SweetWell Farm
SweetWell Farm
View from the neighbor’s hillside.

Interview with Lise Hubbe of SweetWell Farm, Scio, Oregon

by Lynn R. Miller of Singing Horse Ranch

Q. How did you decide to be a horse farmer?

A. In general, farming is part of my genetic heritage and also my personal lifestyle focus. Choosing horses was a step-by-step process of self-realization and expanding world-view. It makes sense to me: economically, ecologically, and emotionally. This is the best way I’ve found for me to work to correct the imbalances I see in the world around me, while shaping a life that makes me happy. Farming in general, and horse-farming in particular, pull together and call on my core values and essential qualities. No part of me is left hungry. I love it.

SweetWell Farm
Lise, Grace and Daisy: happy and tired from plowing.

Q. Does passion play a part? Profit?

A. I looked in the dictionary to understand the meaning of “passion,” and one definition (sixth in the list) used words such as “devotion and enthusiasm for an object or interest.” Those are true for me about working with the horses. The first definitions talk about painful emotion controlled by some external cause; that is not my condition!

I am fully engaged, with the whole of myself, in my life as a farmer and in my working relationships with the horses. It brings happiness into my life I never thought possible for me in this world. I love it. It makes sense to me. I see clearly the good that comes from our efforts. And, yes, I am determined that our efforts sustain us materially. “Profit” is a bit of a loaded word. My vision of lifestyle and livelihood does not begin with specific financial rewards. When I let life pour through me happily in a beneficial and generous direction, abundance showers all around. There is immeasurable profit, or gain, including enough dollars when they’re needed.

One of my farm mentors, Fritz Lonsway, says: “Farming successfully isn’t only about earning money, it’s also about not spending it.”

Economics, as the creative management of all our varied resources to community benefit, is an exciting aspect of farming. We grow stronger and brighter through the application of our ingenuity and resourcefulness, and deeper through thought and care.

SweetWell Farm
Sunset mowing, right before Daisy (near horse) foaled.

Q. Were there impediments due to gender?

A. The obvious initial answer is: yes, of course, all along.

But specifically with respect to farming? With respect to working the horses?

Let’s start where it’s easy… I don’t experience any physical impediments due to gender. I’m not a large person (5’5”, 135#) but I’m plenty stout, and through a lifetime of production labor and athletic endeavors I’ve learned how to work my own body to best advantage. Besides, the horses are a whole lot stronger than even the hurkiest male, so for anyone, there has to be an application of creative intelligence in order to overcome the physical challenges of the work.

Social obstacles due to gender:

  • Conventional expectations.
  • Ignorant assumptions.
  • All-male environments; relational conditioning.
  • Holes in my own training and experience.

Nothing ever stopped me.

No one stood in my way.

I have been given tremendous good help and encouragement.

I am used to being overlooked.

It is common that my ideas, experiences, or opinions are not sought in conversation or taken seriously, but only by those who haven’t come to know me. Among the expanding network of people in my work life, I do feel respected.

SweetWell Farm
Proudly showing off 14-week-old June.

Q. How long, from when you decided, to when you first plowed?

A. I started apprenticing with horse logger Harry Lehman in June of 1997, with the goal of gaining knowledge and skills in working horses toward my vision of farming with them. During this time, an opportunity presented itself to me when Frtiz Lonsway offered his whole collection of horsedrawn farm equipment for sale. The purchase of this collection was my first big step, with commitment and determination in mind, towards manifesting the vision. I had approximately 60 hours work with his team in a variety of woods, field, and road situations before buying my team in March 1998. Harry located this team for me. Though at the time I wasn’t looking for a team of my own, when these horses became available, I took the leap. The horses and I started plowing in our second week together.

We had masterful instruction and guidance from Ivan Nisly. When I bought the team, I arranged to keep the horses at his place, doing his fieldwork under his eye, to get a solid start. We plowed first because that’s what Ivan needed done; he aimed to put in a five-acre oat crop. The horses and I plowed, disced and harrowed that ground. (I can’t claim to have done all the plowing: Ivan put in some finishing hours with his tractor).

