I am the farmer. I grew up in a rural farming community in Kentucky where getting your vegetables out of a garden was normal. Almost all of the vegetables that I ate in my first 17 years came out of our yard. Seeds were saved in the freezer in mason jars. The lima beans I grow today are named after my stepfather. The beef came from our family’s cattle. My grandparents had the chickens and a milk cow. The menu was repetitive and pretty healthy. The family farmed cattle and tobacco and most of what I learned was how to do physical labor.
Twelve years after leaving home for college I got my first piece of land in Houston, Texas and started a 10’ x10’ garden. I decided (at Kenan’s insistence) to try my hand at organic gardening. That was 1979 and organic produce was only, and occasionally, available at The Moveable Feast on Dunlavy at Alabama. On a good day they might have 10 pounds total. I started looking for guidance and found only one book at the store–John Seymour’s The Self-Sufficient Gardener.
I learned a lot from books, lots more from mistakes, but nothing from colleagues because I had none. But now–30+years later there are many people researching and practicing organic farming and we are all connected through the internet. We continue our education at a rapid rate.
The job that brought me to Houston was art. First I was a scenic artist painting sets primarily for the Houston Grand Opera, and later I moved into the mural and decorative painting business.
Kenan and I always planned to move to the country and have a small farm, but I wasn’t thinking of it as a business. I designed and built my own house, became a certified permaculture designer to help with the farm plan, added chicken coops, greenhouses, fish tanks and barns. At that point we had about 20 fruit trees and a 1500 sq. ft. garden.
In 2009 I woke up one April morning and decided to make the farm profitable enough to support us. I started adding hundreds of fruit trees and berry bushes, got nursery and aquaculture licenses, increased my planting area to about two acres and packed up every Saturday morning for market.
I have been self-employed all my life, but the farm is different: you can never say that you are off from work because your life and the work have become the same thing.
I’m loving it.