“I’m a farmer!” I announced on December 2, 2008 at 4PM when I walked in the door after my last day of corporate work. This was one in a long line of steps we as a family had been taking over the past four years on our journey to become organic farmers.
It started with me not being satisfied with my current career. I had been in the finance/accounting trade for roughly 7 years and while not at the top of the corporate ladder, I had a successful career to-date. While things seemed to be progressing nicely, an idea had been sprouting in the back of my mind. I wanted to do something that would get me outside, would get me moving again. Most of my off-work time was spent in the garden or in the workshop on some type of project. “Hmmmm”, I thought, “these are the things a farmer does”. After reading The Omnivore’s Dilemma by Michael Pollan, I gained insight into the failings of our current agricultural system, but more importantly discovered there was a movement to get back to a more local food system. One in which the food did not travel 1,500 miles to get from the farm to the plate. The best part was there were successful examples of farmers that were using organic, sustainable methods to produce food, and they were making a living at it. After this, I visited a handful of local organic farms to confirm what I had read and made the decision that I was going to buy a farm.
I was excited to see how my family would react to this announcement. My wife, Audrey, immediately said, “go for it” (I know, she’s great!), as did most of the rest of the extended family. Audrey agreed that I could start farming when she finished her Master’s degree and went back to work. She would support us while I started the farm. There were some skeptics, mainly those that had first-hand knowledge of what farming is like, but I ignored them. To my great surprise, my dad and step-mom thought it was such a great idea, that they agreed to change their retirement plans to help us start our farming venture. They had planned on buying a piece of land in Kentucky upon retirement, and were willing to change to Tennessee instead. We decided to pool our money and buy the perfect farm. They will move down to the farm from the D.C. area when my Dad retires in 2010.
Buying a farm was not as easy as I thought. Not only did we need a place to live, we needed a place suitable to grow vegetables. I needed a good water source, good soil, and good access to the fields. After a year of searching within an hour of Nashville I finally found the perfect farm.
It was in Cheatham County and only 25 minutes from Nashville. The farm was owned by a nice family that had lived there for 35 years. It had 10 acres of creek bottom that would be perfect for a market garden, a year round spring to irrigate the crops, and creeks bordering the property on two sides.
We bought the farm and spent the first year growing organic vegetables for ourselves and other family members. We learned a ton about farming and even raised our own chickens for meat. A year later, I left the corporate world to become a farmer full-time.
I’m sure this will be the most challenging endeavor of my life with many bumps in the road along the way, but right now I’m choosing to think about the positives and enjoy the excitement while I can. The endless toils of summer are a long ways away.
“So, how does it feel to be a farmer?” Audrey asked when I walked in the door on that last day of work. “It feels great!” was my reply.