It started with chickens,” said Erin Roy, recalling the beginning phases of creating her homestead project in Sandia Park, adding, “I always say, ‘Chickens are the gateway drug into homesteading.’”

In 2018, Starson and Erin Roy won a bid on an abandoned foreclosure farmhouse in rough shape.

The couple spent the first year they had the property remodeling the inside of the house to make it livable, and preparing the outside for homesteading. They installed a drip irrigation system across two acres, planted over 50 trees, shrubs and herbs, with a focus on native plants and perennials, and started a raised bed garden that feeds the family.

The raised bed garden beds were also in response to the “savage gophers” that also live on the property, Roy said.

Next was creating a space for animals and planning for agricultural tourism and education through the farm. Roy said that she also has her kids help out on the farm because “they are learning homesteading skills that are hardly taught anymore.”

The property boasts several garden beds now, all managed with drip irrigation and mulching, both for water conservation, as well as several animals including livestock, guard dogs, chickens, turkeys, peafowl, quail, rabbits and pigs on rotating pastures.

The animals are used to create compost and and for food. Roy said they prefer to keep their animals in open pasture. The have a system with the pigs and chickens grazing open pastures on rotation, which provides pest control and spreads fertilizer, she said.

Starson Roy, in addition to being a chef, is also a meat specialist for Shamrock, which allows the couple to easily process animals, she said.

Starson Roy also features his chef skills during farm-to-table events at the homestead.

Erin Roy said they recently invested in 30 more chickens for meat and eggs.

The farm also provides workshops, farm-table suppers, butchery classes, farm tours, plant growing classes, basic animal husbandry classes, harvest dinners and other farm-to-table-events. Due to the public health order these events are on hold for the time being, but the couple is looking at ways to get classes and workshops up online.

In the meantime, the farm is selling eggs and chicks and starting seeds for the next growing season.

Erin Roy also said she “has 1,500 seedlings under light right now.” She grows many different types of vegetables including cabbage, broccoli, kale, tomatoes and peppers.

For some of the plants that struggle in the difficult conditions of the desert, Erin Roy has come up with innovative ideas including using shade cloths, using pallet wood as windbreaks in the early stages of plant life, starting plants indoors and planting in June, as well as hiding plants under the shade of other plants. “Seeds started in high altitude make plants that fare better,” she said.

She said she also loves to barter with other gardeners and has a regular trade of a turkey in exchange for tomato seedlings.

Since the pandemic hit, Erin Roy has gone to homesteading 24/7. In addition to the work the homestead requires, she has been working on networking online.

They are in the process of creating a free directory that lists local producers and can help other gardeners, small time farmers and homesteaders into contact with one another. They are also working in partnership with local efforts to mend soil and other local operations for local meat and food production.

The other big project the couple is looking at moving forward is “to create a water catchment system for their homestead and they are waiting for new solar technology” with hopes of bringing the entire operation off the grid.

In addition to all the other things the couple is doing with their homestead, they also offer Bible study groups.

For more information about networking, homesteading or to learn more about the farm visit Facebook/theharvesttrail or theharvesttrail.com.

With new businesses sprouting up around the Estancia Valley and East Mountains, and with others moving, expanding or making changes, The Independent is running a regular business feature to keep the community up to date. Do you have business news? Contact news.ind.manager@gmail.com to be included in a future story.