Next up, farmer Kamilla Nelson, owner and operator of Happy Flappy Farm, in Madison, AL—thanks to her stepson for the catchy name! Kamilla was born in Denmark, however at one week old her parents moved to AL. She grew up in Huntsville and Madison, AL, where she currently lives with her husband, 2 children, and 3 stepchildren.
How long have you been a member of ASAN?
I believe I have been a member of ASAN for 3 or 4 years. I attended my first event, the Food & Farm Forum, last year.
Why did you become a member of ASAN? What do you love about being part of ASAN / part of the food movement in Alabama?
I am passionate about sustainable agriculture and am constantly searching for farming community. I am glad to have contact with others who have the same passion for sustainable farming that I have.
What is your favorite ASAN event, and why?
The Food & Farm Forum – it is an opportunity to learn, rest from my farm for a couple days, network, and learn from others. Plus, I love Camp McDowell, the farm there inspires me.
Describe your farm – where is it, how big is it, what do you raise, who helps manage it with you?
We have a 4-acre Sustainable Agriculture Poultry farm where we sell chicken, duck, goose, guinea eggs, and meat. We’re excited to be expanding into food forest areas with blueberries, blackberries, muscadine grapes, mulberries, and figs. Check out the pics of our blackberry and Muscadine grape plants on our Facebook page. We also raise Guinea fowl. They’re ideal pest and snake control, and even alert the chickens to hawk danger. We also sell their eggs, and when we’re able to catch them, they’ll be processed for meat. I get occasional help from my husband and children.
How long have you had your farm?
We started growing the farm in 2012. Me and my husband bought the parcel of land from my aunt, and my second husband has encouraged me to expand.
What made you want to be a farmer?
My Grandparents had farm animals when I was a child and I have always felt a connection with our earth and nature.
Is it what you thought it would be like? If not, why?
It is harder than I thought.
What’s your favorite crop to grow?
I love growing the chickens, they are so versatile and hard workers.
Where do you really shine / what is your specialty?
I love working with children and introducing them to farming. When my children were younger, I would speak to their classes about farming, however as they’ve gotten older I stopped because I didn’t think they were listening. And, there’s not enough time. It’s something I’d like to be able to do again, that’s why I look forward to the farm tours, and my workshop.
How do you reach your customers, and grow your business?
I have an email list that I use to keep my customers up to date on what is going on at the farm. We now have 2 neighborhoods being built within a few hundred feet of us; I made a sign and placed it at the road to let people know about us. I also use the tried and true method of “word of mouth”, and I’ve found success advertising on localharvest.org.
What’s the best piece of advice you’ve ever been given re: farming?
To grow slowly and keep doing what makes you successful. I credit Lee McBride for this sage advice.
What tool, piece of equipment, etc., could you not live without?
My computer! It is my communication with my customers, my teacher, my source of inspiration, how I order items to help me, and how I track how the farm is doing (thanks to excel spreadsheets). I love tracking the laying rate of the chickens, it helps me be more intentional with the breeds I choose, their care, etc. Selecting for traits that are not visual is a challenge; I refer to it as breeding with intelligence. My main focus is breeding for egg laying.
What about being a farmer do you love the most?
I love seeing the farm grow and change through the seasons.
What frustrates or challenges you about the work you do, and/or the broader context in which you do it?
The work is hard and lonely and doesn’t have the profit that it should have. I would love to see more community in farming. We (the farming community) should work together to farm so that the burden is not so great on each of us. Unfortunately, the cost of farming is much greater than the income. My lack of funds frustrates me – the cost of feed is so high compared with the price I can get for my products.
What keeps you up at night?
The problem of providing real food for myself and my family grown and prepared in a way I believe is the best for us. With my kids, I worry about the dangers of processed food and the long term negative effect to their health.
What excites you about the future of ASAN?
ASAN gives me hope that, as a group, we can spread the message of a better way to grow food. I have spoken out against the evils of the chemically-based, control system people have been using on their land, and endured the crazy looks for years. I’m okay with that, who knows, I may influence one person out of many. Eventually they’ll pay it forward. I love that I have partners in the fight for a healthier way to coexist with the land.
What keeps you going?
The appreciation I get from my customers and visitors.
What in a given day/week/month/year do you look forward to most?
Saturdays are my favorite because I get to focus on my farm and my family. I take care of my Grandmother and Mom Monday through Friday for half the day.
Anything else you’d like to add?
I have several goals I’m working toward, short and long-term: I want to finish the structure on my farm to process birds, and package fruit. My customers have requested workshops, I’d love to use the space for teaching, and family-oriented farm tours. Of course, this comes back to money and time. We currently serve about 30 families throughout the year, providing neighborhood deliveries of meat and eggs. However, I eventually want to work toward offering CSA’s.
How has ASAN supported your efforts? What could ASAN be doing to better support your efforts and the efforts of others like you?
ASAN has given me ideas for expanding or diversifying my farm. I know that I am not alone out there!