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Leia de Sha: Harvesting Happiness on the Farm

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It all began because somebody wanted chickens. “Well, I wanted animals—all the animals!” Leia de Sha, 40, exclaimed, laughing as she described how she and her husband, David, 44, went from living in a Stockton tract home to creating their own farm on four acres in Lodi.

“He was in it for the gardening and I was in it for the animals, but now it’s been 11 years and we’ve both come to love all aspects of this space, this life,” she beamed. Their four daughters, ranging from 8 to 17, agree, having poured themselves into farm life for almost as long as they can remember.

These are happy, busy times indeed for Leia and David, both with full-time jobs, the kids and their joyful menagerie of all creatures great and small. He is accomplished in both law enforcement and electrical work, and she is the bookkeeper for numerous businesses. Together, they operate their all-organic farm, practice regenerative agriculture and share a vision of how it will continue to evolve.

The Menagerie
A charming chicken coop is home to 37 hens and Karl the rooster, who come and go as they please, laying rainbow-hued eggs that sell by the dozen. Rambunctious goats romp nearby, eagerly greeting anyone who approaches while their mini cow, Jet, shyly stands by, hoping for a treat or a scratch on the head. Ducks explore puddles from a recent rainstorm as sheep and an elderly pig casually graze on the vibrant spring grass while the sun warms their backs. It is the picture of contentment. Come nightfall, Daisy Mae, a tall Great Pyrenees, will protect them from hungry coyotes. But at the moment, just an exuberant pup herself, Daisy Mae cannot resist chasing a chicken just for fun.

The adjacent orchard is composed of some 60 fruit trees, several breaking forth in a flurry of fresh pink blossoms. Extremely knowledgeable about plants, David selected these trees not just for their quality of fruit but with careful attention to when each crop would mature, ensuring a long harvest of ripe fruits each season. To achieve the same maximum window of harvest in the vegetable garden, they implement succession planting, sowing new seeds every few weeks for continuous crops.

The Big Plan
To share the bounty, Leia plans to open a women-owned farm stand to sell produce, eggs and other regional products. “I like to support local businesses in our community,” she explained. Leia was pivotal in developing Lodi Blooms, James Chinchiolo’s yearly U-Pick cherry event. “The moment I heard his idea I felt so excited and knew I wanted to be involved. It’s such a treat to be out in the orchard with all the happy people for such a cool, fun event. My kids are also involved and we look forward to it every year.”

Leia and her family also have welcomed kids from Impact Sports Center’s Farm Program coordinated by Shane Harden. San Joaquin Valley is a vast agricultural resource, yet many people have no experience or familiarity with that side of life. “It’s really rewarding to see the kids playing and hear them laughing out here as they experience caring for the animals and growing their own food,” Leia shared. She also dreams of establishing a Farm Stay program in which “visitors can have a more immersive experience, staying and picking fruits, collecting eggs, learning about the garden and doing the things we take for granted in this area.”

The Animal Whisperers
Their daughter Evelyn, 11, has a special gift for birthing goats and adores taking care of the newborns. On the autism spectrum, Evelyn is shy around strangers but truly in her element caring for the animals. Her older sisters, Olivia and Avery, are raising a goat and pig for Tokay Future Farmers of America. These days, school and work often pull them away from home but their youngest sibling, eight-year-old Vivian, has them covered. An enthusiastic helper and knower of all things animal, Vivian has happily stepped in to fill the gap.

Leia enjoys time with her family, especially hiking, camping and road trips. With the twins getting older, she is more aware of how quickly time passes and wants to make the most of their time together. Besides having fun, she also prioritizes teaching her daughters to be strong. “We’ve overcome drought, fire, flooding and career changes. There’s been money; there’s been no money. And I always remind the girls…” at this, Vivian confidently chimed in with her mother, “We can do hard things for a short period of time!” “Yes,” Leia said, nodding. “Sometimes you just have to do the hard thing but it’s not going to be forever.”

What will be forever, she hopes, is the positive impact one can have on family, friends, children and the community. Say yes to life and “choose happiness,” Leia urged. Follow your heart. Do good things. You never know what’s possible until you try. And just think, it all began because somebody wanted chickens.

Find the family on Instagram @desha_farming_co.