A big part of why we started Beanstory was to deepen our connections to the source of our food and those that do the work to grow what we eat. Sitting down with our farming partners, father and son, Fred and Cooper Brossy, I was reminded that there's something else worth pursuing: A purpose driven life.
Cooper and Fred approach things differently but their styles compliment each other. They are farmers to their core, with no separation between who they are, what they do, and how they make their living. I was struck by the integrity and interconnectedness of their approaches to farming and to life.
In this conversation, we talk about what farming means to each of them, how they approach the work, and why they farm organically.
- Maggie (Co-Founder)
Fred: My siblings left my father's ranch as quickly as possible, but not me. That's all I ever wanted to do and I was lucky enough to have that opportunity.
Cooper: Well, growing up I was immersed in this rural agricultural climate. I grew up on this farm. I was surrounded by both male and female role models who embraced this lifestyle and culture. They expressed a lot of self confidence and pride in the work and being on the land. What they were doing was meaningful and they were self reliant. With those people around me, it was easy to see it was a thing that was open to me.
I was fortunate to go to school away from here and have the opportunity to look back and reflect on where I came from and what I wanted to do with my life. Then I decided I needed more school so I went to get a masters degree in geology, worked for nine years as a consultant out of state. And then I came back.
What do you like most?
Cooper: Being witness to the changing of the seasons and the progression of life and how things come and go and work for and against each other in this agricultural system we’ve helped develop and partake in.
Fred: My approach is so different from Cooper’s. I do this because I’ve always done it and I love it but I never single out what part of it is the best.
That being said, I had a real wake up call about eight years ago. My wife, Judy, got sick and I had to take care of her - full time - I had no choice. I wanted to take care of her. It wasn’t a matter of choice so the farm was going to have to wait. Thank goodness Cooper came back. I couldn’t sit back and not farm but I wanted to be with Judy and I realized I am a farmer. When I couldn’t farm it was really hard. It’s just what I do and I love doing it but I don’t have these existential questions about why. It’s an identity not a profession.
I’ve had such a wonderful life here. So fortunate in so many ways. All l can do is look back and say how great it was and still is. I thought I would lose my reason without Judy but I haven’t.
"(I like) being witness to the changing seasons and the progression of life."
What is the most challenging?
Fred: Most challenging is to be a good farmer. I always joke that some day I’m going to learn to be good at farming. The reality is, you’re always learning.
How do you decide what you're going to plant?
Fred: You need diversity to weather the ups and down. Our attitude is to just take care of the farm as well as we can. That’s what the income is for - putting things back into the soil. In other words, the reason to make money is to take care of the farm. Make things better for the long haul. We’re lucky. We don’t have to pay off investors, or make a land payment. We have a lot more latitude to do things - financial flexibility. We can afford to have a wreck. Most farms have a rent payment or they have a land payment. That’s scary. Most farmers borrow to operate. We’ve built a model that is self-financing. We’ve paid off the mortgage when we had a great year. We’re lucky.
Cooper: It depends on how you see the world and how you see your checkbook. In other words, is it an enterprise you’re tracking, tip to tail? Or are you tracking your overall farm? If you track your farm, you can lose money on some crops but that’s Ok because they exist for a purpose and do well in concert with these other crops that do make money and together, they pay the bills.
What does organic mean to you?
Fred: When I started organic farming, I didn’t own the farm, but I didn’t ask, I just did it. I was the manager of the farm and I had some leeway. I had wanted to go organic for years but didn’t have the nerve. Then friends/fellow farmers gave me confidence and I have never looked back. Sure there were a few wrecks but never any to the extent that made me think that this is not the right way to do it.
Cooper: Not all the wrecks are attributed to being organic. No matter who you are and what you’re doing you’re going to have your fair share of wrecks, whether it’s market issues, bad luck, weather or a shipment of product that flips over on the freeway.
The cost of production is higher plus we pay our workers a living wage or higher. But we can charge a premium on crops. Not to mention, it changes your mindset. We’re not growing organic to stuff the grocery store shelves with more carrots so we can make another nickel, we’re growing organic because we’re philosophically aligned with the central tenets and taking care of our surroundings. We’ll never do no harm but we’ll always try to do less harm.
"We're growing organic because we're philosophically aligned with the central tenets...we'll never do no harm but we'll always try to do less harm."
Fred and Cooper’s farm mission statement:
Our mission is to grow nutrient-dense organic food using regenerative agricultural practices, while farming in a manner that promotes and demonstrates respect
for our family
for our employees
for our customers
for our community
for all God’s creation and all living things
and for future generations