I’m a wife and mother who isn’t exactly a spring chicken but likens myself to more of a semi middle-aged hen. Professionally, I have worked in the Cyber Security field for several years, and many consider me to be fortunate and settled in my career. You can probably imagine the reactions that I get when I tell folks that at age 44, I am interested in becoming a farmer. The reactions usually range from a half supportive head nod with raised eyebrows to a few chuckles. Both responses are normally followed by “Are you joking?” or “Why on earth are you interested in doing that?” Well………….(long pause), maybe it’s in my blood. My parents grew up in South Carolina on a farm. The experiences that they shared with me, however, weren’t idyllic, but presented as a rather sometimes-unpleasant necessity. So, I am betting that the question still remains, “why do I want to farm?”
I grew up in Washington, DC. Every summer, my parents and I would always make the yearly trip back to the country to visit relatives. The fond memories of waking up in the fresh country air to the sound of a rooster crowing and looking out of the window to see cows chewing fresh blades of grass, are vivid. I can still smell the delicious aroma of bacon from the hog that was processed the previous winter. I haven’t met a person, meat eater or not, that doesn’t love the smell of freshly cooked bacon, yum….. I attribute my love for farm life to those summer visits as a child.
Over the last decade or so, I started becoming more interested in the relationship between the land, food, and health. This prompted me to start seeking out workshops where I learned various homesteading skills such as poultry processing, canning, and soapmaking. I started frequenting farmers markets as I was eager to talk to farmers and learn more about their practices and trying their products. That interest continued to grow and I wanted to be more involved.
Two years ago, my wife and I had our son, our own little rambunctious bundle of joy. Becoming a new parent was a major turning point in my life and I realized that I wanted him to experience daily, the same feelings that filled my childhood during those summer visits to the country. I wanted to trade in my long commutes to the corporate factory farm where I feel “cooped up” in a building, for the opportunity to step outside my front door to work on my own family farm in Southern Maryland. I wanted my son to be able to learn firsthand where his food comes from, and enjoy the benefits of eating fresh, clean, nutrient dense, organic food. I wanted to be able to make a living working on our diversified family farm in PG County, Maryland, where we would grow organic produce and flowers, raise poultry, and offer agritourism events that would be enjoyed by all. Now that sounds like paradise.
The next big question was “how”. How would I Houdini myself from my 20 year career in IT into a new career in farming. I would do it very gradually and slowly. My wife Keisha will tell you that at times, my excitement has caused me to rush into things a bit, creating the need for her to invoke an emergency brake. If it wasn’t for her helping me to learn to slow down a bit, I would already have an Alphabet farm, filled with Alpacas, Bees, Chickens, Ducks, Emus, Flamingos…….you get my point.
A couple of months ago, I began my search for a program and mentors to offer structured learning and hands on experience. The state of Maryland offers a 1 year program for aspiring farmers, and during the application process I learned that an increasingly large number of people are becoming more interested in farming to offer a local, healthier, alternative to the industry driven food corporation. To my excitement, I was accepted into the program and so the journey officially begins. Yay! In addition, I found a very helpful mentor who offers me my first consistent farm experience. I also started reading several books from farmers who make several claims about being able to make an impressive living farming on a small scale. I feel even more empowered now.
This may be a slow ride. I have some process steps that involve acquiring the farm, learning how to farm, and educating others about the benefits of locally produced organic food. These steps start now, before we are able to open our doors to our first customer. However, I am in it for the long haul and am looking forward to attaining and developing my farm, to live a life that’s freeing so that I’m “Never Cooped Up. I welcome you to walk with me during this journey as we learn together.