I spent my last $500 as a down payment on the team, and worked a full year to pay off the loan I’d taken for their purchase. When I got that done, I bought a used truck and then trailer. After 14 incredible months at Ivan’s, I moved the team closer to home and struck out on my own with them.

SweetWell Farm
Mowing oat hay, our first crop, Summer 2000. A beautiful photo by Dad.

Q. Does it get easier or harder?

A. “What it?”

The mares and I have been working together five years. We keep getting more steady, solid, refined, sensitively tuned.

Me being me, visible and interacting, gets easier and easier. (Though not always easy). Happy helps.

“It” may not be a straight-line process. My work is evolving. Some parts of it are harder for me. Some days are harder. Today is harder.

SweetWell Farm
June: 5 month-old weanling.

Q. What do you tell people who ask, “Why are you doing this?”

A. This is a huge question. “What I am doing,” to my own understanding, is multi-faceted and interrelated.

To answer you, would be a beautiful and challenging process of showing to you the depth and breadth of who I am, where I’ve been, how I’ve grown, as well as my world view and how I see myself at home in the world. And I’d like to tell you that story!

To answer a neighbor farmer who comes by with a flip, “don’t see how you’re gonna make any money…”, I just smile.

To someone who asks, “Why horses instead of a tractor?” I speak to any of several issues: it makes me happy! It’s economical. We raise their fuel on the place, and they turn it into fertilizer. They reproduce their own replacements. I can work ground year ‘round, when needed. They’re soft on the soil. They’re quiet, and smell good. The scale and pace of our work is humane.

To someone who says, “Looks like a lot of work,” I say: Life is work. The blessing in life is not a lack of work, but to be able to work at that which one loves. Or I say, “I don’t pay to go to the gym!”

Aside from the horse-powered aspect of our farm, “What I’m doing” to shape an ecologically sound family of integrated enterprises has yet to become visible to most observers. I just say, “wait and see.” “Watch it happen.”

I am learning how to share my current thinking as just that; this moment in my process of learning the practice of farming.

SweetWell Farm
Nancy and Jasper ready to load wool.

Q. Where is your farm?

A. Our farm is east central Willamette Valley. We’re on the valley floor, but just ½ mile to the east rise the foothills of the Cascades.

SweetWell Farm
Early morning, heading out to the market garden to cultivate beans and corn.

Q. Where did you come from?

A. This is another big question, or could be. If you mean where was I born; Eugene, Oregon, while my family was living at the McKenzie Bridge Ranger Station. Where was I raised? Mostly Eugene.

But “what life experiences brought me to where I am” is also where I’m from, and there are several very influential aspects of my upbringing and personal journey that have shaped me, and directed my choices and decisions.

SweetWell Farm
First three-abreast: June, Daisy and Grace.

Q. Is family involved?

A. Yes, and on many levels.

My maternal grandfather immigrated from Scotland as a Journeyman Grower (apprenticed as a young man at Pitfour Castle) and had intended to farm with his siblings. He lived with my family while I was growing up and I followed him around his garden, greenhouse and workbench learning soils, composting, pruning and plants.

My father, a forester, wanted to farm, and my family went with him on many weekend outings to look at land. My parents were careful and purposeful in their hard work and wise financial management. Our farm is the coming-together of three-generations of vision, intent, effort, and ability.

When I got started with the horses and my own farming project, my parents were inspired to get serious about finding and buying a farm where we could work and live together. The plan was: I would manage the daily workings, and when my parents moved on full-time, Dad and I would work together. My sister Nancy joined in on the plan and has been here with me from the beginning. (She found this farm).

Not quite one year after moving onto our farm, and before my parents were able to make the move, my father died, very suddenly and completely unexpectedly. The visions that we shared for this farm are intact within me, and my mother and sister and I are working to see how we can continue without dad. It has been very difficult without him. We are missing him!

