Living Off the Land
The Go-Getter: Rose Godfrey, 42, speech pathologist and farmer
Got Started in: Marysville, California
The Goal : To return to nature
The Gain : Cut $160 weekly grocery bill by two thirds, forged new bonds with family
I still remember the moment in June 2008 when I looked at my appointments book and thought, Wow. I have only two clients all month. I started my speech pathology practice in 1998 and gradually grew the business to 13 employees in three different offices. But by last year, people weren’t paying for speech therapy the way they had been. For one thing, the insurance companies were tightening their belts, even denying reimbursement retroactively. I cut my own pay by 20 percent because I didn’t want to let anyone on my staff go. My husband, Brian, who had worked in military intelligence for 22 years before staying home with our kids, tried to rejoin the workforce. But there were no jobs in his field. His job had been to process film from spy planes—it’s a very niche profession.
We have 11 children in all, from 25 years to six months, although our oldest four are already on their own. But we couldn’t live on anything less than what we were making. We’ve always been interested in food safety and in teaching the kids where their food comes from. We love fresh vegetables from small farms. I’d raised chickens while growing up in nearby Yuba City. So we wondered, What if we started farming?
We began with two pigs. When a local farmer suggested we get laying hens because there was a market for fresh eggs, our plan came together. Brian built coops with wheels so that we could move our chickens around on fresh grass over our seven acres of land. We acquired more animals. It was scary and stressful. What if no one bought anything?
But people did buy. The local farmer took eggs to sell to his customers, and today he purchases about 20 dozen a week from us. At farmers’ markets in Yuba City, we sell out completely, earning $250 to $500 in a day. I once spent $160 a week on groceries; now I spend just $40 to $50 a week. Next year, the farm should gross about $40,000.
The children help out, which is crucial because our menagerie today includes 270 laying hens and 200 chickens. Sixteen-year-old Alyona waters and feeds the hens. Nine-year-old Bella, seven-year-old Sophia, and six-year-old Olivia milk the dairy goats and put out feed and water.
The speech therapy business is still alive, but I put in less than ten hours a week. I don’t know what the future holds. I do know that on the farm, there is life, there is physically satisfying work, and our family has bonded. Our quality of life is so much better. I spend most of the day with my children, which I’m grateful for, and at night, I have the good feelings that come from working with my hands and doing something positive.