It’s February, the month of love, and what better time to move beyond defining creativity (I think we’ve got it covered, don’t you?) to living creativity. Let me introduce to you Kyle and Lauren Rudersdorf!
Kyle and Lauren are a self-described young and enthusiastic, recently betrothed, farming couple and owners of Raleigh’s Hillside Farm, a CSA and market farm in the rolling countryside outside Evansville, Wisconsin. My husband and I met them last summer while touring Soil Sisters, and their love of life and each other was charmingly infectious.
“Kyle and I graduated from the University of Wisconsin in 2011 and 2012 respectively,” says Lauren, who grew up on a farm before moving to Madison for college. “The job market was pretty bleak and Kyle, with his soil science degree, was becoming increasingly discouraged that he would never find a job working in his field and/or outdoors. In turn, I was becoming increasingly enamored with the movement of amazing farmers shifting the way we buy, talk and think about local food. We began toying with the idea of renting land from my parents and trying to grow vegetables for a few years to see where it got us.”
Today, five years later, their 4-acre operation is a parcel of land that’s been in Lauren’s family for three generations. They’re producing enough quality food for 110 families, six area restaurants and one nursing home. In the future they’re looking to add local farmers markets.
“We farm organically which is pretty different from conventional farming,” says Lauren. “We don’t use GMO seeds or synthetic sprays or fertilizers. We rely on cover crop for much of our fertility and weed management. We are really anti-plastic and try to use as much reuseable material on the farm as possible.”
Being a young business, the Rudersdorfs “can’t spend a lot of money getting every fancy thing the farm needs,” as Lauren says. But they make up for it with hard work and innovation. In their ongoing search to grow things better or be more efficient, they’re always reading books, listening to podcasts, attending conferences or talking with other farmers.
“Most of my creativity is inspired by conversations with awesome people,” says Lauren. “It’s probably really different for my husband, who finds most of his stimulation and motivation from nature.”
It’s those conversations with people, her gregarious personality and her love of writing that led Lauren into an expressive means of marketing their farm. In 2015, she started The Leek & The Carrot, a fun lifestyle and cooking blog that shares their life as farmers, travelers and all-around caring people.
“Like all things, my blog has been an evolution,” says Lauren, who also freelances for Edible Madison magazine and finds writing on a regular schedule keeps the creative juices flowing. “Initially, I just wanted to share some words about the farm and our life. Eventually I realized it was a great place to practice my cooking. As a CSA farmer, I think I have to be a good cook. If my members can’t look to me as an expert on how to use the produce then how can they ever expect to become good cooks themselves.”
Besides their business, the Rudersdorfs are busy with off-the-farm jobs, all of which provide skills they bring back to the farm. Kyle works at the nearby Kopke’s Fruit of the Bloom from mid-January through May. Lauren has a hodgepodge of jobs, as she describes, working as part-time manager for Midwest Environmental Advocates, as part-time consultant to FairShare CSA Coalition and as a freelance writer.
So does this seemingly exhausting schedule allow them time for anything else? Like, maybe, a vacation?
“I love to travel!” Lauren says, having recently returned from their trip to Portugal and Iceland. “I’m a social person who feeds off other people and when those people are dramatically different than me, my creativity just goes totally nuts. I love visiting other cultures for that reason. I love to meet people who see the world completely different than me and live with different daily priorities. The next step for us is to visit farms. I can’t wait to see how farmers in other places deal with similar problems or issues that we face.”
Other steps along the way for the Rudersdorfs include expanding their farm business to where Kyle can farm full time and Lauren can cut back on her off-farm employment. They want to share the farm with the community through events, workshops, farm stays and farm tours. And they hope to someday build a home closer to their land and start a family.
You’ve gotta love the enthusiasm of these two, don’t you?
Check out more of Kyle and Lauren at:
- Instagram/raleighshillsidefarm and Instagram/theleekandthecarrot