Meet the Modern Farmer: Leila Schneider and Chandler Briggs - Modern Farmer

Meet the Modern Farmer: Leila Schneider and Chandler Briggs

These farmers use actual horsepower instead of gas-guzzling machinery.

Audra Mulkern

Farming with actual horsepower, as opposed to gas-guzzling machinery, might seem a well-intentioned – if thoroughly impractical – notion. But for Leila Schneider, 29, and Chandler Briggs, 32, economics figured prominently in the decision. “A tractor’s value depreciates quickly; horses get stronger and more efficient as they work,” explains Briggs. “Plus, they can make new baby ‘tractors.’”

Of course, equine energy involves a steeper learning curve. Which is why Briggs spent four years gleaning knowledge from draft-horse experts John Erskine, Emily Asmus, and Marvin Brisk before planting a single seed on the nine acres he and Schneider leased off Craigslist. Two years in, the couple grows 40 different crops with the help of Percheron geldings Jackson and Dusty. And though Briggs and Schneider gamble on exotic edibles (farmers market customers and restaurateurs go crazy for their French heirloom melons), the duo curbs riskier impulses. “It’s easy to get excited,” admits Schneider. “Let’s raise chickens! And ducks! And pigs! But we want to make sure we master fruits and vegetables before becoming overly ambitious.”

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