and our intentions to more people whenever the opportunity presented itself. By this time we had made some friends and had several lunch/dinner offers that would no doubt end with some sort of chores while we got to know our "someday to be" neighbors. We would hear more and more about properties that might be for sale from locals. We took this as a sign of acceptance and we happily followed through on any possible lead but kept looking on our own as well.
There was one property in particular that just felt like home. I actually hand wrote a letter (first time in years!) to the property owner and sent it to the mailing address listed for them on the county assessor site as I couldn't find any phone numbers for them. I explained our intentions and told them exactly what we had to spend. A week went by with no response so hopes were not real high. On day eight I received a call from the property owners to say they were getting too old to do anything with the property and they will accept our offer. We had the property deed in hand July 15tth 2013.
This post will run you through what it has taken and will take for our family to develop 50 acres of very rural property with zero dependence on anyone but ourselves for water, power and food. I have never been in the construction trades nor do I have any previous experience with this stuff so please enjoy yourselves at my expense. Some of the mistakes have been epic.
Everything we have accomplished to date has been paid for outright. We have done this on an average middle class income, if there is such a thing anymore. We have gone from being the poster children for excessive consumerism to being ultra conservative and frugal in just 5 years. We started out slow but picked up steam fast when we saw how much we were able to throw at our new life every time we dumped another unnecessary expense. We've been pretty bare bones for the last couple years. I drive a 20 year old truck, the wife- a 15 year old truck. No cable TV, grow and produce most of our own food- the list of what we have changed is actually pretty long. Surprisingly, our quality of life has actually gone up and we certainly have not stopped having fun. This life definitely isn't for everyone (some of our old friends think we're bat shit crazy) but the response we've gotten is pretty positive from folks on the other thread who dig the mechanics of what are doing. I hope you guys enjoy the ongoing story of our big adventure.
The property has plenty of character as the elevation changes from 5300" to 5100' down in the pasture. It slopes South/Southwest making it ideal for orchards, gardens and solar power. Juniper, Oak and Pinon Pine are the majority of the trees in the area surrounded by plenty of native grasses and shrubs. Some people prefer the huge trees of a thick forest, heck we do too but the cost and hardships of growing anything in that setting didn't make it practical for us to even consider. The one constant we hear from people on their first trip up is, "Your pictures don't even come close to showing what it's like back here". Most seem very surprised at the quiet beauty that I can't seem to capture with a camera.