Farming brings Kelly Hensing and her family life satisfaction and good health without medication

25 Nov 2023

Kelly Hensing’s farming experience, which later developed into her farming career, began with her desire to feed her family unprocessed foods. And primarily it concerned raw, unprocessed milk. The purpose of this was the improvement of her family’s health, especially her children’s health.

Kelly calls her Hilltop Acres Farm, of Dayton, Maryland, a micro-dairy. But the farm has blossomed to also include beef cattle, pigs, sheep, chicken, duck and turkey. Kelly also milks six cows.

And there are lots of babies on her farm. Lots and lots of baby animals.

How did you take up farming? Accidentally or consciously?

Kelly Hensing: I had no intention of being a farmer. I always planned to be a vet. I had no interest in the cows. I wanted to see the fluffy dogs. That was going to be my life.

When I was 16, I started working at a small veterinary clinic. I was the receptionist, but the clinic was small enough that I got to help with lab work.

Later, I worked as the office manager at a large emergency veterinary clinic, all the while making plans to attend vet school. When I and my husband were living in Ohio, my plan was to attend Ohio State. But when my husband got a job in Charlotte, North Carolina, and the closest vet school was in Raleigh (about 150 miles away), and I had a baby, my plans to become a vet got derailed.

Do you regret you did not become a vet?

Hensing: No. I now think that not attending vet school was a blessing in disguise. There’s a lot of people relationship involved in being a vet, and I don’t think I would have enjoyed that part so much. That’s one of the things that I love about the farming. I still get to do cool animal stuff, and I still deal with people, but I get to deal with people I have a connection with.

What prompted you to take up farming?

Hensing: Our health issues. I and my husband have three sons.

When we lived in the Carolinas [first in North Carolina and then in South Carolina], we all had health issues. My husband had high cholesterol. I had severe allergies most of my life and got weekly injections and took medication. My oldest son had allergies and also was on medication. He had ear problems and had ear tubes.

We had been the Standard American Diet Family. I Can’t Believe It’s Not Butter, two liters of Diet Coke every day, pasteurized skim milk. If I got a frozen Stouffers lasagna, a bag of salad and a frozen garlic bread on the table for dinner, I thought I was Super Mom. ‘Look at me! I cooked dinner tonight!’”

How did you come to the idea you need to change your diet to improve your health?

Hensing: My close friend in South Carolina convinced me that an organic diet would be much healthier for our three boys.

My friend was a homesteader in Florida and I enjoyed hearing her stories about her cows and the other things she had done.

So I gradually introduced more fresh foods into our family’s diet.

Later our friends introduced us to the Paleo diet, and we started pretty much eating Paleo. They introduced me to raw milk, and there was a raw milk dairy not far from us, so we started doing that too.

Drinking unpasteurized milk is a controversial subject, isn’t it?

Hensing: Well, some nutritionist say raw milk is extremely nourishing, beneficial to the body, and safe to drink. Others hold the opposite opinion that raw milk is unsafe to drink. You can find stories of the government shutting farmers down who sell raw milk, and accusations of gross government overreach.

I did much research on the topic of raw milk and came to the conclusion that it is safe and good for our family.

And you began drinking raw milk for health.

Hensing: That’s it. And I saw immediate improvement in our son’s allergies once he started on the unpasteurized milk, and I became a big fan of raw.

Once we were committed to it, there was no turning back. My kids would sometimes buy pasteurized milk at school, and their reaction to the taste was ‘Yuck!’

So you gradually cleaned your diet of processed food.

Hensing: Yes. And after we did it, I and my husband each lost 30 pounds, and his cholesterol went down 80 points. I said our son was on the raw milk, and his allergies and ear infections disappeared. We are a ton happier now, and I wouldn’t have that food we used to eat in my house if you paid me.

I think switching to raw milk made a big difference. But what really put our health over the top was when we moved to Maryland and started farming.

When you started farming, you completely changed your lifestyle, not just the diet.

Hensing: Oh, yes. First of all, we are all outside more.

We drink milk from the cow that live in our backyard. I’m a firm believer that when our cow is eating what’s in her immediate environment, she’s immunizing us through her milk, building up our immunity.

Granted, we also started eating more local and ate less processed foods when we moved here, and I think that plays a huge role too.

That’s great you’ve managed to improve your family’s health?

Hensing: To my great joy, the progress was really striking!

Since the time I was 18 years old, I visited an allergist two to three times a week for injections to help with my severe allergies. I was 36 when we moved to Maryland, so that’s 18 years of allergy injections.

When we moved, I was busy milking a cow and unpacking boxes. I had my allergy serums in the fridge, but I was so busy that I didn’t find an allergist. My serums sat in the fridge for a year. I had been taking Allegra, and I was on an inhaler. But when I moved here I quit cold turkey, and I haven’t taken anything since. There might be a day here and there when we put up 400 bales of hay that I might be sniffly that night, but other than that I haven’t had to use an inhaler or take an Allegra or anything. No sinus infections. No headaches. Nothing.

I think back to how much money I was putting into the health care system. All that money! All those years!

What is unique about your farm?

Hensing: I think the most unique thing is our raw pet milk, because it can be so hard to find, especially in Maryland. I’m pretty passionate about raw milk and when we moved to Maryland in 2010, I knew that it was hard to get legally. Even though I had never farmed before, I went out and bought a cow and started milking the cow just to have raw milk for our family.

So your farming career began when you bought a cow and started milking her for the health of your family?

Hensing: In fact, that’s how everything began. It was hard for me in this area to find farms that were selling 100% grass-fed beef in bulk, or half pastured pigs, or non-GMO. It was just hard to find what I was looking for. We were milking the dairy cow and she was producing too much milk so we went ahead and got pigs, and it just sort of mushroomed out from that dairy cow.

We started drinking raw milk and then my kids didn’t need allergy medications anymore. We just saw all sorts of health benefits from it.

What do you want non-farmers to know about farming?

Hensing: Oh, it’s really, really hard work. It may seem like $6/pound is a lot for ground beef, but I’ll tell you we are not making a lot of money. We’re working really hard. It’s not a 9 to 5 job, it’s not a 5 days a week job, we don’t have the weekends off, and we work all the time. It’s been a lot of work to do farmers markets. It’s provided us with more income and gotten our name out there, but packing up all your stuff and having to be away from the farm for that long, it’s hard.

I also think a lot of Americans think their food shouldn’t cost very much money. We’re kind of spoiled with cheap food and I don’t think people realize that it’s subsidized. And yes, we pay more for our food, but our healthcare is virtually nothing. My kids haven’t been to a doctor in many years. They just don’t get sick. You pay more for your food but you pay less for your healthcare. But it’s not an instantaneous thing. Healing yourself with food obviously takes time, but people want it to be instantaneous.

If you weren’t a farmer, what would you be?

Hensing: I think I would still work in some sort of agriculture.

I would probably work at a farm stand or volunteer at a farm. I just think I would feel like I needed to be around that sort of environment. I love the people I meet through this—people who are like-minded in that they are also seeking unaltered, whole foods.

Hensing’s Hilltop Acres products, including 100% grassfed beef and dairy, free-range GMO-free and soy-free chicken and eggs and pastured pork, are available to order at her online store for pickup at the farm and at several farmers markets in Howard County, Maryland.


By Gilbert Castro | ENC News


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