Jesse and Spark.

So let’s just get right into the big news and then we’ll break it down: starting this summer I—with a massive amount of assistance from Hannah, of course—will be taking over as the head chef and executive farmer of a new restaurant in Versailles called Spark Community Cafe. I will still be a full-time farmer at Rough Draft Farmstead, but I will also be a chef. Let me explain.

Spark Community Cafe is a nonprofit, pay-what-you-can restaurant opening in downtown Versailles, Kentucky (this summer), and Hannah and I are beyond excited to be a part of it.

It is estimated that 17 percent of Kentuckians and 22 percent of Kentucky children are food insecure—that’s roughly one and five of our fellow citizens. Food insecurity exists in every county in Kentucky, and every county in the United States. Spark’s pay-what-you-can model is a brilliantly simple way of addressing this issue head on.

Patrons can pay the suggested price, or more, or less, depending on their financial circumstances. Payments are kept anonymous so no one knows how much anyone else pays. Patrons who cannot afford a meal are able to volunteer at the restaurant and earn meals that way. One can also volunteer his or her time to donate meals so others may have a meal. Ultimately, the goal of Spark and the many other restaurants like it is to end food insecurity in the community—to make sure kids and adults, single parents, poor, or just cash-strapped people alike can get a good, nutritious meal when they need it – and can dine with dignity.

Offering food to those people who may not have access to a nutritious meal every day speaks to Hannah and me as citizens, but also as farmers. Hannah and I have always struggled with how expensive our produce is. There is no easy way for us to grow it cheaper, sell it cheaper, and still make a sufficient living. So this pay-what-you-can model presents a very exciting opportunity for us to get our produce to those who may not normally, or regularly, be able to afford it while still making a living for ourselves. This is especially true as Spark’s founders seek to pay a living wage to their workers and support local farmers by paying a fair price for the food.

My role will be to create seasonal menus and train the staff on how to prepare them. I will likewise be utilizing ingredients from our farm and others (so if you’re a farmer or artisan in the area, make sure to email me at roughdraftfarmstead@gmail.com so I can have your info—I will be actively looking for people to provide certain crops, meats, etc..). The goal will be to use as much local foods as possible, with an emphasis on farms and artisans closest to the restaurant and within Kentucky first, and pay what the crops are actually worth.

This project will certainly be extra work for us, but it’s something we believe is not only important, but in line with our values, goals, and faith.

Ultimately, almost a decade ago now, when we looked around and asked ourselves how we could affect the most change, Hannah and I chose farming. Now through Spark, we will be able to amplify that goal.

Of course, Rough Draft Farmstead will still be running our CSA (SIGN UP HERE). We will still be selling to other restaurants, but Spark will be our other exciting (ad)venture this year. So we hope you will check out and follow Spark!

If you would like to get involved, volunteer, donate, or just learn more, check out Spark on Facebook, Instagram or at sparkcommunitycafeky.org. We hope you will come support this cause while we all work to eradicate food insecurity in our communities.



Last week Hannah and I ordered the bulk of our seeds for this year’s CSA and we are EXCITED about this upcoming season!

CSA members will be getting over FIFTY different types of vegetables in our CSA this year. That’s a lot of good, healthy, vegetable diversity, organically grown and delivered straight to your door.

But I wanted to take a few minutes to explain how CSA works and answer some frequently asked questions.

To sign up, click HERE or you can also send a check to the farm (which saves you 3%). And of course, email us if you have any other questions.
How long does your CSA last?
This year we have shortened the duration of the CSA from 20 to 15 weeks, starting some time in may (depending on weather).

How much does it cost?
The price of the CSA is $360, which works out to be $24/week, part of which pays for the home delivery.

What if I can’t pay it all upfront?
Hannah and I want to feed people who want good, healthy food and for that reason we are happy to work out the payment plan that’s right for you—don’t let the price be the reason you avoid our CSA! The reason we ask for the money upfront is so that we can budget for the year and buy all of the seeds and tools we need (which so far is about $2000 we’ve already spent). Your early investment in the farm is what pays for us to get the food growing! So we ask that everyone pay as much as they can before the season starts so that we can get a sense of how much money we have to work with for the year. Preferably, our members would be fully paid by the time the seasons starts BUT, you can pay in installments. Email us and we’ll work out a payment plan that works for you and your budget.

Oh, you deliver?
Yes! Straight to your door. So long as you live in Versailles, Frankfort, or Lawrenceburg, we will deliver straight to your door every week.

How much food is in a single share?
The single share is designed for a single person or couple who cook several meals at home per week, or for a small family who likes to cook a few from scratch. Larger families, especially those who cook a lot, may prefer the double share (at a 10% discount) as a single share might not be enough food.

So wait, do I get to choose what goes in the CSA?
Yes and no. Via a member survey, every year we make an effort to figure out what our CSA members liked and didn’t like, what they want more of and what they could do without. So in some ways you will get to help guide our planting decisions year after year, but we also have to plant the garden based on the season, so some of what you receive, and the amounts, are left to us so that we can grow foods that perform best at that time of the year. Different crops have different seasons, and by planting based on when they will perform best we 1) save water, increase biodiversity, and take advantage of seasonally sensitive crops and 2) ensure that you’re getting the most healthful and flavorful version of each veggie. This diversity of vegetables can be a cooking challenge, but we will help you there, too, giving you tips on how to store, prep, and cook your veggies with our weekly newsletter and YouTube page .

