Why we farm

We’ve moved to orchard country — Kent City, Michigan, just one mile north of Casnovia!

Zach and Lindsay on the farm

Highland Cattle lived at Fat Toaster farm during the first two years that we were here. While we no longer raise them, we remember them fondly.

Located for over 8 years in Rockford, Michigan, our growing family and need for more space led us to move 20 minutes away to the new farm. With rolling orchard hills, and two towering grain silos, the setting is ideal for the next phase of our lives.

Zach and Lindsay Oaster were not always farmers; in fact, neither of them grew up on a farm. In the autumn of 2009 they fulfilled a long-time dream, and bought a small six-acre property just 20 minutes north on US-131 of Michigan’s second largest city, Grand Rapids. Animals were soon to follow.

The journey toward a farm started at an early age for Zach, as his paternal grandfather was a lifelong small farmer. As a child, he made trips to Grandpa and Grandma’s house to enjoy spring lambs, Belgian draft horses, and (what are now antique) John Deere tractors.

Fat Toaster Farm

A beautiful summer photo featuring the big red barn at the old Rockford farm

Small farming was a system that had been developed from centuries of struggle, knowledge of land management, and animal husbandry. Zach’s grandfather was a true expert – a “last of his kind” – and Zach caught a passion for those old ways during those summers on the farm.When Zach was in his early 20s he spent three summers helping his aging grandfather take care of the Oaster farm in Nashville, Michigan. Many hours were spent cutting wood or mowing brush, and all the while listening to Grandpa extol the virtues of the “old ways” from when farming was a family activity. It was a lifestyle that both supported the family from the land, and required little in the lines of money and consumerism to survive.

Winter at Fat Toaster Farm

Jacob Sheep during their very first winter at the Rockford farm. Pictured (L to R) is Nixon, Roberta (back), and Cecilia.

Lindsay and Zach spent several years dreaming plans for a future farm project. They were particularly interested in how to meld the “old ways” that Grandpa had taught with new emerging ideas about local “slow” food and ecologically friendly sustainable farming.

The dream is now realized, and Fat Toaster Farm is the result. Ancient, unimproved, “primitive” breeds of livestock are the primary focus of the farm’s animal husbandry efforts. Jacob sheep, one old hen, and a few barn cats can be seen dotting the green pasture behind the farm house. In the past, Fat Toaster Farm has been home to Scottish Highland cattle, Silver Fox rabbits, and an assortment of heritage chickens and turkeys.

Zach is currently a sociology professor, teaching at Grand Valley State University and Muskegon Community College. As a lifelong musician and artist, Zach also focuses on social justice and community building. Lindsay is a patent researcher at a Grand Rapids law firm. Both of them are passionate about farming in their spare time. The goal of the farm right now is raising as much of their own meat and fruit/vegetables as possible, expanding their knowledge of fiber arts (sheep produce wool!), and learning about the new setting and community in the midst of orchard country. Lindsay has become somewhat of an expert at crocheting, while Zach has become quite proficient at the art of spinning wool fiber into yarn. Other adventures such as tanning hides, learning how to do basic veterinary work, and various culinary, fermenting, home-brewing, and cider-making exploits have ensued.

Tractors at Fat Toaster Farm

Zach sits atop his Grandfather Robert Oaster’s John Deere A. Both the A and the 60 John Deere tractors are part of the collection at Fat Toaster Farm.

The old family farm in Nashville is now in the care of some other family, and Grandpa and Grandma Oaster have been gone many years. But, Grandpa’s old John Deere tractors (an A and a 60) are now nestled into the barn at Fat Toaster Farm. Grandpa’s collection of primitive farm tools and implements, long housed and displayed at Bowens’ Mill, is back at the farm. The Oaster farming legacy continues as Zach and Lindsay engage their community in a conversation about immigrant justice, food justice, access to healthy and high quality food for all people, neighborliness, and sharing of the commons.

The goal is to learn all that is possible and pass the knowledge along via books, blogs, and conversations. Zach and Lindsay welcome your questions, mentoring, and other contributions that can help us along the way in our journey of learning. Support us by purchasing our goods at our Etsy shop, or contact us and discuss how we can work together to do good work in our shared world.

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