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Not so fast, city slicker

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By Donna Rosato, Money Magazine senior writer

Adjusting to farm life proved tougher than the Gunns expected, though, especially for Kathy. Caring for a new baby and working remotely from her colleagues, she felt terribly isolated. Josh was away at the farm seven days a week, which only made the loneliness worse.

Kathy remembers bursting into tears one Saturday morning watching Josh pull on his muck boots before heading out to feed the animals. "I didn't realize how demanding the farm would be," she says. "I didn't know what I was getting myself into."

When Kathy's company announced buyout offers in 2004, the Gunns decided she should take it - she qualified for a full year's salary - and look for work closer to home. But after months of searching, she couldn't find a job that matched her skills, paid even half as much as she used to make and gave her the flexibility she needed as a new mom.

With time running out on her severance pay and no job in sight, the couple grew anxious, worried that they'd have to tap their retirement savings to pay their mortgage and other bills. Then another option occurred to them: Why not sell their house and move in with Josh's grandmother on the farm?

Grandmother Gunn, 84, was thrilled. She was living alone in the two-story farmhouse (Josh's parents live elsewhere on the farm) and could use their help. So Kathy and Josh sold the house in Springfield and used the proceeds to pay off their mortgage and do a few renovations at the farmhouse to accommodate a larger family (like adding a second bathroom and installing a dishwasher in the kitchen).

Still, the space is undeniably tight for their family of five (daughter Anna was born in 2006, Katie in 2007); the bedrooms are small, the closets are tiny, and they share one bathroom that doubles as the laundry room.

And it's tough living in someone else's home when you've been used to your own - Josh and Kathy's Pottery Barn taste is quite different from Grandmother's Victorian country style, which includes lettuce-green walls and lace curtains in the dining room.

Yet the Gunns are grateful for the financial breathing room. And, they remind themselves, raising their girls in the open air of the farm amid extended family is exactly what they were seeking when they decided to move.

Where's the beef?

Their goals are now clear: They want to find a way to boost their income so they can one day build a house of their own on Green Hills land. And they want to secure their livelihood on the farm for the future.

On the first goal, they're making headway. Kathy's job as a consultant for a local bank, landed in 2005, bolsters the modest salary Josh draws from the farm. And together, with the help of a $50,000 bank line of credit, they've launched a sideline venture, Gourmet Pasture Beef, which sells meat from 100%-grass-fed cattle - devoid of artificial hormones and antibiotics and lower in fat and calories than grain-fed beef - to consumers and restaurants.

The Gunns do everything from raising the cows (they own 41) to marketing and shipping the end product (tasks they tackle in the evenings and on weekends), although they use a butcher to "process" the cows and package the meat.

But raising the livestock takes time, so it's inherently a slow-growth enterprise: In the first year of operation, they've only rung up $37,000 in sales and, after factoring in their costs, are just breaking even. In addition to worrying about their business' slow start, the Gunns are concerned about what lies ahead for the farm.

The central question: What will happen to the land after Josh's parents pass away? They're loath to ask outright, but Josh and Kathy believe the elder Gunns will divide the property equally between Josh and his siblings, Ginger, 30, and Jonathan, 18.

Jonathan may want to work at the farm after college. But Ginger, who is married, has a young child and lives in another town, hasn't expressed an interest in farming. If, when the time comes, Ginger wants to sell her share, Josh and Kathy can't afford to buy it. This means they could be forced by financial circumstances to give up a lifestyle they've come to love.

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