By Taylor Sanders
I don’t know how I got here, to be honest. A few years ago, after working at The Golden Hoof in Boulder, I decided I wanted to learn to be a butcher. I went to Italy, and here I am three years later, engaged to a wonderful man I met there. We own a farm business called Long Table Farmstead, a very happy dog and about 400 other farm animals including chickens, pigs, turkeys, and sheep.
All photos by Ryan Muglia
My partner Ryan Muglia and I fell into this farm situation through a whirlwind of luck. Ryan has been working for The Farmette & Riverbend wedding venues in Lyons, CO for about 5 years. He started back when they were primarily a veggie farm. Mike and Betsy, the owners of that business, would go out of town and graciously let us stay at their house which has an incredible view of Steamboat Mountain and a huge beautiful pasture next door. I would pretend for a moment each morning that I lived there as I sipped tea on the back deck.
Word on the street was that their friends were buying the neighboring property which included 30 acres, a garage, barn, hay barn, and a cute lil’ house. Fast forward through nervous negotiating e-mails and meeting our sweet landlords (who love regenerative agriculture) and we’re moving in 6 months later with a signed lease and a lot of work to do.
It’s a big thing in farming to want to own property. That way, you’re free to build and improve the property with that feeling of permanence. After much pondering on this topic, I’ve come to be quite content with renting. Ryan and I have always had the same vision of a functioning homestead that sells high-quality meat to the community to keep it all afloat, but we never want it to be huge. There are a lot of perks to keeping it small if you can swing it. And we absolutely love this place.
We both work other jobs, Ryan at the Farmette/Riverbend still and I bartend at Spirit Hound Distillery. Last year we juggled working weddings, doing catering, and odd jobs here and there. Covid has forced us to slow down this year (there are hardly any weddings) and we’re still making it work. While most people try to farm full-time, we’re not there yet with the business. Maybe it’s in the future, but we like the balance for now. Ryan and I both love our off-farm jobs and anyone who knows me knows that I enjoy social interaction…and a good gin and tonic.
The most challenging thing about starting a farm business was getting a rhythm for daily life. Last year, I had a tough time with everything, but this year I feel much more in control, or rather, comfortable with the lack of control. It’s balancing money management, business-building, finding cheap but durable farm infrastructure, homesteading projects, work at a few jobs, tending to animal problems, laundry, grocery shopping, personal time, relationships, rest, and all the grand ideas you want to try on the farm. It was all so overwhelming at first, but my advice to anyone is to work on a variety of farms before trying it yourself. This farm is a mash-up of all the techniques and ideas from about 10 different farms we’ve worked on and visited. Tying into that, it’s critical to have community to help you out with their time, lending out equipment, sharing ideas, and buying product. Our friend Garrison helps gut chickens while the neighbor Betsy brings cookies to every chicken slaughter without fail. Our landlord lends us his tractor whenever we need it and we were donated a riding mower and a generator this season by incredibly generous members of our community. Other neighbors bring over wheelbarrows of food scraps for the pigs and they just love watching them eat watermelon rinds. And a good portion of our customers learned about us while I made them a cocktail at Sprit Hound.
This lifestyle is not without its challenges, but at the end of every day, it feels like exactly the life I want to live.