CORYDON — On 62 acres of rolling farmland in Corydon, U.S. Army veterans Kris and Brittney Hobt are planting the seeds of something special — a sustainable operation they’re already using to help give back to the community.
In 2018, two years after Kris had retired and started working as a contractor for the U.S. Department of Defense, and while Brittney was still deployed in Afghanistan, the couple bought the land that would become K&B Liberty Farm. Three years later, the business’ regenerative agricultural operation includes pasture-raised chicken and Angus beef, fresh eggs and vegetables, all produced ethically and humanely.
“It’s definitely harder work but we believe in it and that you are what you put in your body,” Kris said. “And if you’re raising your animals right and raising them healthy and they have a good, relaxing life, you end up with a good-quality bird.”
Part of the move to start the farm comes from Kris’s background as a farm hand where he grew up in Iowa, and that Brittney’s father grew up on a farm. But starting the farm also means a way for the family to be together and work together, when they have spent so much time away from home.
“It’s always something we can do as a family,” Brittney said. “And we can pass it down — my son just turned 5 and it’s good for him to work with his hands and not be inside all day.”
SUSTAINABLE ETHICS As the couple gave a tour of the farm, they interacted with the animals, picking up and petting hens that roost in a wagon-turned coop, who are watched over by a guard goose; petting the noses of the cows and swatting away the inevitable flies.
Two Great Pyrenees pups Indiana and Texas or “Indy” and Tex, as they’re nicknamed, trailed behind the tour, stopping for snuggles or to investigate what’s in a bush. Brittney laughed as the curious goats piled into the parked Mule.
Every one of the several hundred animals on the farm are treated with respect and love.
The chickens raised for meat, roughly 300 at a time, eat an all organic, non-GMO diet, from their feed and grass to the bugs they hunt. They live outdoors, grazing in the pasture, and the structure they gather under is moved daily to keep their area clean and to help fertilize the land. The cattle, too, roam the fenced area and the plan for when they grow the operation is to rotate them to a new plot across the farm each day.
“There’s a harmony between plants and animals when you’re grazing animals on the land,” Kris said, adding that “instead of using chemical fertilizers, we’re using pure fertilizer.”
Right now, Kris and Brittney are the main farmers, with help sometimes from her father or a neighbor. As the business becomes more profitable and as they eventually scale up to a degree, they’ll be able to hire employees to help manage the land and animals. But even though it’s hard work, and some days are harder than others, “It’s rewarding because whatever we’re doing right now, you get the fruit of your labor,” Brittney said.
“Any new business in the first five years is going to be hard. “Nothing is easy when you’re an entrepreneur in the beginning.”
The two say it’s also gratifying to see the new and regular customers they sell to at the downtown Jeffersonville and Corydon farmers markets each week.
“I love it,” Brittney said. “I’ll see some people beeline straight for our booth because they were a previous customer. And I love hearing people say ‘so-and-so told us about your chicken; we can’t wait to try it,’ and then they come back the next week and get more. I love that.”
GIVING BACK TO THE COMMUNITY
The two who served their country continue to give back, donating on a regular basis to Harrison County Community Services, the Salvation Army and Liberty Place, a Clark County organization that helps get veterans back on their feet when they need it. They’ve also donated to Catalyst Rescue Mission in Jeffersonville.
And an upcoming venture will not only help feed the community, but provide a learning space for veterans and others through the K&B Liberty Veteran Coalition. The goal is to have self-sustaining small agricultural plots at multiple locations in a community, which will be used to raise produce and food for food pantries and others, while giving people hands-on learning in a variety of trades.
“There are so many different trades that can be [part of] agriculture,” Kris said. “You’ve got soil biology, animal husbandry, welding, electrical, construction...pretty much every tradesperson could learn from an agricultural-based internship.”
He said that the sites would “primarily help feed the homeless, fill the food pantries and help relieve the tax burden on social programs,” adding that “If you’re eating healthy, organic foods, it makes you feel better about yourself, makes your cognitive thinking better. [It will be] a nonprofit that can feed the city, especially those that need it most.”