Steph Larsen

Steph Larsen lives in Lyons, Nebraska, where she and her partner are "part-time farmers," growing food for themselves and their community. Steph holds a master's degree in geography from her home state of Wisconsin and serves on the board of the Women, Food and Agriculture Network.

Food

It's raining chemicals

It starts with a distant, unmistakable whine, like a fly in another room you've been too lazy to swat. As the sound grows, I make sure the dog is inside, then grab the camera and head to the pasture.

Locavore

What a hoe! — and other secrets of an orderly garden

Lookin’ sharp!Can you keep a secret? I think I’m in love. The object of my affection is about 5’4″, slender, and she’s the sharpest tool in the shed. Did I mention she’s a redhead? I’ve taken her out twice now, and we danced around the garden like we were made for each other. I’m talking, of course, about my new stirrup hoe. Equally enamoring is our new low tunnel — a temporary structure made of curved metal and special fabric that lets light and water in. My partner, Brian, keeps exclaiming, “How did we ever grow anything without a low …

Locavore

How does my garden grow? With the aid of a pretty good digital planner

Steph Larsen’s digital farm plan takes shape in the material world.Photo: Steph LarsenWhat’s black and white and dirty all over? My garden plan! Last year’s was, anyway. Most farmers I know will say that keeping good records and plans is fundamental to farming success. By no means am I what you might call a natural planner — I lean towards the “organized chaos” style of living. But when it comes to growing things, I’m convinced that adding a healthy dose of order to the garden chaos is a necessity. There are just too many variables to consider otherwise. Garden plans …

Sustainable Farming

Are ewe serious? The joys of raising lambs in springtime

Someone to watch over me: a mama ewe, with lambs. Photo: Steph LarsenWhen I get home tonight, eleven adorable newborns will greet me with their wide eyes and cute faces. Overseeing the care of so many is a daunting task, but luckily I have help: their mamas. Spring means lambs on Thistle Root Farm, and for the last few weeks our time has been spent caring for pregnant sheep, watching for the signs of impending birth, and making sure the new babies get off to the best possible start. At times, it’s not been easy. There’s an old shepherd joke …

Locavore

I’m coming out — as a farmer

Steph Larsen down on the farm. Or not?Last spring, our sheep had six lambs. Now five of them have taken a one-way trip to the meat locker, bound for not only our freezer but those of five other families, too. The chickens are laying eggs moderately well, and we might actually be turning a small profit on them. Unlike last year, I picked this year’s chick breeds based on which produce well all year and give me the diversity of egg colors that my customers like. We’ve also sketched out plans to sell a few vegetables, herbs, and fruits through …

Flyover country

I’m a rural resident. Where’s my subsidy check?

The view from Washington, D.C., of the rural Midwest: quaint scenery on the way to the West Coast. Photo: Scorpions and CentaursI’ve spent the majority of my life living in cities, albeit mostly small ones in Wisconsin that New Yorkers might not call metropolitan. Before I moved to Lyons, Neb., I lived in Washington, D.C. I truly appreciate the virtues of both urban and rural living. So it’s hard to understand why some urbanites criticize rural folks because we choose to make our home in a place without traffic where you can see the stars. My brow furrowed a bit …