About the Family
Santiago and Karen met in central New York in the 90’s; Karen was raising organic vegetables on a mutual friend’s farm where Santi had onced lived. Santi moved on and wound up in North Alabama, and they reconnected when Karen moved south years later. She fell for Santi when he talked about living in a circus tent on a farm, plus she fell for his two cute kids, Yuli and Sofia.
Eventually they moved to the farm in Hartselle (with a house), had one more cute kid, Margarita. The land was mainly neglected hayfields of broomsedge and briars, plus piles of bulldozed fencelines, brush, and even some cars. Santi and Karen both have full-time jobs: Santiago drives a fire truck for the City of Huntsville, and Karen is a soil scientist and organic farming consultant that works around the southeast. They have been slowly working to improve the farm, setting up a rotational grazing system with fencing and waterers for the cows, building chicken coops and a new barn, planting perennial fruit and nut trees, and establishing an organic vegetable garden with a high tunnel. (Many thanks to the NRCS EQIP program for helping with cost share!) They are constantly experimenting and evaluating what works.
There is still a lot to do. The soils were poor and are improving, but need even more work. There is never an end to fine-tuning crop and livestock production in a way that improves the agroecosystem by balancing pests with natural enemies, improving the soil with on-farm inputs like compost and manure,
and finding a good balance of plants and animals that work well together. Also, Santi is building a quincho (keen-cho), an Argentinian gathering and grilling place, to better enjoy and share the good food we are raising.
We raise a variety of crops and animals on the farm. There are so many great philosophies of sustainable production to choose from – permaculture, holistic management, organic, biointensive, biodynamic. We are working to develop the best system for our farm, which includes integrating practices like perennial plantings, compost teas and fertilizers, biodiversity for pest management and wildlife habitat, rotational grazing, crop rotation, and cover cropping.