What happens if I go out of town?
Don’t worry. We are fairly flexible here, too. In that situation, if you would like, we can double up on a week to make up for the missed week, or we can offer you extra of certain items throughout the share to compensate. Some members like to give their share to a neighbor or friend for the week they miss. Whatever works for you, works for us!

What if I have an allergy or don’t like a certain vegetable?
We always encourage our customers to try vegetables that they may have disliked in the past, but we are not going to force anything on you! There are people who just can’t handle say, cilantro, and we are sympathetic to that—we will always substitute where we can! If you are allergic to something such as nightshades, the CSA is perhaps not going to be worth the cost for you as potatoes, tomatoes, peppers, and eggplant are a large part of the offerings. We will happily work with you, but we will also always be honest because, more than anything, we want to get more people eating locally and diversely: if our farm is not the right fit for you we will recommend one that is!

Last week I posted this video about five reasons I think everyone should join a CSA just in case you need more convincing!



letter A unit.

Even before we had children, Jesse and I discussed schooling. A lot. We went back and forth, between decrying the evils of public schools to the merits of diversity in public education and the fact that both of us (public school kids) turned out just fine! We still have mixed feelings – for example, there are many things wrong with our education system, but if we opt out of the system entirely how will it ever get better? And isn’t it just out of my place of privilege that I can choose an option other than public school – is my child better than other children who don’t have the choice? BUT for now, since Further is only 3 and he is already home with us all day, we are trying out a very loose homeschooling curriculum.

My main goals for the year are to establish a rhythm of school and work within our days, to introduce Further to structured learning, and to basically just see if this is something that is going to fit for our family and for Further and my relationship. That’s it! No real pressure on him or me.

So far, our days have ended up being mostly play, outside time, reading, art, and anywhere from 15 minutes to an hour of actual, structured “school.” It is pretty free and relaxed – I have been trying to take cues from what Further is interested in, what his body language tells me (as in: sitting down for a craft vs. turning him loose outside to get the crazies out), and involve him in practical life skills tasks (as in: just doing our normal life stuff like chores, farm work, cleaning, cooking). That being said, I have very much appreciated having a curriculum to guide my days and give me structure: we are using The Peaceful Preschool along with resources from Simply Learning. I’m stretching the “one letter a week” units to two weeks per letter, so that I have lots of flexibility for those “nope not happening” sort of days.

Essentially, I have no idea what I am doing. Within just these first two weeks I have had days of feeling like “This is amazing and I am a rockstar and Further is a genius and the online homeschooling community is so inspiring and helpful” to “I am failing and we are accomplishing nothing and why can’t Further count correctly and the online homeschooling community is a horrible, dark place of shame and guilt.” FUN! I would love to know your thoughts! Are you homeschooling? Public school? Private? I obviously have no judgement on choices either way – we hope Further likes it but also want to respect his choice if he someday wants to go to school. I hope to hear from some of you!

– Hannah.

art table.


A few years back, we were contacted by a handful of television producers, each pitching a sort of “Off-Grid in Kentucky” reality show. At the time, Hannah was newly pregnant with Further and we vacillated between feeling like it could be fun, and feeling horrified at the thought of silly plot lines invented by producers eager to make our quaint off-grid life into must-see T.V.. Not that chasing the pigs through the woods at nine months pregnant wouldn’t make for good television (LINK), but we are no Alaskan Bush People.

I don’t know that we ever talked about it here, and it feels a little embarrassing to even write it, but we definitely entertained the idea of this reality show, even going as far as to Skype with one producer and exchange emails with a couple others. The point of this blog has always been to share our lives—the good, the bad, and the ugly—in hopes of inspiring others to go farming or live simply. In some ways we could see a television show as an amplification of that goal and we liked that. But we also were definitely afraid of the drama-filled narratives that studio executives might spin our lives into, so when nothing ever came of it, we didn’t exactly complain.

Lately, however, we’ve been enjoying making YouTube videos for our CSA shareholders as a way to bring the farm to them, and show them how to store, prep, and cook the vegetables we give them. And we thought, “Heck, this is fun—let’s just use this to make the show we wanted to make!”

