Who are we?
We are Dan and Lauren Hoyt, and we’re happy to meet you. Artisan Harvest Farm is a labor of love, and here you’ll discover how it all came to be.
Dan grew up on a farm in north-central Illinois that raised Christmas trees, pumpkins, llamas, and hardworking boys. He earned a Horticulture degree (and had a lot of fun) at the University of Illinois, then started a landscape business. Around the farm, he is (happily!) in charge of anything heavy, difficult, scary, dirty, or labor-intensive. He oversees the majority of the daily operations, so we refer to him as the GDFM (Gosh Darn Farm Manager).
Lauren is, believe it or not, by no means a farm girl. She can’t drive stick shift, prefers wine over beer, rides a horse about once a decade, and couldn’t pluck a chicken unless actual human lives depended on it. She’s a nurse by training and today works part-time in healthcare informatics. Around the farm, she’s in charge of the spreadsheets, paperwork, emails, and social media side of this home-grown venture. Which makes her, affectionately, the GLFN (Good Lookin’ Farm Nerd).
In the end, each of us does what the other doesn’t want to deal with around the farm – the secret to happy marriages and successful family farms! We started dating when Dan was 15 and Lauren was 16 (meaning Lauren had to pick Dan up for that first date!). We married in 2006, and we’ve been traveling the world and planning our next adventures ever since. We adopted our son in 2012 and he definitely is a farm boy – happiest when both his hands and feet are in the dirt. As a family, we come together to share the work of farming the produce, caring for the chickens, and dreaming up future plans as Artisan Harvest Farm continues to grow.
Why do we do this?
The farm is a beautiful piece of land about two hours outside of Chicago. It’s been in Lauren’s family on her maternal grandmother’s side since 1873, meaning our son is the 7th generation to get his hands dirty in that same dirt. The farm has always been regarded as a member of the family, and we want to do it proud. Lauren’s mom and uncle own the land and allow us to use part of it for Artisan Harvest Farm. Now, we care for the land so future generations will get to enjoy it as much as the rest of us have over the last century and a half.
In 2015, we started exploring the many options of small-scale farming through growing vegetables, pumpkins, and flowers. That first year we tried bringing our produce to a few farmers markets; we also got 30 baby chicks, started 2 beehives and found out we really enjoy growing things! As a family, we’re fascinated with the lifecycle of a seed, as it turns into a plant ready for the chickens to enjoy, which becomes the chicken “fertilizer” we put back on the ground where we plant another seed. On and on it goes.
By 2016, we had enough produce to operate our own Farm Stand all summer. It was a wonderful way to sell our fresh produce, eggs, and honey and meet people who are passionate about fresh, local produce. We loved our experience there, but manning the stand 65 days that summer equated to a huge investment of our time. A priceless learning experience, ultimately it was too much time away from the farm and our extended family.
So today, that’s our focus. We launched a local CSA (community supported agriculture) program that allows us to deliver our home-grown produce, eggs and honey directly to the people who love it. It isn’t going to make us millionaires, but it really does makes us happy. And it’s proving to be a great way for us to balance time at the farm and with our family with providing healthy, locally-grown goods to our neighbors.
It helps that we have help. Hardly a day goes by that our parents, who all live locally, don’t bring picnic lunches, babysit, check beehives, water plants, or help move chickens in the rain (even though one dad claims he “hates those birds!”). Lauren’s mom even designed our logo. We have siblings and friends who do chicken chores if we need a night out. We have the most kind and thoughtful customers. And we have a charismatic four year old who’s always there cheering us on at the end of planting a row.