Country acreages offer benefits of wide open spaces with the convenience of close proximity to neighboring towns. For Johnathan and Leah Hladik, the opportunity to live in the country is the perfect lifestyle.

Although they each make a commute to work — Leah to Fremont and Johnathan to Lyons — coming home to the country each night provides them the space to practice “meaningful hobbies.”

Through gardening and raising livestock, they aim to utilize the space they have for producing and stewarding the land. And they say it doesn’t take much for country wannabes to get started on their own acreage dream.

Everyone has to start somewhere

Leah and Johnathan emphasize that it’s not difficult to get started gardening or raising livestock. Although neither grew up with much experience tending to animals or gardens, they learned agricultural skills while living in Vermont.

“That was our first hands-on exposure to it,” Johnathan said. They were able to learn from farmers they met at their local cooperative, and gained experience by living on others’ farms and helping with chores.

Johnathan additionally remembers early years of youth when his family had a small farm. Johnathan’s first chore was to water the sheep. “It was so much fun,” he said. Fond memories encouraged his desire to raise livestock on an acreage.

Although Leah didn’t grow up on a farm, “I was interested in providing,” she said. Leah had been interested in raising chickens and subsistence gardening. Having around 10 acres to plant and raise new life is a lifestyle Leah has found fulfilling.

Produce to eat, sell

The economics of small-scale farming makes sense for the Hladiks. Eating farm-fresh food helps keep food costs down.

“It’s a very satisfying hobby,” Leah said, “being able to eat what we grow and produce, and provide for others.

“We do a lot of preserving, so that gets us through the winter with squash and canned sauces,” she said. “We eat a lot of fresh food out of the garden during the summer.”

Johnathan and Leah raise eggs, chicken and pigs to sell locally through the Nebraska food co-op. Raising turkeys to sell is their newest venture.

“We thought we’d try something different,” Leah said.

Last year they had raised ducks and decided to make the switch to turkeys in response to local market demand. And, raising a different animal presents new challenges.

“It’s been a lot of fun to get to know a different animal,” Johnathan said. “You’d think a chicken and a turkey and a duck would be similar, but they’re quite different.”

Being independent

The Hladiks attest that living in the country provides for them greater independence and control over their lives.

Johnathan said he finds meaning in taking care of life that depends on him.

“It’s nice to provide that, to nurture, to steward,” he said. “Stewardship is a satisfying concept.”

On their acreage, Johnathan and Leah practice organic methods of growing their garden and raising livestock.

“We’ve never even thought about doing it any other way,” Johnathan said.

Living on the farm provides them the opportunity to turn their skills and passions into an economic generator.

“You need a hobby and you need entertainment, and it makes sense to make a hobby something that is economically relevant,” Johnathan said.

Work with what you have

Leah and Johnathan focus on using the space they have to maximize what they have. Scale is important.

“Regular people grow gardens small scale on a level that works for them,” Leah said.

Whether it’s a small square in a backyard or a substantial amount of acres, they say the trick lies in making the most of what resources are present.

Their prerogative is to use what they have in a way that maximizes their benefits and takes care of the land.

“I think about how I can best use the space I have with limited resources,” Johnathan said. “I have grass and pasture. How can I maximize that resource?”

For them, it meant choosing foraging livestock like pigs and turkeys.

The country way

For Johnathan and Leah, being in the county provides independence, variety, and opportunities to more closely study the world in which they live. It involves a deep connection to the land and close attention to the new life they tend to on the farm.

The adventure of living on an acreage was one they were inspired to start years ago and now, after having their own acreage, have come to love. For the Hladiks, it’s not the geographic space alone that’s enchanting. It’s how they live that brings fulfillment to their time on an acreage.

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