So I suppose without further ado, that’s exactly what we’re doing. We wanted to formally introduce you to our YouTube Channel! We hope you will subscribe and watch, but just so you know what you’re getting yourselves into, here are the first “shows” we’re doing, each with its own regular episodes:

Cabin Fever
As Hannah recently shared on the blog, we miss our cabin. Bad. But we thought instead of pining for the old days, we’d start working towards a new one—a new self-sufficient cabin for the new farm. In this series we will take you through the designing and, God willing, construction of a new off-grid cabin. Having lived in one such cabin for four years, we kinda know what we do and do not want, but there are a plethora of new and great ideas out there in terms of self-sufficient design to explore, so that’s what we’re going to do. The goal with this will be to take our time designing everything we want from passive solar to geothermal cooling and beyond. Taking our time with the design is something that our budget and living situation didn’t allow for when building the last cabin . This time, however, with a safe place to live and a productive farm to support us we can do it right. With this show we can take you through the whole process all the way from designing and blueprinting (is that a word?) to moving in. Note that we encourage viewers to chime in and give us their ideas. Please feel free to point us in the direction of any natural building or off-grid concepts of which we may not be aware. If you’re looking to one day build your own, this might just be your show. The first episode will be up soon!

How to Cook Your CSA
What the heck is kohlrabi? How do you store Swiss chard? What can you do with acorn squash? Do tomatoes go in the fridge? These are the kinds of questions we often receive from our CSA customers and these are the very questions we will be fielding in this series. Every week we will be giving advice on how to store, prep, and cook the things that come with your CSA, whether you’re a member of ours or someone else’s. Think of this as a FREE farm-to-table cooking class! With recipes, tips, tricks, and storage advice we hope to provide the viewer with everything he or she needs to conquer a CSA with ease (and with surprisingly little forethought). Jesse has cooked professionally on and off for over 15 years, and he is happy to cover any cooking topic you’d like. He may also provide some wine buying tips and some mead brewing. He will also probably make very stupid jokes. The goal, however, is to offer a guide to cooking through a CSA share that takes what can be an intimidating endeavor—new and different veggies every week—and reimagines it into something that will fit right into anyone’s lifestyle. There are a few videos up already—feel free to check those out and let us know what you think!

Rough Draft Farm Shed
When I started out farming, even after years of cooking and wine-ing, I really didn’t know anything about where food came from, what a tomato plant looked like, that beets grew on the surface of the soil and not underground like potatoes. So in the spirit of that, we will soon be starting an occasional series about where food comes from for people, not unlike myself, who care but might not know where their food comes from and what it takes to produce it. We plan to take you through the entire process of veggie farming—from seeding to harvest—and introduce foodies to the complete and utter magic that is growing food in hopes of giving you more insight into where small scale agriculture and how different crops grow. This series will talk about how we farm (organically) and how different plants grow. It will be intended as a compliment to our How to Cook Your CSA series, giving the viewer a more in depth look into small agriculture, and hopefully inspiring you to grow some of your own ingredients. Again, look for that soon!
So that’s where we’re starting. The goal is simply to provide a—hopefully educational, hopefully inspiring—glimpse into our lives. Almost every video will be less than ten minutes (most less than five) and we hope to make them fun, engaging and educational. It is not a reality show, per se, but it’s the definitely show we wanted… with perhaps slightly more questionable camera work.

Anywho, we will still be blogging, of course, Instagramming, Facebooking and all that good stuff, but we hope this new adventure will help give people a better perspective on what we do, show you how to cook more veggies, and hopefully inspire some more low-impact, self-reliant cabins along the way. So please subscribe to our channel and we will take any and all the feedback we can get!

Thank you for reading, and welcome to Rough Draft T.V.!

– Jesse and Hannah


The other night with some cold weather coming, Hannah, Further, and I headed out to the garden to cover some crops for the coming frosts. It was a little chilly and we had a lot of work to do, but Further really wanted to help. Of course, even when we’re in a rush, we try to encourage this. So I let him grab the end of the row cover and begin to pull the long, 100’ piece of fabric down the paths. And I watched somewhat in awe as he did precisely what we asked him to do.

Now, I love my son dearly—DEARLY—but his role on this farm heretofore has been mostly that of an obstacle. As soon as we get in a good rhythm he gets upset, or gets hurt, or he gets too hot. That’s all fine. This is the life of farming with children and I care for my son’s safety and health above literally everything else on the planet. But he certainly makes farming challenging.

However, as I watched him pulling that fabric down the paths it occurred to me that at some point in the not-so-distant future, my son will genuinely be helpful. I knew this when we decided to have a child, of course, but in our three years of watching him stomp on plants or crawl all over us when we were planting, I admit I had forgotten. I had forgotten there will come a day when I can ask him to help me in the garden, and he will be able to do it.

Being helpful to us, though, isn’t the whole of the story. Being helpful could just as easily be doing his own thing while mama and papa work. It’s that he wants to be with us, to work in the garden. That’s what I find special. He will be asked to help the family sometimes, but I don’t ever want to force my son to farm—I don’t want to force my son into farming if it’s not something he wants to do. If we can inspire him to do it, however, that will be a success.

So as this year wraps up I am looking forward to the Spring with our soon-to-be three-year-old. It will be another challenging season, no doubt, but if by the end of next year he still wants to help us pull the row cover, or plant the garlic as he did later in the week, then I will know we’re on the right track. In fact, I’m a little sad I didn’t get any pictures of him with that giant piece of fabric dragging behind him. It was pretty darn cute. But if we do a good job of this parenting thing, I’m sure I’ll have plenty more opportunities next year to snap some photos of our little farmer in action.

– Jesse.

little helper.

Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...