This is Jeff, the head farmer and gardener and Habitable Spaces. A.K.A. Jefe, which means CHIEF in Spanish. A.K.A. the Shirtless Farmer. His constant sense of humor makes it so much fun. Jeff is the social vortex of the space and takes new volunteers under his wings and shows them the ropes. If you're city folk visiting for the first time, trips to the river and rope swings are inevitable. He's also a wealth of information on stars and constellations. Long card games, bonfires and walks through the woods with the gang of dogs are always part of her Jefe's mix. We talk a lot about volunteer farming organizations. He is of a new generation of people unconcerned with money and owning things, but plays a mad ukulele. It's a hoot 'n holler watching him and Becks Love the Content Clown dueling their songs. In the kitchen, he's known as the Bread Master. He creates loaves in so many amazing flavors. Soft on the inside and crunchy on the exterior. Meet Jefe, the Head Farmer!
Jeff on Breaking Away From The System
Jeff Smith, AKA Jefe, AKA the Shirtless Farmer, is the head farmer and gardener at Habitable Spaces. Born and raised in Minnesota, he strived to find a place where he can do what he feels is right, and apart from the normal system. In this episode, Jeff talks about how he landed at Habitable Spaces, WWOOF Program, the changes that he has witnessed, and how the Coronavirus has impacted the farming lifestyle.
Topics discussed in this episode:
[06:21] About Jeff
[08:25] WOOF-USA Program
[09:26] History with Habitable Spaces
[16:50] Differences between what ranches are doing versus factory farms
[19:46] Transition in Habitable Spaces
[25:04] Master Gardeners of Texas
[28:57] Deciding against the 9 to 5 job lifestyle
[37:50] COVID-19 Impacts
[41:42] Advice to small scale farmers wanting to break from the system
[45:24] Why you should grow your food
Born and raised in Minnesota, Jeff says he began camping with friends at a young age. He wanted to step away from the system and get away to do something different.
He says Habitable Spaces has given him all he ever needed in life.
“You don’t need money. You don’t need a house. Just let the universe take care of you.”
Although it was not an easy decision to make, he says it’s unique and fun to live this life. Jeff says Habitable Spaces are like everyone; whether a plant, human, or animal has a voice and purpose.
Working on the Farm
The “Shirtless Farmer” first stepped foot into Habitable Spaces February of 2016. It’s the second farm he has been into. Jeff and his two other friends were traveling at the time trying to get to Florida, but it “didn’t accept them.” They decided to come to Texas to give it a try and fell in love with it. He is now on the farm for the fourth time and has been coming back for the past five years to avoid winter and learn more about farming.
Jeff now helps run the Habitable Spaces, 30 hours a week, to make the place the dream that it is.
They foresaw Farmer Will's farm, Homestead Goodness, the Kingsbury Farm collaboration, opening when quarantine started to provide groceries to those who stopped visiting the grocery stores which had lines and limited supplies. The market came at a perfect time and has been a raging success to this day.
WOOF-USA is a program that allows people that are interested in learning the trade of farming and homesteading to get in contact with farms that are looking for people to come out and learn the practice and also help them with the daily courses, as they learn about farming.
Although the meat processing factories have been shut down during the pandemic, it is business as usual in area farms and ranches. However, there have been some notable impacts due to the pandemic. People’s movement has been restricted, and the table that used to have 5-13 people visiting now has no one visiting during quarantine. Jeff says they can go weeks without seeing anyone.
Why You Should Grow Your Food
There are a lot of benefits when you grow your food. Apart from not relying on someone else, you will be healthy in mind and body by supplementing your grocery bill. Besides, you know where your food is coming from, know exactly what you are putting on your food, and it’s a lot cheaper.
Advice to Small Scale Farmers Who Seek to Break Away From the System
Jeff says they help people figure out what they want to learn and help them plugged into that. By doing this, people only do what they are good at and are happy where they are.
He advises those who want to break away from the system to try and learn by starting.
“You’ll plan it. You’ll stop. Something else will go wrong. And in 20 years, you will be a pro, and you won’t have any problems.”