Green background with sign stating Broadleaf Farms
Broadleaf Farms is located at 8656 Ohio 314 near Mansfield. Credit: Demrie Alonzo

MANSFIELD — LuAnne Johnson spent 27 years as a Women’s Health Nurse, but she spent her whole life dreaming of owning a farm.

Then, seven years ago, she got to do both.

Johnson and her husband, Mark, talked for years about buying a farm, and then in 2018, they realized it was “now or never.”

“You think about it all the years that you’re young and then, all of a sudden, I’m not young anymore. We looked around and found this place,” said Johnson of their 19-acre farm they call Broadleaf Farms, located at 8656 Ohio 314, 5 miles outside of Lexington.

For 27 years Johnson worked in labor and delivery, and now she delivers goats.

“Having that knowledge really came in handy,” Johnson said. She’s had to deliver her goats and not all deliveries have been easy.

“Having the nursing experience in labor and delivery made it not as scary as it could have been.”

Mark Johnson retired three years ago, so farming has become his full-time job.

LuAnne herself only retired this past December.

“I was doing my egg business with 50 chickens, but I had to sell off the chickens while I was still working because it was just too much.

“I’m building that back up again.”

Now that Johnson has retired, she has jumped fully into farming.

“I always wanted to be a goat farmer. It was my dream. But the dream versus the reality is very different,” Johnson said with a laugh.

“It’s real. Things happen. We had a very sick goat that was going to die, and Mark had to drive to Ohio State and pick up fresh cow digestive juices.

“They have a cow there with something that looks like a gas cap on its body they can open and take out these juices. We had to put it down in the goat’s throat every two hours to get the goat’s digestive system working again.

“It stunk to high heaven! But it worked! The goat doesn’t care that we saved her, though.”

One of the reasons they bought this farm was because they wanted to sell the products they made and grew.

“When we looked at this farm, there were two things that sold it for us. It had a long driveway, but it’s also right on a busy state route. That road to me represents customers.”

Not only is Johnson building back up her egg business, but she is also making soap to sell.

“It’s a goat’s milk soap made of goats’ milk, shea butter, olive oil and coconut oil. The goat’s milk takes up the biggest portion of the recipe.”

Currently, she believes her goats are pregnant and should start producing milk for her again soon so that she can continue making soap. She also advertises the goat’s milk for pets.

“It’s very popular for pets, but I don’t make it for human consumption.”

The Johnson’s have four French Alpine Dairy goats.

Her son knew she always wanted to be a goat farmer and bought her a book about goats several years ago.

When she looked through the book, she fell in love with the French Alpine.

“I thought they were beautiful,” she said.

Another thing she loved about them was the story that comes with them.

“There were 22 goats that came to America, and my goats are direct descendants of those original 22.”

However, Johnson says they are somewhat aloof and independent and don’t seek attention the way so many other goat breeds do.

The Johnson’s also grow a huge variety of produce. Just some of what they grow consists of sweet corn, beans, potatoes, a variety of peppers, eggplant, beets, asparagus, broccoli, carrots, turnips, parsnips, garlic, blackberries, and more.

Last year the blackberries were damaged by their rabbits, but next year they hope
to have their “You Pick” blackberries back in business.

“They are huge and delicious,” Johnson said. “We even sell them to Wayne’s Market.”

They also sell Flemish Giant rabbits that are hand-raised and a beautiful light reddish color. They even have bees and have made honey, but they haven’t added the honey to their business quite yet.

“Hopefully we’ll be adding that eventually,” Johnson said.

Mark Johnson is an expert in the all-natural bio-intensive farming, which puts soil fertility to the forefront of their produce farming. As a result, it’s more than just organic, because the soil is tested for the best nutrients to grow the healthiest produce.

It shows in the size, color and taste of the amazing produce on their farm.

The selling part of their business is starting to build up. They hired an internet company to create their website: BROADLEAFFARMSS8656.COM.

Customers can order a peck to fill with whatever they want from the website. The website is easy to use with photos of everything they sell.

The customer puts what they want in their cart and places their order. Customers can pick up their orders on Mondays, Wednesdays, Fridays or Saturdays at the stand on State Route 314.

“There’s just so much to do and learn,” Johnson said of getting to know farming. “One of the things we found out after buying the farm is that the fields produce Timothy and Orchard grass hay every year.

“It just grows. So, we have to farm it.

“It’s perfect for goats and rabbits. This way, I don’t have to buy it for them. We harvest it two to three times a year.”

The Johnson’s keep about 300 bales and the rest is sold to a horse farm in Marengo.

Luckily, very little of what they produce is wasted.

“We found out about these auctions where you take the produce you didn’t sell, and retailers and restauranteurs buy in bulk.”

Johnson said they’ve used the auctions quite often since they aren’t selling a lot online yet. This way they aren’t wasting anything.

Plus, they do their own canning of vegetables that they keep for themselves, which is another way to prevent waste.

When asked about their plans for the future, Johnson said they will keep doing what they’re doing until they can’t anymore.

“We started in our late 50’s and now we’re in our 60’s, so who knows how long we can do this. We’ll just do it as long as we can. This is our dream.”

To check out available items and produce, go to BROADLEAFFARMS8656.COM.