Few people can say that they have accomplished their dreams, but even fewer people can say that they have lived their lives in alignment with what they have actually dreamed about at night.
From Dream to Reality
Thirty years ago, Linda Bergstrom had a dream one night where she saw a woman spinning on a spinning wheel in front of a field of sheep. Later on, she realized that the woman was herself, middle-aged. She didn’t grow up on a farm. She had never visited a farm or even thought about farming before having this dream. “I don’t know if people believe in dreams or they believe that they guide them, but there was something cosmically there. The universe was telling me 30 years ago that I had to farm,” she recalls.
After thinking about the dream over and over again, Bergstrom decided to do something about it. She started taking classes on how to spin fibers, how to process fibers, how to dye wool, and how to live on a farm. She quickly became fascinated with the idea of taking a fiber from point A all the way to the end, which is having a clothing item that you can wear. However, what interested her the most about fibers was being an artist—processing fiber, dying fibers, making yarn, and how to use a loom was all influenced by the artist deep inside her.
Bergstrom was an art teacher for around 20 years in private studios and public schools. Eventually, she knew that even though she loved teaching art, she had to pursue her farming dream full-time. Within a week of moving into her Bluffdale, Utah, home, a friend of hers contacted her and told her about a person she knew who sold alpacas. She met up with Dina Riddle from Circle Cliff Ranch, who would become one of Bergstrom’s mentors, and bought her first three alpacas. After that, she knew that she had to fulfill her sheep dream, so she did some research and found some Icelandic Sheep that she ended up purchasing as well. Bergstrom would continue to add more and more animals, and today she has around two dozen animals on her farm including alpacas, sheep, goats, chickens, and bees.
The Daily Grind
Just like with any farm, there are a lot of daily chores and responsibilities. Bergstrom wakes up every day and goes out to feed the animals their grains. Because of how greedy the goats can be, she has to separate them so they don’t steal the other animals’ food. After the grains, she takes care of all of their hay and all of their water. She also has to check the fences. Because dogs are predators to alpacas, she has to make sure that there are no holes or broken posts where a dog could crawl into the enclosure. (Even a nice family dog is prone to attack an alpaca when given the chance.) Bergstrom also has a garden that she waters and tends to after all the animals have gotten their food. Lastly, she checks on the bees and makes sure that they are healthy and doing what they need to do. She will go through this whole process twice a day—once in the morning and once in the evening.
One thing that Bergstrom does differently than a lot of other farmers is that she mixes her breeds. This is uncommon because the parasites from a goat could easily take down an alpaca. However, the chickens that Linda keeps with all the other animals will eat a lot of the parasites. “If you were to look at the hierarchy of how the system works out here, I would say the chickens are the foundation of it, and I would have never in my life thought that,” she shares.
The whole farm is symbiotic and works together. The chickens help keep the animals healthy from eating the parasites. The alpacas’ fecal matter is excellent as a fertilizer for her garden, which is also pollinated by her bees. She uses the garden to not only feed her family but also as treats for the animals. And, of course, the fibers from the animals are used to make clothes and items that Linda sells in order to keep the farm financially supported. Not only does her farm support itself but it also helps support others. Bergstrom sends the wool to be processed and cleaned to other small businesses. The clothing that is made from the wool will never degrade and can literally last for the rest of a person’s life. People are able to have a quality clothing item because of the work that Linda puts into this farm, and people are willing to continue to buy her items so that she is able to make more. “It’s truly incredible how it just keeps going full circle, and it just rolls right into itself,” she says.
Sharing the Dream
After being an art teacher for 20 years, Bergstrom figured that there was no reason why she couldn’t take her art classes with her to the farm. She offers crafting classes, weaving classes, girlfriend nights, summer workshops for kids, and even book clubs all held on the farm. She will teach things like how to make wall hanging leaders and needle felting for adults, and the participants all use wool that is from the animals on the farm.
Bergstrom thinks that it is especially important that kids are able to come on the farm, learn about the animals, and participate in making alpaca-related art projects. “It’s just really therapeutic for some kids to be able to hold a chicken and pet and feed an alpaca. Alpacas are very therapeutic in their own way. They’re smart and intuitive with people. They’ll look you in the eye, they’ll sniff you in the face,” she seays. “Many kids nowadays just have so much anxiety and so much going on in their lives. I think that to be outdoors, to do an art class, to see animals roaming around close by, it’s definitely different from any art experience they’ve had. I guess the best thing is that it just calms them down. I don’t have any of the same problems with kids taking art out here that I did in a classroom setting. I was spending a giant chunk of my time wrangling kids and not teaching art. They don’t really have any desire to get crazy and get nutty around here. There’s just something about being outdoors on a farm that makes kids kind of calm themselves.”
The Privilege of a Committed Life
With the farm comes a lot of great privileges and opportunities that other people don’t get to have. Many might say that owning a farm is the “simple life.” However, Bergstrom says, “It is the simple life, but it’s also a complex and committed life. You’ve got to be mentally prepared for it. If we even go for a two-day trip, you have to have people you trust to take care of the farm. But it is such a commitment that’s so worthwhile.” Even on the worst days, Bergstrom knows that she can go out and see her animal friends and get a kiss or a hug from them. “I have anxiety, and I know how to treat that. I know how to have therapy for that, and I’m really open about it. But I knew that once I got [the farm], it would also help me to be able to deal better with life.”
During the pandemic, there were times when Bergstrom didn’t even realize that it was happening. Her life was pretty much the same as it was before COVID-19. She continued to feed the animals every day, take care of their needs, spin yarn and wool, and make things. The only thing that really stopped was being able to teach people, however she is not struggling with the transition of working at home for so long and then going back to traffic, people, restaurants, and all the noise. “The world out there is really loud, and it bombards us with digital things. I’ve actually had to be careful about who I follow on Instagram, farm wise, because there are people that make it appear that it’s super easy, and it’s not. It’s extremely physically taxing, and it’s night and day. You don’t get a break from it,” she admits. Bergstrom was also very blessed to be able to stay connected with her many farming mentors during the pandemic. She could always rely on them, and that community never stopped.
As she continues to build her farm, Bergstrom wants to become more and more self-sufficient. She would like to be able to solely live off the food from her garden along with living off solar energy. She is a strong believer in being prepared for the worst. If there were an earthquake or natural disaster, she would like to be able to live off the grid with the resources and supplies that are provided from her farm. She would also like to build more on the teaching aspect of the farm and keep adding more and more different classes. She is constantly finding new things to make from the wool, which in turn creates new teaching opportunities.
If you are interested in taking a class or visiting the farm, go to bergstromfarms.com to learn more. You can also follow her on Instagram and Facebook at @bergstrom_farms to keep up with everything new that Bergstrom is doing.
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