Retirement Leads to Family Farming
The Lotspeichs’ failed retirement yields tons of fresh produce, herbs, flowers, and lamb for loyal clients
By Dianna Troyer
A lifelong educator, Leslie Lotspeich encouraged her students and staff to excel. But she confesses she is a failure.
“I flunked retirement with flying colors,” Leslie says. “So did my husband, Dale.”
Leslie, 62, retired in 2010 after teaching and being the principal at Wells Combined School. Dale, 60, worked for nearly three decades in law enforcement, including five years as Elko County sheriff.
In 2014, they launched Lotspeich Family Farm at the fourth-generation Lotspeich Ranch in Starr Valley near Deeth.
The Lotspeichs’ retirement failure has been a blessing to northeastern Nevadans who crave their strawberries, vegetables, herbs, lamb, and vibrant flowers. Loyal consumers—including Luciano’s restaurant in Elko and several flower shops—buy whatever the Lotspeichs grow from mid-March to October.
“At first, gardening was my hobby—a way to feed our family delicious fresh food,” Leslie says. “After I retired, it evolved into a mission. We believe our community deserves freshly picked, nutrient-dense food grown sustainably. We’ve been surprised at how hungry people are for food like ours.”
Leslie says her produce is intensely flavorful because it’s picked when ripe. Food in grocery stores often has to be harvested before it’s ripe due to transportation and shipping schedules.
Last year, the Lotspeichs and their son, Dan, harvested 4 to 5 tons of food.
“We literally had a ton of tomatoes,” Leslie says.
By the end of fall, they had picked so many they joked they were counting them in their sleep.
“Especially the cherry tomatoes,” Leslie says.
Winter is nearly as busy as summer and fall for the Lotspeichs.
“We’ll be starting about 600 tomato plants, 650 pepper plants, 300 squash and pumpkin plants, and then somewhere around 1,000 flower plants,” Leslie says. “I ordered 800 strawberry plants. We’ve only begun the flower portion of our business but are finding it’s so much fun. People get a lot of enjoyment out of fresh flowers for their home.”
Leslie jokes she and Dale “suckered Dan into being a partner with us.”
In 2015, when Dan was discharged from the U.S. Army after serving 6 1/2 years, he returned home and was amazed at what his parents had done in “retirement.”
“I shouldn’t have been surprised though,” says Dan, 34. “They’re both high energy. I realized this could really work as a solid business. We agreed and said, ‘Let’s do this.’ ”
Leslie and Dale built their first hoop house in 2013 to protect plants from northern Nevada’s wind and temperature fluctuations. It was 20 feet wide, 48 feet long, and 20 feet tall.
That growing season, Leslie had so many vegetables she couldn’t give them all away to friends and neighbors, so she turned to farmers markets.
“I’d stuff all I could in my car,” she says. “At Spring Creek, I’d be sold out in two hours.”
They also sell at a farmers market in Wells on the second and fourth Thursdays of the month from May through October.
“That way, our friends and neighbors can have access to fresh vegetables,” she says.
As demand grew, Leslie and Dale built three more hoop houses. This spring, they plan to add two more that are 14 feet tall, 16 feet wide, and 100 feet long.
“Even in February, when we’re planting seeds, it’s about 60 degrees in here—just from the sunshine,” Leslie says.
The Lotspeichs grow a cornucopia of food: asparagus, basil, beets, broccoli, cabbage, cucumbers, dill, carrots, cauliflower, cucumbers, green beans, onions, kale, leeks, lettuce, peas, potatoes, radish, rhubarb, shallots, spinach, summer squash, sweet corn, sweet peppers, tomatillos, tomatoes, winter squash, and zucchini.
Leslie says she has learned countless lessons from farming.
“We’ve learned how to use the soil to grow plants—not merely put the plants in the ground,” she says. “Our soil has a high pH, so we add elemental sulfur to help plants absorb nutrients. We’ve learned to identify the optimal time to harvest food and how to store it for best use. This doesn’t even go into what plants or seeds are best, how to start them, how to keep them healthy during the growing season, marketing, transportation, recipes—there’s so much.”
When crops are harvested, Leslie says people can call and place an order, and she will have it ready Mondays and Tuesdays.
“We’re certifiably crazy but not retired,” she says, laughing. “We’re at the point that we need to hire some people—and that’s a good problem to have.”