HALLSVILLE — Dan Pugh is not afraid to try something new.
A year and a half ago, Pugh, now 48, left his job at a medical-equipment company in Columbia and moved with his wife, Laura, and two children to a farm northeast of town.
Pugh and his wife grew up in Kansas City with no experience living and working on a farm.
But, they were interested in food and where it comes from. The more they read, the more they wanted to try the agricultural way of life.
They bought their farm at auction and named it Honey Creek Farm.
“We started reading about food . . . and we said, ‘We can farm on a small scale,’ ” Pugh says, looking out over his greening farm on a warm, cloudy day in early April.
He says he knew starting a farm was a big undertaking, so he focused on starting small, then growing the operation.
“Start as small as you can and grow,” he advises.
Pugh began his sheep herd in 2012 with just a couple head. His farm had no fences, so he had to use temporary electric fencing for rotational grazing.
In these early, whirlwind years, Pugh has tried raising a number of animals and growing crops, looking for what he enjoys and what works best for his farm. He has raised pigs and chickens, selling the eggs at the farmers market in Columbia. He also put up a hoop structure where he grows vegetables he also sells at the farmers market. Laura manages beehives, and Pugh grows cover crops, such as rye, vetch and potatoes.
Pugh recommends others getting started in agriculture experiment to find good fits for their farm, particularly if they are like him.
Pugh credits the University of Missouri’s Beginning Farmers program with helping him learn how to start his operation. The program provided workshops, farm tours and online seminars to help beginning farmers learn and get started.
The program started about the time Pugh and his family were thinking about starting farming, and he says he would not have jumped into farming without it.
“It was perfect timing for us. I can blame it or bless it,” Pugh says with a smile.
Extension associate Debi Kelly says the Missouri Beginning Farmers program secured a three-year federal Beginning Farmers and Ranchers Development Program grant in 2009. In addition to the workshops, farm tours and other educational materials, Kelly says the program put on “Grow Your Farm” classes around the state. These included talks by experts and experienced farmers.
Kelly says the program focuses on helping new farmers learn how to get started and develop a business plan.
Kelly says the Missouri Beginning Farmers program reapplied for the grant in 2012 but did not secure funding. She says they plan to apply again, but in the meantime she is working to remain a resource for beginning farmers by updating the program’s blog (missouribeginningfarming.blogspot.com) and Facebook page and sending out a newsletter.
“We’re still trying to keep the presence there,” Kelly says.
Pugh says it was striking how much time it took to get a new farming operation up and running, and now to grow it.
“I didn’t realize near how much work was involved,” he says.
Still, he says he and his family are happy with their decision. Particularly when the kids are on break from school and the Pughs can share memories with them on their secluded farm.
“The lifestyle is great, especially in the summer,” he says. “(The kids) are here and I’m here.”