Maintaining your passion to turn dreams into reality - with Darby Springs Farm

Today marks the first day of our Unwrapped Campaign, a crowdfunding campaign to raise funds for a wrapping machine! There have been so many supporters and friendships throughout the years that brought me to this point and I am eternally grateful to all that have helped in this journey of turning my dream into a reality.

Over the years, I have reflected on the process of growing my small business and I have asked myself time and time again - how is it possible to turn a dream into a reality? Unlike smaller tasks and goals, often our dreams take time to realize. And in our contemporary culture, our attention span and patience is tested; whilst pursuing our dreams we still have bills to pay, we must weigh other opportunities that present themselves, and there are so many decisions to make along the way, both big and small. With the odds stacked against us, its amazing to me when dreams are realized! Fortunately for us all, there are others pursuing their dreams too, and we can use their leadership, experience and wisdom to guide us on our own journeys. I know I certainly have! And while I am still in the process (perhaps we're always in "the process"?) of pursuing my dreams and making them a reality, I am grateful to those who've forged a path and shown me that it is possible.

Since I moved to Omaha in 2011, I've had the pleasure of knowing Crystal and William Powers of Darby Springs Farm in Ceresco, Nebraska. William, who also serves as the executive director of the Nebraska Sustainable Agriculture Society, and Crystal, who works for the University of Nebraska at Lincoln, are good food advocates through and through. Aside from their "day jobs", they also manage a small family farm, raise their two boys, and seek to make the local food scene increasingly vibrant. 

Over the years, I have watched as Crystal and William pursued their dreams of building an on-farm micro-creamery at their farm. As I've grown my own small business over the years, I've sourced a great deal of inspiration from their persistence, perseverance, and success as they've worked for years to make their dream a reality. Through crowdfunding, local foods grants and a lot of sweat equity, the Powers have been creative in their process. Last month, I was thrilled to see their brand new micro-creamery at its' grand opening - a true success story!

As I embark on my very own crowdfunding campaign to invest in my business, I thought it quite appropriate to take a minute and talk with Crystal about the ever-looming question I have - How do you maintain passion when your dream takes a long time to realize?  I hope you enjoy Crystal's insights as much as I have - and I hope that it reminds you that turning your dreams into a reality is possible! 

Among other things, two of my personal favorite products that William and Crystal make with their farm-fresh ingredients are their vanilla ice cream and their dulce de leche sauce - photo courtesy of Darby Springs Farm

Among other things, two of my personal favorite products that William and Crystal make with their farm-fresh ingredients are their vanilla ice cream and their dulce de leche sauce - photo courtesy of Darby Springs Farm

What was the initial motivation for you to pursue your own small food business?
Crystal: I grew up with a deep sense of inherent value for all of creation and that we each have a God-given purpose in life, taught through my parents example. My dad was one of the instigators to bring Joal Salatin to rural Nebraska in 1995 and helped my brother and I launch a direct market pastured poultry business that was our summer job throughout high school and helped my grandparents transition their beef herd to a rotational grazing system. However, I didn't think food and farming would be any more than a hobby until I had an 'ah-ha' moment in Chuck Francis' class on Agroecology (2004).  His class connected the dots between my love of nature, farming, and rural places and helped me see how I could make a difference though a new way forward in agriculture.

The cows at Darby Springs Farm are 100% grass fed and milked seasonally starting in late spring and milking through the end of the year.  They raise Guernsey cows, a heritage breed that is known for their high cream milk and ability to put extra vitamin A into the milk, giving the milk a beautiful golden color. Photo of Glenda the cow, courtesy of Darby Springs Farm

The cows at Darby Springs Farm are 100% grass fed and milked seasonally starting in late spring and milking through the end of the year.  They raise Guernsey cows, a heritage breed that is known for their high cream milk and ability to put extra vitamin A into the milk, giving the milk a beautiful golden color. Photo of Glenda the cow, courtesy of Darby Springs Farm

What are your guiding principals?
Crystal: During my graduate studies in Sustainable Agriculture, I was introduced to the work of many of the pioneers in sustainable agriculture and a wonderful culture of local community and farms around Ithaca, NY.  Two key influences were Wendell Berry to inspired us to return to Nebraska and make in difference in "our little place on Earth" and Joel Salatin who inspired up to "just start DOING something, even if it is small, no matter where you are."

When did you initially have the idea to open your micro-creamery? What were some of the steps along the way that helped you get where you are today?
Crystal: As we came back to Nebraska in the fall of 2007, we started to refine what our farm would look like, and leaned into our family history for inspiration: William has a long history of dairy and I came back to my roots in pastured poultry and beef.  So we started working, learning, networking, and seeking 'our place on Earth'. Finally in fall of 2009 we found a place and, based on Salatin's advice, we picked a focal enterprise with dairy and then filled around it with complimentary enterprises based on Permaculture and Holistic Management methods.  However, our goal was do it with minimal debt, which meant we were working full time and growing the farm slowly. This let us build it more organically and make the inevitable mistakes smaller, and mange the steep learning curve for direct marketing and sustainable agriculture.  We knew from the beginning that eventually we would need to take the 'big leap' and build a milking parlor and creamery, but the timing was uncertain.  Kids came and finally I felt like we got the green light in 2014.

William and Crystal, featured in the local Wahoo Newspaper for pursuing their dream - talk about good news!

William and Crystal, featured in the local Wahoo Newspaper for pursuing their dream - talk about good news!

We'd known we wanted to make ice cream because it brought together the dairy, eggs, fruit, and nuts we'd been growing on our farm, plus I grew up loving homemade ice cream made with my mom every summer. I still remember the taste of that sweet cream and peaches and the love of family surrounding me at those summer celebrations.  So I wrote the full business plan to allow us to share those moments with our community.  I started the building design and we launched our crowdfunding that fall.  Winter brought the start of working on our loan and building approvals, which were not finalized for another nearly two years. Finally started building in December 2016 and pulled everything together for a Grand Opening August of 2017!

Aside from conventional loans and producer grants, William and Crystal raised an initial $10k through a crowdfunding campaign via Barnraiser.com

Aside from conventional loans and producer grants, William and Crystal raised an initial $10k through a crowdfunding campaign via Barnraiser.com

What has helped you achieve your goals?
Crystal: What guided me all along the way and provided the resolve and hope to continue was the assurance of found through faith and prayer.  I would not have been able to keep on through the long stretches of uncertainty and risk without it. Our faith assures us that God has a plan for each of us even before we were born and that if God is with us, who can be against us. Our task is to seek out what that purpose is for our life and trust the rest to God.  My main principle is to be a part of God's redeeming work in our world. This gives me a guiding vision that we spelled out in our Holistic Goals. And then the daily focus becomes: what do I do TODAY to work towards those goals.  

What has been the most exciting part of this adventure?
Crystal: The most exciting pieces for me are the little things: seeing the calves run in the fields, the number of flowers grow and seeing how many butterflies and bees buzz around, people's face light up when they experience GOOD food.

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Each of us, as unique individuals find inspiration, motivation and passion from different sources. It's what keeps our world a more interesting and vibrant place. As I've pursued my own dreams (made real through Snowshoe Candy Co.), there have been moments of uncertainty matched with moments of pure bliss. At the end of the day, I share in Crystal's excitement, of the wonder of intentional food, the environment that supports it, and the people that enjoy it.

Thank you Crystal, for taking the time to share your story! For more information on William and Crystal's farm, visit: DarbySprings.com or find them on Facebook and Instagram @darbyspringsfarm

To support our campaign, visit www.iFundWomen.com/projects/snowshoe-unwrapped

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