Audra Owen Proves You’re Never Too Young To Be A Hobby Farmer

A teenage visionary created a flourishing farm in Oklahoma. The young hobby farmer feeds her family and, by donating the profits, helps others, too.

by Carol Mowdy Bond
PHOTO: Carol Mowdy Bond

Audra Owen’s grandmother worked her garden with 6-year-old Audra playing around her. That’s when Audra decided to become a gardener. So, Audra’s dad Matt helped her create a 4-by-4-foot garden to grow tomatoes.

A few years later, the family relocated to 8 acres on Oklahoma’s rural Canadian County prairie. Audra planted flowers to pretty things up near their house. But again, she wanted a garden.

This time Matt plotted a 40-by-20-foot garden, and Audra grew vegetables. Audra kept adding more plants, and the garden blossomed.

Three years ago, Audra bought various breeds of egg and meat chickens. Now the Owen family buys meat birds once annually, butchers and freezes them for family meals.

But Audra, the young hobby farmer, nurtured bigger plans for the eggs.

young hobby farmer
Audra Owen raises several breeds of chickens including Barred Rock, Buff Orpington, Rhode Island Red and Brown Leghorn. She lets them free-range as much as possible to cut down on the tick population. Plus, the chickens love to eat fresh grass! The family also gives the chickens remaining food scraps from their table. A lot of straw in the chicken coop helps the cluckers stay warm when Oklahoma’s winter winds sweep across the prairie. The chicken run acts as a windbreak.
(Carol Mowdy Bond)

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Origin Story

Two years ago at a local farmers market, the family noticed a seed company giving away seeds for unusual vegetables. They loaded up boxes of seeds and took them home, where Matt helped Audra plant them.

Audra’s hobby farm became so huge that her brother, Talan, now a 14-year-old eighth grader on the middle school football team, began helping with the grunt work. On school days, these teens are up by 5:40 a.m. to care for the animals and plants, and then off to school.

Pretty much in charge of the family’s agricultural projects, Audra and Talan keep things running but with help from dad and mom.

young hobby farmer
Matt Owen (right) is the family architect and construction engineer. But it’s a full family experience when building anything. Matt and son Talan (left), himself a young hobby farmer, are beside the nesting boxes where Talan and Audra collect the eggs they sell. They have a compost bin near the chicken coop, and they use table scraps, bedding, grass clippings and anything else that breaks down as compost, which they then use as fertilizer. (Carol Mowdy Bond)

When Matt has time, he helps with the farm endeavors. But when he’s unavailable, his wife Catherine (“Cat”) helps the two teens.

“Everyone has their own job,” Cat says. “I’m the cook. They grow it, and I’ll cook it. We’ve tried a lot of new things we can eat out of the garden. We consume about half of what we grow. We can a lot and freeze our strawberries, blackberries and peaches.”

young hobby farmer
Young hobby farmer Audra Owen stands in front of the grapevines, only a tiny part of her garden, which is now a multi-layered family hobby farm. From January through April, she starts most of her plants from seed inside the house under grow lights. When winter is over, Audra’s dad, Matt, tills the garden for her. She and Matt work together during planting season. After everything is harvested in late fall, they plant winter wheat in the garden and raised beds. As a natural fertilizer, it adds biomass to the soil. The family lets the chickens graze on the wheat, providing them a good protein source in the winter. The chickens also fertilize the garden. Audra gets seed catalogs in the mail, and then talks to her dad about plants she wants to try. (Carol Mowdy Bond)

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Give It Away

For the past few years, Audra has used social media to sell eggs, vegetables, and homemade jams and jellies. She donates all the funds for children to attend church programs.

She and Talan don’t keep any earnings.

Audra’s now 40-x-80-foot garden isn’t just a garden anymore. She has all kinds of chickens, a gender-unknown goose named Goose Lee, plus family dogs Jelly Bean and Jangles, and Talan’s dog, Bo.

Bo mothers all the chickens. He gets into the pens and counts them. The horses—Pancake and Baby—spend their days in a fenced pasture.

Audra is now a 16-year-old high school sophomore who watches Netflix from the couch. But the young hobby farmer is also a high-energy agricultural entrepreneur who has generated farming ideas for 10 years.

young hobby farmer
The chicken coop and yard area are like a massive apartment complex, complete with nesting boxes. Matt grew up in a family of DIYers. As a kid, he spent a lot of time at his grandmother’s house, learning gardening from her. She also had an orchard with numerous varieties of fruits trees. He learned about chickens from friends and family. Now he teaches Audra how to raise all her animals. “It helps to have a dad who builds everything,” Audra says. (Carol Mowdy Bond)

Their hobby farm produces most of the family’s meals. Audra experiments with her produce, and she’s now trying to dry vegetables while researching duck eggs.

And she’s still selling chicken eggs, produce, and jams and jellies, while giving away all her profits. In 2018, she gave away more than $400, which is exactly what she wanted to do!

This article originally appeared in the May/June 2020 issue of Chickens magazine.

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