L&A Family Farms

Our Story

Our Story is really God's story for our lives, and to better understand our story I need to start by telling my story.  My name is Brian Lau and my story and my original farm has morphed into L&A Family Farms.  I grew up in Ramsey, a small town in south central Illinois.  My parents were both school teachers and as a kid we spent most of the summer with my grandparents in Paris, IL.  My grandparents had a small 10 acre farm, where currently Andrea, my kids, and myself now call home.  They originally had a small dairy with Jersey cows, but all I can remember were a few beef cows, laying hens, and a large garden.  My grandpa loved to garden and he took great pride in it. This small farm provided our families with our own beef, eggs, and fresh vegetables. In the late summer months I can remember mom and grandma canning and preserving a lot of the food we ate in the winter.

When you were a kid growing up, you often thought of what you wanted to be in the future.  There were three things that I wanted to do.  One of the things I wanted to do was work at and manage a state park.  I wanted to build campsites, make nature trails, plant food plots, and take care of nature. Another possible career was to work at a zoo or be a veterinarian. 

In junior high and high school during the summers, I worked for Paul Staley, a neighboring farmer.  My first farming experience started by walking beans. Soybeans were planted in rows and you walked between the rows and pulled out the weeds by hand.  This is when my cousin Kevin, my current farm partner, started working together.  Paul’s farm was a large farrow-to-finish hog and row crop farm, so I got to work with the pigs and I really enjoyed this.  I enjoyed farming, but we were not farmers so a farming career never entered my mind.  In all of my schooling I never took an agriculture class.  Biology always was interesting for me and it was my best subject.  I went to Eastern Illinois University and received a bachelor’s degree in Environmental Biology.  While at college I started to realize managing a state park or working for the department of natural resources seemed too politically tied, and now this was not an option I was interested in.  It also appeared there was little turnover in zoo management, so getting a job seemed unlikely, plus where are most zoos located?  Big cities.  This was not for me.  I am a country boy and have no interest in living in a city.  Becoming a veterinarian wasn’t an option anymore since a lot more schooling would be required. 

During my senior year of college, a cousin found  a salamander at my grandma’s house and brought it to me for identification.  Why was that important?  It was a Jefferson Salamander and had never been documented as being found in Illinois.  This little salamander started me into the master’s program at Eastern. I got a teaching assistantship and I started doing research and taking classes. In the summers I kept working for Paul and occasionally for my father-in-law who had a custom baling business.  When I got done taking classes and I was finishing up my research, I started working full time for Paul.  When I finished my schooling, I thought I needed to be a biologist, since that is why I went to school, but I was enjoying farming and I was well rooted in the Paris area.  I didn’t want to uproot my family for a biologist job since I could not find something locally of interest.  Paul had a chance to pick up an additional 300 acres of farm ground, and he offered me a chance to start farming.  He allowed me the use of his equipment for the exchange of labor on his farm.  In 1995 I started my farming career.  Along the way I started picking up more land to farm and started to purchase some of my own farm equipment. I continued to work for Paul and helped him start Pumpkin Works.  Paul’s interest was with expanding Pumpkin Works and not as much on row crop farming.  When the opportunity came about for me to start farming on my own, I took the leap of faith. 

Row crop farming is becoming a cut throat business pitting neighbor against neighbor for ground to farm, and if you don’t own a lot of ground you are always wondering how long you will be able to continue to farm. Early on, my first landlords controlled almost half the land I was farming.  If I had lost the opportunity to farm for them I would have instantly turned into a hobby farmer and would have had to go to town and get a job.  In 1998 Kevin and I bought 160 acres that belonged to our great, great, great, great, grandparents.  When we purchased it people told us we would go broke trying to farm it.  One neighbor said it might make a cattle farm but it wasn’t a row crop farm.  Being a row crop farmer, I planted corn and beans and eventually agreed it wasn’t the best corn and bean farm.  I started thinking about how it would be nice to utilize our own property better and if we could make a living off our own ground even better.    I started reading a magazine called the Stockman Grass Farmer with articles written by Joel Salatin.  Our current farm is modeled somewhat after his operation and I read as much as I can about him and I still enjoy reading what he writes.  Joel writes about farming naturally and using livestock to build soils and being profitable on smaller acreage.

  Ever since Kevin and I had worked for Paul, we had always wanted to farm together some day.  It didn’t seem too likely since traditional farming wisdom told us you needed thousands of acres to support two families.  Kevin and I started seriously talking about our futures and since we had already bought ground together, we decided to start a small farm together.  Kevin would continue working in town and I would continue farming full time. 

In 2004 with the help of our wives and other family members, L&A Family Farms was born.  The first year we started a CSA growing vegetables, since Kevin has a great love of gardening and this would give us a start and still allow everyone else to have off-farm jobs.  The second year we added the meat chickens and we started going to farmers markets in Terre Haute and Paris. At this time my kids were small and they enjoyed the chickens, but they were sad to see them go since their life cycle only lasts 7 – 8 weeks.  I thought I had a perfect solution: since we do not raise meat chickens in the winter and since the buildings sit empty,we would start raising layers.  This would teach the kids some responsibility and they could sell the eggs for college money.  There was a little detail I wasn’t thinking about. In Illinois to sell eggs off farm, you need to have an egg license and the eggs need candled and graded.  The egg inspector said it was not a job for a kid.  This gave me another job, but the eggs have become a big part of our operation. To be able to sell the broilers, we needed a meat broker’s license, so to get the most out of the license and since we were already going to farmers markets, we developed our small beef herd into another enterprise.  This better utilized the farm we bought.  We have since added pork and turkey to our offerings.  

Currently our farm raises corn, soybeans, wheat, alfalfa, hay and forage crops, vegetables, and livestock. We practice custom farming. Our farm consists of 1100 owned and rented acres. We are currently raising beef cows, broiler chickens and laying hens, turkeys and hogs. We are in our eleventh year of our Community Supported Agriculture Subscription Farm.  By becoming part of our farm, you will experience our farm fresh vegetables, pasture raised meats, eggs, and other farm products.  Our customers always know where their produce and meat was grown and how it was raised.  And it’s fresh! 

 I guess in a roundabout way I am living out my childhood dreams.  I am getting to manage my own 455 acre nature preserve. I have my own zoo, even though the animals are domestic instead of wild; they still require me to take care of them.  I also get to play veterinarian and work with animals.  Isn’t God's story of our story amazing? When we allow Him to lead, he will open many doors for us.  This is where we are currently at in our story and we hope you will join us and support our farm and be part of our story!

Join Today!

Social Media

 

RSS