Greetings Beloved Tribe!
I am extremely excited to bring you this new blog series and especially thrilled with our first installation featuring my new friend Matt Kleopfer and to also announce he will be the latest EOM admin on our Facebook platform. I fell in LOVE with Matt’s informative daily videos and his gregarious public persona so I did what I do best.. I snapped up that talent to share with the world under the EOM umbrella.
~Lana Joe Salant
I bring you .. Matt Kleopfer of Harmony Hill Farmstead
“Finding Music in the Land
We’ll start this story in 2003. This was the year I told my dad I was leaving the farm to go to college to be a musician. Even though I knew it wasn’t what he’d hoped, he was the most supportive dad a son could ask for. I dropped my pitchfork and grabbed my trumpet to fulfill my parent’s dream of getting a college education. He and my mom were at all my concerts and as I watched from a distance, farming got harder and harder on dad every year.
After I graduated with my undergraduate degree from Washburn University, I married my beautiful bride Jenessa. I met her while I was at Washburn and we were ready to tackle the world together. I would make great music and she would heal everyone from what ailed them. After Washburn, we both started our master’s degrees together at Wichita State University. She was in the physician’s assistant graduate program and I was the graduate assistant for the school of music. Life was great and kids soon followed to round out our happy family.
This was when life started to get interesting. We bought a house with 40 acres and it really reminded me a lot of home. I got a teaching job teaching in a nearby town and drove 52 miles to work every day. I missed being on the farm. I missed the tractors. I missed my grandpa, and all the animals I used to get to work with when I stayed with my grandparents. My dad had had a heart attack and my grandfather was losing track of his health rapidly.
By this time, we were pregnant with our second and the stress of teaching was weighing in on me. I was 30lbs overweight and starting to get the “dad bod” in full force. I was not happy with where I was at physically. One day I said enough is enough and started working out again to reclaim my vigour and vitality. I worked out every day for 90 days and literally lost 2 POUNDS! I was so angry. I started reading more books about nutrition and human biology. I wanted to look like my great-grandpa. Lean and ripped in his 70’s. He was a stud!!
This time I decided to really change my diet and that’s when the big changes started happening. I shed the weight and started getting lean and as a by-product, I was teaching at the top of my game. My program was really starting to take off. My bands were winning award after award and I was feeling great. By this time we had just had our third child and I was on top of the world. At least so I thought. But one day all that changed.
I had a class of sixth graders that were on track to be some very high performers. At the end of the nine weeks, they changed their schedule so that I had them after lunch. On their first day of class, it was like I barely knew them. They were lethargic and unmotivated. Their motor skills were off and they really struggled to pay attention. It was like somebody literally turned the lights out and locked the doors on these kids’ brains. I was so frustrated. One day I decided to follow that class to the lunchroom and watch them eat, and that’s when I made the connection.
It was like a voice whispered in my ear, “See, they are all getting sick, just like you were. The food is going to kill them all eventually’. My jaw dropped. I froze. I didn’t know what to do. I had just turned my own life around with food and exercise. Everything I had just spent the last year learning about human disease was literally in living colour right in front of me. There were kids everywhere who were already fighting diabetes and chronic obesity, brain fog and severe behavioural issues. It was the silent epidemic that no one was talking about. Before I was about to leave the lunchroom, the voice came back for the knockout punch. “You can’t save them by teaching music, Go Home and Farm”…………………………..
WHAT!?!?!? I’m supposed to throw away everything I had worked for up to this point only to go back and pick up the pitchfork I had thrown down years before and FARM??? NO WAY!!!
That night I went home and told my wife what had happened and still couldn’t believe it. I told her about the kids and how sick a lot of them were. How long the line was after lunch at the nurse station so every kid could get their afternoon meds. She stared at me with a blank stare and said, “Yeah babe, I see this every day in my clinic. This food is killing us.”
As the climate of government schools had started to fall rapidly over the past couple of years, I decided LET’S GO FOR IT! I walked into my superintendent’s office and laid my keys on his desk and said, “This year is the end for me”. He was so puzzled. I had just won the Kansas Band Director of the Year Award and my bands had just received state championships. I was literally at the top of my game, and he said, “So you’re giving this up to farm”??? “Yes sir, I am”, I replied. The world does not need another teacher right now. It needs farmers and as many as we can get.
By this time we had our fourth child and our house was getting chaotic. What was I thinking, trying to homeschool 4 kids and raise all our own food and try to make some money on the side in a profession that I have literally NO experience in??? You gotta be HUNGRY. God answers prayers in mysterious ways. Not long after I quit my job, the health of both me and my wife’s family started to crumble rapidly. Chronic disease was showing its face not just in our grandparents, but in our parents, siblings, and our own children. Having high-quality, nutrient-dense food on hand became a necessity to battle various food sensitivities and a myriad of other obstacles our family was facing.
Our refrigerator and pantry were filled with all of the normal foods in the American diet that are fueling the 22 normal American chronic diseases. We started to change that by choosing something to weed out of our diets. I’ll never forget the year we chose chips. Man, that was a tough year. I loved chips. But you know what? I also loved chewing tobacco, Dr. Pepper and snickers and chips rank just as destructive to cellular degeneration. Changing our diet was not an overnight thing. It took a lot of time, a lot of praying, and a lot of discipline.
I also spent everyday reading, listening, watching and learning as much as I could. I knew all the big names in regenerative ag and wanted to know more about human biology and motivate and inspire others to farm just like us. The only bad part is we live in a very agricultural town and everyone by this time was just pointing and laughing, but I didn’t care. I wanted to build the best soil and pasture in our county and I was going to get every animal I could in the process.
This is where being a musician started to come in really really handy. I started to see myself as a music conductor again. The soil was my staff paper and the animals were my instruments. The better the orchestra, the more kinds of instruments you have. Everything had to move at the right tempo to create harmony. If too many instruments stood still while being too close to other instruments, it created rigid dissonance and had to be resolved by spatial awareness and making things flow again.
To create harmony on the landscape, I had to learn how to make things move. I started building hotwire and chicken tractors like a madman. Things were flowing. By this time, my kids were starting to get old enough to be a big help so I decided to put each of them in charge of a different animal. Kamden (9) does all of our chickens and eggs. She has to do all of their daily chores and gets to keep 100% of the profits. This has been a great way to teach her money management and how to use marketing to sell her product.
Kennedy (7) does all of the pork. She helps me move pigs, set up paddocks and she absolutely loves when baby pig season. Karson (5) is the cowman. He helps me milk the cow in the morning as well as helps me move hot wire when we move the cows and sheep. Kortland (4) is the sheep man. He and his brother work together to help with chores in the evening. It has been such a huge blessing to have the world’s best classroom outside our house every day.
Now that we have been through our fifth season of farming and homeschooling, I’ll never look back. God was right. He didn’t need me to be a teacher right now. He needed me to farm. Just like my dad, grandfather and great grandfather did, except with a little twist of course. This time no grain elevators or sale barns. We direct market all of our products straight to a consumer. My kids are grateful for their faithful customers that support their business. This has been the greatest calling of my life. My kids and I believe the noblest cause anyone could ever do with their life is to spend it making music with the soil. Thank you.”