Not every school has a teacher who is also a farmer, but here at EC, English Teacher, Mr. Ryan Dykstra takes on that role. Mr. Dykstra shares his journey with his small farm, how he has expanded it, and what it incorporates.
In comparison to his three surrounding neighbors who all own at least 15 acres of farmland, Mr. Dykstra says that he would not consider his farm an official farm. Two out of three of his neighbors have horse farms that function mainly to keep, raise, and board horses. One of the neighboring farms raises chickens, hogs, and steers for food. These operations are quite larger than his and he believes that they do generate income. Although his farm does not have enough land to officially qualify for a farm assessment, nor does he have any official sales outlet, people have asked to buy eggs and vegetables from him.
Mr. Dykstra and his family moved into his property at the end of December 2021 in Sussex County, so they have only been there for 9 months. He and his wife grew vegetables and raised chickens for several years which inspired them to expand. They found producing food and raising animals to be extremely rewarding. They take the Lord’s instruction to be a good steward of the world in Genesis, and view the experience as a “blessing for his whole family.” They all look forward to their daily farm tasks such as working in the garden together or feeding the animals. He also says, “eat a ripe tomato right off the vine and you'll wonder what other flavorless imitations of food you've been buying at the grocery store.”
His farm includes a variety of plants and animals, including a half-acre orchard that has 30 fruit trees of pears, apples, mulberries and peaches. He has blueberry bushes and black raspberry patches, chickens, sheep, a vegetable garden, and pigs. Clearly, most of the time his efforts work out well and he sees results, but other times it doesn’t work as well. He says in one instance, he planted 1,000 carrot seeds and got about 5 carrots.
Mr. Dykstra has 3 sheep, 2 pigs, and 60 chickens. His favorite of them are the sheep, ;l
‘salthough they have proven to be the most difficult in some
senses as they are “creative at finding ways to not stay alive.”
Some of the animals that he raises on the farm are also a source of food, including the pigs and chickens. Along with the animals, he also grows a variety of plants. They grow many vegetables, such as squash, tomatoes, and lettuce. Once the ball starts rolling, it is possible to be constantly in a cycle of planting and harvesting the vegetables since the seasonal vegetables cycle in and out. The set of carrots that he is now growing in the fall season are luckily doing much better than his last try.
Mr. Dykstra’s advice to anyone interested in beginning a farm is to try something now! It does not have to be fancy, it could be in a lawn or backyard since you can grow vegetables anywhere. He adds, “There are people who make 6 figures growing vegetables on quarter acre plots of land in suburbs in many places around the world, so wherever you are, try it out!”