Dugger Family Farm Chosen for National Farmers Union’s Beginning Farmers Institute
Sherri and Randy Dugger (no, not like the Duggars from TV) moved from the city to country literally living now in Morristown. They started a farm she describes as “part unofficial animal rescue, part farm store and 100% home.” And now, they’ve been chosen to take part in the National Farmers Union Beginning Farmers Institute (BFI).
What exactly is the BFI? Sherri Dugger gave me the rundown on it and all of the cool things happening at the farm.
Edible Indy: What do you hope to gain from the Beginning Farmers Institute?
Sherri Dugger: The Beginning Farmers Institute is a major perk of being a member of the Indiana Farmers Union. The institute serves many purposes: to help beginning farmers learn and network with other new and established farmers; to create future leaders for the Indiana Farmers Union and for the National Farmers Union; and to support the three-pronged mission of the Indiana Farmers Union and National Farmers Union, which is to provide legislative, educational and cooperative support to family farmers. We hope to meet and learn from new and existing farmers around the country, to find innovative methods for growing our small farm business and supporting the local food scene, and to develop our leadership abilities so that we might put what we learn to use within the Indiana Farmers Union here at home. We are hoping to develop as small farmers and as farm leaders within the state on behalf of the Indiana Farmers Union.
EI: And how do you think participating in the BFI will affect what you do on the farm?
SD: I had another farmer who attended the Beginning Farmers Institute tell me that the institute changed her life. This came from a farmer in Wisconsin whom I greatly admire for all she’s doing with her property there. I believe this institute will help us to hone in on and further clarify our goals, provide insight and instruction on achieving those goals and arm us with the knowledge and skills we need to support other Indiana family farmers and promote our state's farmers union.
EI: On your website, you describe the farm as "part unofficial animal rescue, part farm store, and 100% home." Can you elaborate a little on each?
SD: Dugger Family Farm is home to Randy and I, as well as to Randy’s grown sons — my stepsons — Reese and Caden, when they visit. It is also home to all of our animals. We purchased the property in 2012 and have been working since to restore the residence, the barns and buildings, and the land to make it a place where we can all live and thrive. We took in two alpacas as fosters and have since officially adopted them. They came to us from a nearby alpaca/llama rescue. Our seven goats are all boys. Most male goats are sold at market to be processed as food, but we took in these goats simply to give them a comfortable place to live out their years. We have 13 cats that live with us on this property, as well as an Australian shepherd named Adelle. We also keep five honeybee hives, providing water and housing for the bees. We don’t use any of their honey, and the bees repay us for the hospitality by pollinating our gardens. We also have a compost bin that serves as home to hundreds of red wiggler worms, which we occasionally transplant to our gardens for help with fertilization there. The chickens that we keep do provide us with eggs, but as the hens age and stop laying, they are welcome to live out their lives comfortably on our farm. Everyone here is well-fed and happy. We haven’t established ourselves as an official animal rescue, but we will take in animals as money, time and housing allows. We have a small farm store where we sell local foods from approximately 40 food makers and farmers. This store is only one aspect of all that we’re trying to do here on the property, but it contributes to our overall mission of supporting and promoting sustainably raised food systems, local economies and communities, environmental conservation and humane animal practices.
EI: What inspired you to start a farm?
SD: When we moved to the country, we didn’t have a specific plan to start a farm business. We simply wanted to live well and to treat the environment, animals and our neighbors well. We had very simple goals. As time has passed, however, our passions have aligned with opportunities, and you might say we stumbled into officially opening our farm to the public. Randy and I work well together. We come up with ideas and each work to our strengths to pull them off. When we decided to open a farm store, he handled all the physical labor of restoring the one-car garage where the store is housed, while I managed all the paperwork, filed the forms to establish our business, created a website and social media accounts and built relationships with local growers and food distributors. We now live and work with more focus and intent. We eat with respect for what it took to grow our food. We support issues and align ourselves with organizations, like the Indiana Farmers Union and the Humane Society of the United States, which fit our beliefs and ethics. We are also a Snail of Approval honoree with Slow Food Indy, which feels like a great honor for us since we’re so new to running our farm business.
EI: If you could be a farm animal, which one would you be and why?
SD: I don’t care which animal I would be as long as I was a Dugger Family Farm animal — they’re all extremely spoiled! We’ve had a sick chicken living in our living room for the past five weeks.
To learn more about what’s going on at the Dugger Family Farm, hop on over to DuggerFamilyFarm.com or visit the farm in real life. 6559 E. 1200 N. | Morristown.