My other siblings, two sisters and a brother, are very much in support of what we’re shaping here. How they and their immediate families may join in is yet to be seen. For now at least, our farm is the family gathering place.

SweetWell Farm
Perfect Harmony: the rustling oat heads, the singing blade, the steady cascade of falling grass, the sweet scent of horse, the realization of a dream.

Q. How many acres?


  • 62 total acres.
  • 55 cultivatable class I and class II soils (silty loam).
  • 1+ acre wet ground (class III clay loam).
  • 3+ acres hillside woods.
  • 2+ acres homesite/orchard/barnyard…
  • Water rights to irrigate 55 acres.
  • Year round spring in middle of farm.
  • Domestic well.
  • Barnyard well.
SweetWell Farm
Field drive: wool bags make comfy seats! Note contour-plowed spring run-off; an experiment that works.

Q. What breed and gender of horses?

A. Two strawberry roan Belgian mares, sisters. (Farceur line.) Raised by Ivan Nisly. Approximately 10 & 13 years old. “Grace” & “Daisy.”

And now also a 9 month old bay roan filly, “June.” ¼ Brabant Belgian out of the 13 year old mare by “Bennetts Eminent Sheldon” blue roan, ½ Brabant stallion owned by Brian Slavens, (by Brabant stallion out of Farceur mare).

SweetWell Farm
4-1/2 year-old Jesse Hubbe through the window with Nancy and Lise.

Q. What crops?

A. My first crop was 10 acres of oats. I harvested 7 acres as hay and 3 acres as whole grain. I’ve made oat hay each year. Last fall I planted 30 acres in pasture, and will graze it as well as hay it. This past spring, I launched into my market gardening project: 4 acres. With no greenhouse for early starts yet, I limited myself to “big seed directly sown” crops: potatoes (5 varieties); onions; winter squash (3 varieties) summer squash (5 varieties); salad cucumbers (2 varieties) pickling cukes; pumpkins (pie and jack-o-lantern); green soybeans; green beans; sweet corn (3 varieties).

SweetWell Farm

Q. Future plans?

A. Another big question, and one that I love, because it can be thought about and answered on so many levels.

The crop/project/enterprise mix I envision:

  • Market Garden
  • Hay – Oat, Grass and experiment with alfalfa (pH issue)
  • Pasture
  • Pastured poultry (eggs & meat)
  • Sheep (30-50) (meat)
  • Composting pigs (thanks to Anne & Eric Nordell)
  • Blueberries and Raspberries
  • Expand Orchard (apples, pears, prunes, figs, filberts)
  • Woodlot

Based on acreages and crop plans, I believe that with six working horses I could manage our fieldwork exclusively with horsepower. My plan to accomplish this goal is to buy a second team as soon as I find the right one, and to raise a couple of teams from my mares.

We have infrastructure plans which will likely take several years to complete, following a priority schedule: Electricity to the barn; Develop the barnyard well; build tie-stalls and harness room; build a greenhouse; make an eggwashing/handling room; install a walk-in cooler; set up a shop;


Plans are based on what we know; as my experience expands so does my knowledge, and so plans can change. I have a vision and a hope for extended family and community involvement. I don’t know enough yet to have plans in that regard other than to notice what’s needed among those around me and work our farm to serve the needs.

SweetWell Farm
Rich harvest: squash, corn, and potatoes.
SweetWell Farm
Winter skid: My “whale of a team.”
SweetWell Farm
Fertilizing new pasture ground.
SweetWell Farm
The most visible corner of our place. Passers-by stop to watch and talk.
SweetWell Farm
Beautiful soil. Plowing the market garden ground.
SweetWell Farm
Spreading the wealth: Application of composted manure to summer fallow ground in the market garden.
SweetWell Farm
Raking hay. June’s first go-along, (6 weeks old), at her mama’s side.
SweetWell Farm
SweetWell Farm