We are the Sommerhalter Family

Why are we farmers? Well, it’s kind of a long story. When we (Hannah and Rob) met and married we were both in graduate school at A&M in College Station pursuing PhD’s in chemistry. Rob was studying sustainable and efficient catalytic methods in organic chemistry while Hannah was studying enzymatic reactions in the biosynthetic pathway of vitamin K. Hannah had been told as a teenager that it was highly probable that bearing children would be difficult and so we were content to both pursue normal careers. 

By God’s grace we were blessed with a little girl! Now that children were part of the plan, our focus completely shifted. We knew Hannah would stay home to be a full time mom to our daughter, but we could hear God calling us to both be home to raise our family. We began to think and pray and dream of ways we could both be home and self-employed to love and care for our child.

We began to be horribly convicted about how poor our diet had become now that we were growing a little human. We were graduate students in a hard science after all. Our diet centered on cheap fast food grabbed between research projects, classes, and teaching assignments. We were still deep in the grind of the first two years of grad school and there was no time to focus on a healthy diet. However, being chemists, we of all people knew better! We knew all the processed, chemical-filled foods we were eating were terrible for us, but not considering children were a real possibility, a healthy diet and healthy body not been a priority. We had a new responsibility to change our diet and improve our health to provide the best nutrition for our growing daughter.

Since Hannah had grown up on a few acres in the BBQ capital of Texas she had some basic knowledge in the raising of many farm animals and how to grow a garden. Rob grew up in the city but was fascinated by all things farming and self sustainability. We set a goal of self sufficiency and direct knowledge of how our food is produced. Our first house had a backyard that we could raise chickens for fresh eggs. That was our “gateway” animal. After that Rob would often read about or see a YouTube video on something and want to raise a new animal or plant. He would be so super excited at the prospect of another thing that would move us towards self-sufficiency in a healthy food source that Hannah would just reply, “ok, I know how to do that”. We filled that backyard with 12 raised bed gardens, egg laying chickens, meat chickens, and meat rabbits! Thankfully, the neighbors politely ignored or laughed at the developing farm in our backyard.

A dream of building a farm where we could raise our children and the cleanest, healthiest fresh meat, fruit and vegetables to feed them and ourselves was born.  Hannah decided to then stop pursuing her PhD and left grad school with a Master’s degree in chemistry to focus on working and building that dream just after our daughter was born. A few months later, we purchased 76 acres of land in Cameron. Rob initially planned to complete his PhD in chemistry but as time went on, the passion for chemistry dwindled as the dreams for the farm slowly started becoming a reality.

The land we purchased had nothing on it. There was no electricity, water, or even decent fencing as the previous owner’s escaping cows had been a constant nuisance to the surrounding ranches. We started building our dream every weekend while Hannah was teaching full-time, Rob was continuing his PhD and teaching part-time while trading off baby. We were busy! We pulled down all the old barbed wire by hand, rebuilt the fence, divided the land into pastures we could rotate the animals through, put in our own water line up to the house site, and laid the underground electrical wire to the house and barn ourselves. We even built our own tiny house out of a shipping container, teaching ourselves the needed skills from textbooks, websites and YouTube videos! 

The land, pastures and soil were nothing to brag about either. The property has been overgrazed and hayed until there was more mesquite and doveweed than grass! We decided to let the land rest a full year while we were figuring out how to approach rebuilding the land. We can’t quite remember how we found out about regenerative farming, but God lead us to the right information and we started researching regenerative farming and ranching practices to accompany our knowledge of organic farming principles. Our farm is still a work in progress but by God’s grace we have come so far!