It all started with a few chickens, Jessica Lopez said.
And what started as just some feathered friends running around in a suburban backyard, is now a more than 5-acre farm, business and lifestyle.
Lopez Land Farm sits on 5.5 acres at 2400 Bridgeport-Benson Road. It’s there that they have their own certified roadside farmer’s market selling chicken, eggs, pork, produce in season, and other things like handmade benches, laundry detergent and salsa. It wasn’t what they expected to have, Jessica Lopez said, but now it’s her and her husband Horacio’s retirement plan.
The farm has given them not only a new way of life, but has helped their children learn new lessons about the world around them.
“We were living in a house on Evergreen with a few chickens,” Jessica Lopez said. “And then we built a few chicken coops. Then we got a couple of turkeys … One of our neighbors said, ‘If you bring in another animal …’”
Then the farm opened up.
“I don’t think it was on the market more than 5 minutes,” she said.
The family went from a 1,700-square-foot house to a 950-square-foot house. They built a swing set, a chicken coop, pens for the pigs and goats and they opened up the market.
Now homeschooled, the Lopez children — triplets, Soledad, Esmerelda and Valentin, 13, and Diego, 11 — not only help around the farm, but each has their own business.
“We have a calendar, so they know which species they have to take care of each day,” Jessica said. “Once they finish their schoolwork, they have their chores. And, they each have their own businesses.”
For Soledad, it’s gathering eggs and helping to process meats. Esmerelda cooks — making bread is her favorite. Diego has a side business mowing yards. And, Valentin builds custom wooden benches.
The farm has taught them a lot, the children said.
“It shows you that you have to work to get your food,” Valentin said. “If you want (the animals) to be food, you have to help them stay healthy and you have to feed them.”
And, it’s something most of the children hope to do when they grow up.
“I want to raise anything that I can to raise and eat,” Soledad said.
Valentin said he’s looking forward to having a cattle farm for milking, so he can make cheese and butter. Esmerelda says she’d like to have her own farm so she can have her own farmers’ market.
Only Diego wants to do something different — be a track star.
The children share their farm with their friends. Mostly, they say, their friends just want to play with the animals. But the children all say it’s important for people to know where food comes from and what has to happen in order for it to arrive on someone’s table.
This year, the farm will offer a CSA — weekly packages of vegetables and meat.
“We’ll have four different options,” Jessica said. “If people buy now, they can ensure that they are going to have produce at a lower cost. The cost on everything is going up. We have to buy things up front, so when they go up, we’ll have to adjust our prices too. We’re hoping that the CSA will help people have quality produce from a local farm.”
Customers can purchase either four weeks of vegetables, or four weeks of meat and vegetables. Another option it to purchase eight weeks of either vegetables, or meat and vegetables.
For the past four years, Jessica said, the farm has grown, and the animals have helped them to take care of it. Some animals, like the pigs, move from place to place, eating the grass and helping to fertilize the soil. It’s not an easy life, Jessica said, but it’s one they enjoy.
“We’ve worked hard to build this,” she said. “There’s not a lot of time here that we’re not doing something. It’s a constant circle of life.”
Learn more about Lopez Land Farm on Facebook @LopezLand2400 or at www.lopezlandfarm.com.
Recipe by Jessica Lopez
2 1/2 pounds duck legs
2 tablespoons cider vinegar
2 tablespoons fresh lime juice, plus wedges for serving
2 dried chipotle chiles
1 medium onion, chopped, plus more for serving
2 teaspoons ground cumin
2 teaspoons oregano
2 teaspoons kosher salt
1 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
2 whole cloves, ground
2 dried bay leaves, ground
1/8 teaspoon ground cinnamon
Cold water as needed
Tortillas (flour or corn), warmed
Hot sauce (I make my own)
Combine the meat, vinegar, lime juice, chipotle chiles, onion, cumin, oregano, salt, pepper, cloves, bay leaves and cinnamon in a slow cooker and add enough cold water to cover by about 2 inches. Cook on low for six to eight hours, until very tender. It will literally fall off the bone.
Remove the meat from the pot and let it cool slightly, reserving the liquid. Shred the meat, discarding the bones. Really check for bones, as ducks have a lot of tiny ones that is hard to see and you must feel for them. Moisten the meat with a few ladlefuls of the reserved braising liquid. Taste and adjust the seasoning.
Set the barbacoa on the table in a serving bowl or platter and set out the tortillas, onion, cilantro, limes, salsa and hot sauce so guests can make their own tacos.