Getting to know Mo*Se Farm

Seth Ross came to Vermont from Rhode Island to attend UVM. Monika Ankjaer-Jensen came after studying at Virginia Tech to work in the dairy sector breeding cows. The two met on the small dairy farm where Ross works, when he’s not working on their joint endeaver Mo*Se Farm in Orwell. Currently their farm focuses on eggs and roasting chickens, but there’s hope for a “pint-sized dairy farm” on the way.
“In addition to the working landscape, we both love the four seasons,” said Ross in an interview this spring.
Ross and Ankjaer-Jensen recently elaborated on their farming lifestyle.
What inspires you most day-to-day and year-to-year? What are you most optimistic about in your professional/farming capacity?
The land and animals are the inspiration for Mo*Se Farm.  We have 300 laying hens which are a permanent fixture on our farm and then raise an additional 300 or so roasting chickens during the growing season when they can be out on pasture. Raising the flocks and keeping them healthy is a challenge and a joy, bringing us a lot of fulfillment. We move our birds on pasture to spread manure nutrients evenly on our fields and to provide the girls with a continual supply of lush pasture forage. Watching our land’s fertility improve is also wonderful.
What challenges do you face that are both unique to your specific operation as well as shared with other farming operations in the state?
Our largest challenge is our inexperience. I stared raising chickens and milking cows in 2011.  Neither of us grew up farming, so when things aren’t going right the farm can feel daunting. But then the sun comes out again and it all clicks that this is what we’re supposed to be doing.
Challenges we share with other producers include nutrient management, so that we help maintain good water quality within our watershed. Also, the threat of High Path Avian Influenza is always on our minds during the migratory bird season.  We pasture our chickens and always will, but we have definitely changed parts of our system to lower our risk.  
What does your ideal food system look like? How does it differ from your experience of our current food system? 
In the ideal food system everyone’s a farmer and we can all just raise our own food and live in peace — right?!  In the realistically ideal food system, I’d like to see it become much more regional and localized.  
The idea that milk produced on our great farms here might be powdered and sent to China next month is a little crazy.  I’d like to see all the milk produced in the Northeast stay in the Northeast and for that to be reflected in the price paid to farmers.  I’d like to see more direct consumer-to-farm interaction for farms of our scale. 
Do you have any advice or shared wisdom for other young farmers thinking of a career in local farming? 
If you want to farm, then do it! Really do it. Go work somewhere for at least a year, maybe just for room and board, and see if you’re cut out for the work. Farming is a lifestyle. You have to be comfortable with being in one place and working on your own, even when the work might try to break you. 
Anything else you’d like to add?
Wrapping up I just want to say that farmers need to stick together. As fewer people farm, fewer people understand just what farms are and how they operate. I love all agriculture. It is the base of our entire civilization. 
For consumers, visit farms and buy directly from producers. It is the best way to understand food and what is going on down at the farm.

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