I own a dance studio and my usual weekly schedule is around 70 hours a week working 6-7 days a week. To say I’m slightly out of balance in my work/leisure life would be an understatement. Now I have agreed to do one more thing, and it can’t take away from my other things. How will I do that? I must multitask like a BEAST. Which I’m proficient at, usually.
Let me introduce myself. I am Ann. A 50 year old wife, mother, and entrepreneur with 1 business going on 30 years, a farm going 121 years, and a start up farm based product line going on 10 months. I love people, I love my career, I want another challenge. Crazy right? Well let me tell you about all of it.
I was formerly a professional dancer, had a baby at a ridiculously young age, and my life took a different direction. I had to figure out a way to raise a child and make her my focus, so that meant changing my path in life. So I thought. I carried an enormous class load in college to finish quickly. I also supported us teaching dance at a studio as a side job. I was 19 when I did that. 19. Too young and dumb to even think about how am I going to finish college, be a mom, be who I want to be and pay the electric bill? Did I mention I also cooked in a truck stop? Again not only did the electric bill need paid, so did the rent. I was poor. I could have been on every government program invented. Poor. I was too proud to get on any kind of government assistance. . So why not work 2 jobs, and pick up house and babysitting jobs on the weekends? Because I could take my infant with me, and my pride would keep me going and fed. So my youthful ignorance told me.
I’ve arrived. At 21, I have a teaching position and everything should be so much better now. I’m a legitimate adult and young mother. Well, it wasn’t easier or better. I unleashed my creativity on a class full of second graders and had the best 2 years guiding them through the ins and outs of cooking, reading and the presidential election of 92. My class was noisy, my kids were happy and I was a young know it all teacher who didn’t fit in and didn’t help myself fit in because I was insensitive to the experienced teachers around me. With youth and survival of some tough times came the self perception of “ I know so much.” I have so much knowledge to offer in all my 21 years of living. What do these people that have taught for 10 plus years truly know!? I have fresh, new, innovative ideas to offer. I obviously thought I would accomplish so much because I knew life and had new, improved ways to plant nuggets of knowledge into young minds and make them flourish and thrive. I was in many ways my own worst enemy. But I discovered I loved teaching and I loved kids. Of all ages. They are a riot. I also discovered that I need to create my own path with my own rules, and not follow someone else’s. Teaching public school did not last long.
My husband, Dave, came along during my first teaching gig. We saw each other at a gas station slightly before Thanksgiving in 1991. Dave’s friend worked there and each of us wound up asking said friend about each other. She set us up on a blind date. We got married in July of ‘92 and still haven’t killed each other. Life is a total adventure with this man. His family had a century farm and he milked cows, did row crops, and was your usual farm boy. He was, and is, an amazing father and husband. He is the one who encouraged me to start my own business and has been with me every step of the way over the 28 years I have had my dance studio. To say we are “jump in the deep end and swim” kind of people is an understatement. We are “sail a boat into a hurricane and grit a knife between our teeth and ride the storm out” people. We are risk takers.
Leaving teaching was a decision Dave and I made together. I had always taught private dance lessons on a small scale. I had also done choreography for different programs. Leaving a secure paycheck with the school district and starting my own dance program at 22 was a leap of faith. So was the dance studio an overnight success? Heck no. I again worked many side jobs to make both ends meet. I did this for years. I also faced multiple health issues during the first 15 years of our marriage that might have ended most marriages. Dave is a rock. For all his inappropriate, irreverent humor. He is the man I would walk through fire for. Why? Because he lets me be me. He takes pride in my brain, my ambition and is right there with me telling me I can do it. He wholeheartedly supported me starting my own business. That’s rare. He also says if I get rid of him the alimony payments will break me. We have both worked very hard to define our marriage, and build a life together that works for us. Some days work better than other days. But again, alimony is not an option, it would cut into my shoe budget.
David is an only child of only children and we have an only child. His parents are both deceased. I am from a big family full of loud men, and I was the only girl. How do 2 people stay together? Hang on to a farm in an agricultural wasteland? Maintain a dance studio that has survived a devastating recession? Be so completely different in personalities? And decide to start a NEW agricultural adventure and throw everything we have into it? Love, Faith and true gamblers hearts, mixed in with bat shit crazy.
My husband is one of the smartest men I know. He’s well read and has an appetite for a variety of things. He is a visionary. He loves researching new and innovative ways to farm. He has always been obligated to take care of his parents with the pressure to do things traditionally. Even if the expected way to farm was possibly the road to bankruptcy. 5 years ago he and I had a random conversation about alternatives to traditional medicine. I was looking at CBD oil for my migraines and body aches. I was concerned because most over the counter CBD came from China and had so many metals and ground chemicals. How could I get my hands on some clean CBD?
At the same time I was searching for answers to alleviate my migraines, Dave had decided to take a risk and plant 10 acres of elderberries. If we had a market to sell them, the profit margin per acre was incredible. The up-front cost was high, but the crop yield and potential for maintaining our farm was greater than continuing with traditional crops. We had to do something other than how we had been doing things, which was a slow train to selling everything. We had to reinvent our farm, and how we could sustain it into the next century. So we did.
Then he got to truly researching elderberries. The University of Missouri Research Center had done a 25 year study on elderberries and the potential to create a domestic, profitable crop in our area was huge. The properties that make up elderberries, its health benefits and its history in natural remedies sparked a fire in Dave Buehler. His thought was why not repurpose our dairy barn and create our own market for our elderberries? If we create our own market and find other farmers to grow elderberries for us as our product lines grow, then we help other small farms diversify their crops. A vision for the future was imagined. Building an emerging crop, creating a line of products that are good for people (and the Earth!) that are locally sourced while creating a community of growers to supply our vision. What’s not to love, except now there is really no additional free time in the day!
My interest in CBD/ Hemp and its health properties did not lessen. I wanted to grow this crop. I wanted to see what it would take to get a permit to grow it. The only program available was the medical CBD for epilepsy program. The state granted 2 permits and both were filled. I was disheartened. But, the wave of people wanting THC from medical marijuana had also revived the interest in hemp and the greater picture of the cannabis plant. From industrial fibers, to medicine, to plastics, to fueling our vehicles with industrial hemp fuel! With the slow movement across the US of legalizing marijuana has come federal legalization of industrial hemp. We spent the last 4 years going to hemp conventions, attending meetings on legalizing marijuana, and learning as much as possible. Learning the ins and outs of this new possibility for us as farmers. We are hopeful that our recent application to grow Hemp will be approved.
The creation of Elder Farms is the product of these 2 goals. We took the things that we loved about hemp and elderberries and decided to create a line of products based around them. It has been a lot of trial and error. A lot. We went through thousands of dollars of CBD oil that we had 3rd party tested, and purchased from a farm bill compliant farm. We worked to create an elderberry/CBD tincture. Learning the right science to bind our products and stay true to our vision of not using synthetics or chemicals was a huge learning curve. Then we expanded our horizons and decided to start a bee apiary!
This last year has brought many things. Growth, heartache, questioning sanity, and another serious health scare. We rolled into 2020 grateful for the lessons we learned, still questioning sanity, and grateful for second chances at improved health. We also have built a small community of loyal followers that encourage and support our vision and believe in our mission.
So, back to why I’m blogging. Because this is a roller coaster ride. My family wants to share it, and maybe we will inspire others, connect with someone who shares our mission, or just document this journey. I have lots to share, and lots to say that I probably shouldn’t. Stay tuned…..
Credits on Instagram
Hair @somerw, @paigeroberson_hair
Location @buehlerorganics @elderfarms