[Welcome Jenna, from the Flip Flop Barnyard, to our blogging team! You’ll find more posts from Jenna on our website as she shares their stories, journey, and all things homesteading! Here’s a little more about Jenna and her family.]
By Jenna Dooley, Flip Flop Barnyard
I’m often asked why we choose to homestead. People seem to be fascinated with the idea of a small family farm. Well, a small family farm run by a large family of ten. There are so many reasons that we chose homesteading for our family. All of those reasons are anchored by our passion for this lifestyle.
Our homesteading journey began back in October of 2011. Neither Derek nor I had ever lived in a neighborhood before this time in our lives. We moved from the mountains of SW Virginia to a small town on the bay in NW Florida. As we approached the 6 month mark of living there, we began to desire living in the country again. The neighborhood life just wasn’t for us.
Neither of us had farmed before but I grew up with horses and Derek had been raised in the country gardening and preserving food. They also raised chickens from time to time when he was a child. This was the extent of our prior farm experiences.
I have always leaned towards a more natural approach to things in life, but our diet was far from healthy. We definitely weren’t eating a whole foods based diet. As I began to research and learn many things about our broken food and agriculture systems, the desire to do better and live a healthier lifestyle began to stir.
We made some immediate and drastic changes. By that, I mean we threw away almost everything in our kitchen and bought nothing but real food. This meant that we had to drive 2 hours to a store that carried “clean” food that wasn’t processed, ladened with chemicals and was not genetically modified. We also stopped by a farm on our way through to get fresh milk.
As the spring began to approach, we started a small garden in our backyard. This was so exciting! We began to see the fruits of our labor. We wanted to provide fresh, organic food for our family. Growing our own food was the best way to ensure this.
It didn’t take long for us to realize that our dream went far beyond what we could do in that backyard in a neighborhood. We wanted to move to some acreage where we could pasture raise livestock for meat and have our own milk cow. We wanted a large enough garden to provide our family’s produce for an entire year. We also missed home and the mountains.
In May of 2012, we packed up our home in Florida and moved back to Virginia with our (at the time) 5 children in tow. We moved in with my parents with plans to find our own homestead as soon as possible. They were more than happy to have us in their home and were glad for us to stay as long as we needed to. This ended up being much longer than we thought.
My parents had 3 1/4 acres that joined my cousin’s 25 acres. We were able to begin homesteading right where we were. It started with a large garden and a flock of laying hens. This quickly grew to include meat birds, pigs, a family milk cow, and eventually a few heifers for a beef herd.
We spent 4 years living there. We searched high and low for our own farm. We looked at dozens of properties over the years. There were many that we thought would work out but for one reason or another, none of them did. Mostly, banks don’t want to finance old homes on land. When the land out values the home, you just can’t get a loan.
Early in 2016, we started feeling stirred to return to Florida. Only, this time, we would be sure to have land so that we could continue to homestead. There’s way too much involved to go into the details of this here and now. In June of 2016, we made the move as a family of 9. We had to sell off all of our livestock and start over from scratch on a 2 1/2 acre property.
We’ve been in Florida for almost 2 years and our farm here includes a garden, laying hens, milk goats, grass fed steers, pastured pigs, meat chickens, and bees. We’ve also added our 8th child while living here.
We don’t know what life holds for us long term, but we have some big dreams. Our goal is to have more land and raise pastured livestock to sell. We want to continue to raise as much of our own food as possible and to provide our community with that as well.
This is our story, how we began homesteading. It truly is our passion and the life we want our children to know and love. We want to leave them a legacy full of faith and hope. One that will show them that you can follow your dreams and succeed. Pursue your passions and flourish doing what you love with the people you love.
Jenna is a busy wife and a mom to eight kids. She’s an author, homesteader, homemaker, and homeschooler. She’s very passionate about organic gardening, and naturally raising livestock. You can find her on her blog and YouTube channel, The Flip Flop Barnyard.
Find more of Jenna’s posts here.