I am married to a wonderful man for 31 years and raised three awesome children, all who have graduated from college and are living on their own. I have a great corporate job that pays the bills and then some. I should be relaxing, enjoying my free time and spending time with my grandchildren. What do I do instead? I become a farmer.
In August of 2012, my son Nick, my youngest, left for college. This made me an empty-nester and not a very happy one. Although I had a successful corporate career, it was never my passion. I always found my purpose in being a mom and raising my children. A very good friend of mine suggested starting a hobby, something to keep me busy and give me a new sense of purpose. I decided to try vegetable gardening. I love to cook and feed people so having fresh vegetables from my own garden sounded like fun. I immediately fell in love with it. Each year my garden grew bigger and bigger. It expanded from vegetables to fruit trees and bushes, with everything grown completely naturally. Then, I got a small flock of chickens and a couple of bee hives. I spent most of my free time after work and on the weekends out in the garden. When I wasn’t in the garden, I was reading about gardening or watching YouTube videos about gardening. It became my passion, though my husband would call it my obsession. I loved giving vegetables and eggs to my friends and family. There was no way my husband and I could eat all of it, even after freezing and canning what I could. I felt so proud being able to help people access healthy, natural food.
In 2016, another good friend asked me to help her with a project she was working on. She had a nice size piece of property in Bethel she wanted to turn into a farm. Her son is autistic and had benefited tremendously from a program at a local farm. My friend wanted to create something similar on her property. I was super excited to be involved and help in any way I could. In my corporate job, we have a small group of mentally and physically handicapped individuals who work in our building, making small kits. I am lucky enough to be the liaison between our company and their agency. I have really enjoyed it and look forward to the time I get to spend with them. Unfortunately, the project never took off, but I couldn’t stop thinking about it.
I loved the idea of being able to offer fresh, natural, affordable food to the community and provide meaningful work for the disabled at the same time. I began saving every penny I could and learning as much as I could, not just about gardening, but also about farming. The first thing I learned is if I wanted to be successful I had to approach this as a business, not a hobby. One of my initial investments was an urban farming class, which was the best decision I could have made.
Fast forward to March of 2018, and my first season farming went well, sort of. I have spent most of the year in my muck boots, my red ones with chickens on them, covered from head to toe in dirt. Some vegetables were planted, harvested and sold, but the majority of my time was spent setting up the infrastructure. We cleared 7000 sq. ft. in my backyard, including removing the sod. We assembled a 24’x 60’greenhouse and fenced in a 75’x75’planting field. We also installed an automated sprinkler system and distributed 20 cubic yards of organic compost. We then tilled and tilled and when we finished tilling, we tilled some more. When I say we, I mean the best family and friends anyone could ask for. I had family come from Massachusetts, New Hampshire and Pennsylvania. I have had friends work outside all day in the pouring rain or all day in the 100 degree greenhouse. I have never worked harder in my life, but I have also never been happier.
The 2019 season is already looking very promising. I have a space at the local farmer’s market and I am offering my first CSA. I am working with a local agency to hopefully hire my first employees. I know this is what I am supposed to be doing with my life. I hope you join me on this journey.