Two parents. Three young children. Two dogs. Plus a multitude of chickens, pigs, ducks, turkeys, goats and a horse.
This is the configuration to Rhythm and Roots Farm at Copley.
And Andrew and Hannah Thorn couldn’t be happier.
The Thorn family bought the Lakeland Farms property and moved there in September 2019. The next two years were eventful with the birth of the family’s youngest child about three months later and the COVID-19 pandemic brought everything to a halt in March 2020.
In some ways, however, the pandemic has worked to their advantage, Hannah said.
One advantage, Andrew said, was that he could work from home. He’s worked as a software engineer “almost since birth,” so he was available to help with the new house and the farm.
While grabbing the nearly 17-acre property was a leap from what the Thorns were used to, it wasn’t entirely uncharted territory. They raised chickens and goats at their previous residences, including Tallmadge, where they lived for about three years.
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Hannah, 31, said she met Andrew, 32, when they attended Liberty University in Lynchburg, Virginia. Andrew grew up and still has family in Virginia. She obtained a bachelor’s degree and then a master’s degree in human resources.
“A lot of education goes unused,” Hannah laughed.
Their three children are sons Beckett, 6, and Lincoln, 4, and daughter Addy, 2.
Life on the farm is self-sufficient
Andrew said one of the main reasons they wanted to start a farm was to be more self-sufficient and grow their own food. About a year ago they started selling what they couldn’t use.
“I had no intention of starting a farming business,” Andrew said. “We appreciate our time outdoors and we are closer as a family. We know everything about our food.”
Another benefit for the family was the ability to put down roots, part of the inspiration for the farm’s name.
“We’ve both moved every two to five years our whole lives,” Andrew said.
Creating a permanent home has taught the family new skills, such as decorating, maintaining and painting the home, Hannah added.
“We had to learn to decorate and paint,” she said.
The “rhythm” part of the name comes from farm rhythm, Andrew said. There is a certain rhythm that comes from working on the farm, although he stressed that the work was far from routine and never boring.
“There is literally always something new,” he said. “Every day is a new challenge, something crazy that you have to find a solution for. It keeps me open-minded.”
Items available at their farm include chicken, duck, sausage, eggs, bacon, ham, liver, pork tenderloin, vanilla extract and more. Andrew said they don’t buy commercially raised pigs or chickens.
There have been challenges, Hannah said. She noted that even though the prices of their items are higher than in traditional grocery stores, the gap is narrowing.
On the other hand, the cost of feed and grain for their animals has also increased.
“Food costs are up 30% right now,” Andrew said. “Grain is up nearly 50 percent.”
Significant community involvement
Another benefit, Hannah said, was the ability to network and contribute to the wider community.
“I like being in a place where it would be easy to look for people,” she said.
The farmhouse space has the advantage of providing space for respite and quiet, but it’s “still close to people,” Hannah added.
Andrew said he plans to offer butchery workshops in the near future. They don’t butcher the meat they sell, but contract with a butcher, as that would require following a lot of regulations.
One of the ways the Thorns get involved in the community is by working with Jobs for Ohio Graduates placing clients with employers. The Ellington brothers and Kellen Stewart are working on the farm this summer as part of the program. The brothers were home-schooled and graduated.
Ellington, 19, said his mother told him about Jobs for Ohio Graduates.
“I learned a lot of things,” he said. “How to take care of a garden, weeding.”
The brothers inspected and worked on the farm fences on maintenance day.
“I learned about farm animals here,” said 17-year-old Kellen. “The Mangalitsa Pigs [which are on the farm] can weigh up to 800 pounds.”
Kellen added that he learned how people farmed and admired how they had “the will and the courage to take care of the animals every day, and how they dealt with their mistakes” and learned from them.
A lot of the skills they learned will come in handy later on, Ellington added.
Lessons learned on the farm
One piece of advice Andrew gave to those considering getting into farming is to start small.
“I would start growing for yourself first,” he said. “Don’t get into the idea that it will turn into a business. It’s hard to make money in farming.”
“You have to take advantage of it,” she said. “You won’t make a lot of money.”
She added that chickens are good to start with because they can be raised on smaller properties. Goats are “a good next step”.
Goats, in particular, will help people achieve the herding effort, Hannah said. Finding a veterinarian, hoof trimming, budgeting for feed, winter watering, and providing proper shelter are just a few of the things those looking to raise their own livestock need to consider.
“I have a friend who started buying chickens,” Andrew said. “He’s already lost 13 to predators. That’s something you need to think about.”
One lesson they’ve learned is that their farm isn’t ideal for sheep, Andrew said. The first season they had a flock of sheep, but they didn’t do well when the land got swampy in the spring.
“They kept getting hoof rot,” Hannah said. “We would bring in the vet and try to maintain control.”
Eventually, Hannah said, they gave up the sheep and focused on their other animals, which did better.
“Don’t try to fight the earth,” she said.
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Andrew said the farm mainly has chickens, which they have in mobile coops that move regularly so the birds have new places to hunt for insects. They also raise ducks, turkeys and pigs.
“We’ve built a lot of infrastructure,” Andrew said. “We have room to grow, but we want it to happen naturally.”
One of Andrew’s goals for the next two years is to increase the number of pigs on the farm, including raising them. Currently, all pigs are purchased from other farms. Additionally, Andrew said he wants to use more sustainable energy sources, especially solar power.
For more details, visit www.rhythmandrootsfarm.com or call 330-234-373.
Journalist April Helms can be reached at [email protected]