As Mark Trapp fills the feeder for laying hens at 6:30 a.m., the young farmer thinks of his 7-week-old daughter who’s still soundly asleep as the day breaks.
“Especially now, having Nora, I want to be able to leave this land for her,” he says.
Farming was never the path Mark expected to travel when he met his now-wife, Emily. After reading Michael Pollan’s The Omnivore’s Dilemma, he realized his concerns about energy use aligned with his growing disillusionment with the state of agriculture. In 2012, Mark and Emily leased their 30-acre farm in Peninsula.
They adopted a method similar to the one outlined in the book, where animals are rotated behind each other for natural composting instead of using tractors. Twice daily, Mark meticulously moves each chicken, cow and pig pen across the farm inches at a time. It sets the land up for planting crops such as chickpeas, beans, rye and oats, which they sell through a CSA and weekly markets.
“It’s working toward mimicking nature, and nature has a lot figured out,” he says. “If the soil’s healthy, the plants are going to be healthy, the animals are going to be healthy and the community is going to be healthy.”
Every day, Mark faces the learning curve of running a farm while balancing a family. When they were just starting, Emily would be up in the middle of the night checking on chicks. They now have daily conversations about why a pea crop isn’t working. In spare moments, they have to be their own marketing team. And, above all, parents.
“It’s never 9-to-5,” Mark says. “It’s whenever an animal has a need, you do your best to meet that need.”
To justify the hours, Mark paraphrases novelist and farmer Wendell Berry, who said big problems aren’t solved by big solutions. The Trapp Family Farm is starting small.
“I’m hoping, over our lifetime, that new farmers are going to start their own farms,” he says. “I’m an optimist. I think you have to be to be a farmer.” 1019 W. Streetsboro Road, Peninsula, 330-657-2844, facebook.com/trappfamilyfarm