I would venture to guess that most of you weren't here at the beginning when we were a young married couple who just bought a piece of land and needed to figure out what to do with it. This picture is the day we signed the paperwork. The very first thing we did was drive to the property, walk around, take pictures and dream of what everything could be.
We bought the ground that is Rocky Knob in 2016 for really only one reason - it bordered Levi's family farm. Levi remembers his grandpa telling his dad, "You only get the chance to buy the ground next to you once in a lifetime. You better figure out how to make it happen." and that's the philosophy we've tried to follow because it's true.
The ground was being farmed by a local dairy farm for cash crops (corn and beans) who was leasing it from the owner who lived about an hour away. But only about half of the ground was farmable. There was the old, abandoned house and the yard around it, a fallen in barn, and the hillside that was so over grown. There was a lot of work to be done to get everything in working order - something we're still working on!
We had amazing help from our family getting started cleaning everything up. When we bought the land, we knew we had to do something productive with it in addition to continuing the grain farming. We landed on pumpkins, a corn maze and inviting our community to the farm. We landed on the name Rocky Knob Farms because the land is a river gravel bank and walking through a freshly plowed field all you see is rocks.
Our first year selling u-pick pumpkins, having kids run through the corn maze and hosting 4-H clubs or youth groups for meetings was amazing. We met and fellowshipped with so many amazing people and we knew that we bit by the "agritourism bug." If you don't know, agritourism is just a fancy word for hosting the public on your farm and letting them experience farm life. The other thing we did that first year was field trips for local schools. We had all two preschool classes join us on the farm for pumpkin picking and painting, games and corn maze adventures. I've said it before but that is where my heart lies, in sharing the farm life and letting kids experience a day on the farm.
So far in our journey, Levi and I are both working off the farm and kind of treating the farm as a side hustle but we were both ready to jump in with both feet. I was the one to come to the farm full time because Levi carried our health insurance and we were expecting a baby. So to say that we were busy was an understatement but we wanted to expand our agritourism into another season and after some research we chose u-pick strawberries in the spring (this decision was made before we found out Charlie was on the way).
We planted a half acre of strawberry plants - by hand - in early September and two weeks later we found out that I was pregnant with Charlie. Timing being what it is, Charlie was due in the middle of our first strawberry harvest. Cue the family help again! We really are so blessed! Our first strawberry season was just as amazing as our first pumpkin season and the joy we got out of seeing our friends, family and community enjoy our farm was so fulfilling for us.
As if we didn't have enough to do already, we bought a good number of sheep in the spring of 2019 and jumped into the sheep business with both feet getting a SARE grant in the process to help make things run more smoothly. Going from 5 sheep to almost 100 is kind of a big jump but we knew that sheep were the most ideal livestock for us to have when it came to the reality that Charlie and I were going to be doing the majority of the work day to day.
For the next couple of years we maintained strawberries in the spring and pumpkins in the fall and sheep throughout the year. Although things became more difficult with Charlie in tow, we were doing great and then Covid hit - that strawberry season was REALLY up in the air. Even though strawberry picking is an outside activity there was still so much unknown about how the virus spread at that point and we had to jump through a lot of hoops with the health department to be open that spring. We also found out during Covid strawberry season that Noah was on the way.
By that fall, we decided to just offer a self serve pumpkin stand. We couldn't justify the labor of sitting at the pumpkin patch with such a sense of isolation in society - although looking back we all needed to be with one another. Noah was born in January of 2021 and we started lambing in March.... It was a wild time and I would not suggest to anyone to do what I did. Thank goodness my mom is retired and she came to stay with us so that the boys were looked after during the day because if I wasn't in the barn I was asleep.
Since then, the boys have gotten busier and the sheep keep us plenty busy so we continue to offer the self serve pumpkin stand in our driveway but have stepped away from the u-pick pumpkins and strawberries for the time being. It is our goal that maybe when the boys are a bit older and more independant and can help more we can get back to having u-pick seasons on the farm.
In January of 2022 we launched Rocky Knob Meats and are very excited to sell and ship our very own beef and lamb to customers across the state of Ohio! We have great customers so far and will be expanding it in the near future.
So for now, you can find me and the boys in the pasture with the sheep or packing orders of meat to ship right to your doorstep. Thanks so much for being here, we appreciate you more than you know!