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Motts hope to operate a farm that requires only the labor of family members and find that their sons are reliable help.

A New Farm in a New State for New Farmers

Mott Shares his Wisdom.

Start out with little debt and keep your debt low. Select decent land with decent soil that is affordable to you. Expect to sacrifice for the first three to five years and anticipate that years 6 – 10 will be more comfortable. We need healthy food. We need many more small farms. There are deeply satisfying rewards that result from starting a family farm enterprise.

Jeff Mott of Mott Family Farm in east central Ohio is excited and enthusiastic about his and his family’s future as farmers. Jeff has no regret about leaving the rat race in 2004, moving the family from California and buying an Ohio farm. He and his wife Shelley are committed to defining a workable scale for their farm business developed by well-managed growth, which both allow the children to grow up loving to farm and allow the family to travel and relax during the winter. Farming only since 2005, Jeff acknowledges they are still working out the quality of life issues.

To increase the sustainability of their farm, Jeff made many changes that result from his participation in Wisdom in the Land.

Resources. Jeff is very intent on bringing the soils of the family farm to life, building fertility. He has done three soil tests to determine the quality of soil on different areas of the farm including a young orchard. In spring 2008 he planted his first cover crops but found that he either needs better equipment or greater proficiency to use the equipment. He is learning more above cover crops and in fall 2008 will plant cover crops, expecting a huge impact on soil fertility. Jeff is developing a system and schedule by which to manage his cover crop practices. Jeff is reading about soil minerals. The Mott Family Farm operates completely off the grid, on solar power since the spring of 2007 and with plans to add wind energy sources in the fall of 2008. An existent cistern catches rainwater off the barn, a resource Jeff now uses after purifying the cistern using 35% hydrogen peroxide. The water is used for the animals and to irrigate greenhouse plants. Recently Jeff started a compost pile of manure bedding from his barns and will evaluate the quality of the resulting compost. Jeff thinks of his 11- and 8-year old sons as his reliable help but also hired a seasonal full-time employee. This arrangement created even more stress for Jeff when the employee took another job and left two months earlier than expected. Like many farmers, Jeff turned to the children of neighboring families for part-time help to keep up with all the work. Jeff ’s wife is a strong advocate for scaling the farm to a level that requires the management and labor of only family members. Jeff enjoys building relationships with other farmers but such opportunities are most realistic with those at the local farmers’ market and the local Amish farmers rather than like-minded farmers operating far away from his farm. Most farmers around Jeff farm conventionally and are not necessarily supportive of his business approach.

Production. Starting with vegetables and pastured livestock for the family only, Jeff recently planted 100 blueberry shrubs to add to the 140 fruit trees that were in the orchard. His approach is that of permaculture, a word coined in 1978 by Bill Mollison, an Australian ecologist, and one of his students, David Holmgren. It is a contraction of “permanent agriculture” or “permanent culture.” Permaculture is the harmonious integration of landscape and people providing their food, energy, shelter, and other material and non-material needs in a sustainable way. It is also the conscious design and maintenance of agriculturally productive ecosystems which have the diversity, stability and resilience of natural ecosystems.

Jeff is also committed to biodiversity, therefore seeks to introduce and attract numerous and a various organisms. Raspberries and currants were planted among the fruit trees. Plants reliant on beneficial insects for pollination will be introduced and similarly, hedge rows and wild flowers, including many native species, will be maintained. Jeff was amazed by the number of non-honey bee pollinators and the rate of pollination that occurred in the spring of 2008. As Jeff learned more about soil minerals he was able to better care for his goats when he enlarged their fenced area from 1/2 to 5 acres. He now supplements pasture feed with sea salt, kelp, diatomaceous earth, and probiotics and goats fed in this manner produced four strong and healthy kids this past spring.

Business. Jeff’s experiences are that he can sell everything they grow, so his profitability plan includes increasing productivity, which is why improving soil fertility is a central goal. When he started to farm, Jeff grew whatever interested him. With the help of a mentor, he began to see the wisdom of a holistic farm plan through which he would define how to use the land to make money not just for self-enjoyment. To reduce debt and the stress it creates, the Motts are selling a 20-acre parcel and may sell an additional 10-12 acres to people who want to farm sustainably. Jeff serves 35 families through a Community Supported Agriculture (CSA) operation; he goes to two farmers’ markets, and also drives 90 miles to sell to seven restaurants. He was one of several farmers who sold for one day at farmers’ market set up at the Ohio State Fair. A Columbus-area country club asked if Jeff would do a one-day market on their site for their members. Jeff is exploring the interest of two area farmers to do cooperative marketing to reach major markets. The market for organic produce and fruit is limited in the county in which they farm.

Contact Information:

Jeff and Shelley Mott

Mott Family Farm
66125 Raymond Rd.
Salesville, OH 43778

Guernsey County


Jeff Mott and his wife Shelley purchased 110 acres in a county considerable distance from a major market. As a full-time farmer, Jeff raises pastured livestock for family use and since 2005 on just two acres grows fruit, berries, vegetables, and greens for market. Major crops include lettuce and greens, 15 varieties of potatoes, 70 varieties of heirloom tomatoes, 5 varieties of garlic, onions, peaches, apples, blackberries, and raspberries.