A reflection on our first day as Hat & Heart Farm.
Two years ago today, May 22nd, 2019 the passing of the baton occurred between father and son. After 49 years of farming, Bradley’s father handed him the reigns of the family’s working vegetable farm. We all signed a lease agreement, between his parents and our newly formed LLC and then it happened. The handing over of the money box. A small steal container with a lock and key we took to every market.
His father stood on one side of the four-wheeler and Bradley on the other, and with the handing over of the money box, the farm and all of its responsibilities were transferred.
JW Ottmers, Oma & Opa's Farm May 2019
I remember how anticlimactic it was. How plain it was. And when his parents went back inside the house. We looked at each other... in silence for a moment. And then sobbing. Deep, hard crying came from the man sitting on the four-wheeler, holding this money box in his hands. It felt like nothing had changed yet everything had changed. Deep in his heart he didn’t think his parents believed he could do it.
Five generations of farming before him. He wasn't about to mess that up.
Katherine and Bradley, Hat & Heart Farm May 2019
At the very beginning we had one unpaid part-time intern who didn’t have a drivers’ license or a car and lived over 2 hours away. He did have an interest in agriculture and that’s all we needed. We bought a vintage camper for him to stay in so we weren’t driving every night. He loved it. We learned a lot. At that time we had four or five really consistent restaurant accounts in Austin and attended 3 markets a week: Wednesdays, Saturdays, and Sundays.
One week we hung the Oma and Opa’s Farm sign and stewarded the precious money box and the next week we hung the Hat & Heart Farm sign up and owned the money box. We started the LLC with $2000 in the account. Everything from that day on was funded entirely by cashflow.
The old tractor broke down 2 months after the money box exchange. It's still in the shop. We've had many highs and many lows in two short years. Over the holidays last year, together with members of our team, we cleaned out 27,000 lbs of trash from the old barn so we could make it a useable working space.
Today, on our two year anniversary, Bradley’s parents no longer live in the old farmhouse and seem to be enjoying retirement. We have had 12 different employees (7 are current) and one candidate interview is scheduled for next week. We have 32 restaurant relationships. Our eggs travel to homes in all major cities in Texas. We have a successful Farm Club with 2 pick-up locations and attend two farmers markets. We’ve spoken at two conferences, and have attended five. We’ve expanded our library and love reading books and learning from other farmers.
Our dreams for the future are extensive. And tonight as the rain pours outside and the barn is actually flooding as I write this, it reminds me of that deep dark cry Bradley had that day. The cry that thought his family didn’t believe in him and doubted that he could do it. The cry that didn’t feel supported or encouraged.
We’ve been through three particularly trying events in the past two years but have not cried quite that hard since. This rain reminds me of those tears. The tears he let out to make room for the growth we were about to take on.