Welcome to our 2015 Bootstrap Blog series! Over the next few weeks, we will be introducing you to our four Bootstrap Bloggers, who are all in their first or second year of running a farm. Throughout the season, each Bootstrap Blogger will write about the highs and lows, glory moments and curveballs that come with farming.
I remember processing chickens on my parents’ farm and scowling. At sixteen, I sometimes resented the fact that I had to work on the farm, but these days I have only gratitude for my upbringing. Gratitude for the knowledge and love of farming that my family passed down to me, gratitude that I found a partner with the same passion, and gratitude that I made it into my second year as a farmer!
I currently grow two acres of organic (in transition) vegetables in southeastern Kentucky. I sell my produce through an online buying club, at a farmers market, to our local hospital cafeteria, and to area restaurants. The Buying Club is a similar to a CSA, but modified to fit the needs of our area. Interested people join the Buying Club and are then sent weekly emails with a link to the updated online farm store. Customers choose which items they’d like to buy each week and how much of each item. After receiving the orders we pack the produce and deliver to centrally located drop off points. In addition, I help my husband, Will, and in-laws with their livestock operation, raising pork, grass-fed beef, and lamb. Will and I own a 55-acre farm where I grow two acres of vegetables and we are currently working to finish the fencing and water systems in order to raise livestock there as well.
In an area struggling with the decline of coal, food can be a wonderful way to connect with others. I believe that agriculture can make an economic impact in this region, and I hope (someday) to be an example of what can be done on small-scale, mountainous farms. In Clay County, Kentucky—the place that the New York Times named “the hardest place to live in America” in a 2014 article—we are farming; we are adapting our marketing to our region, and I believe that we have a bright future. One of the best aspects of farming is the lifelong learning that comes with it. Every day there are new problems to solve and new moments of wonder.
The farm life is hard. Starting a new business is difficult. I’ve been guilty of romanticizing the farm lifestyle. Growing up on a farm I found that living with and working within the confines of the seasons invigorates me. I’m bound to changes in the light, changes in the weather. The farm is in my blood, it’s in my bones, and it’s under my fingernails. Yet, as much happiness and satisfaction as I get from working outside, eating delicious food, and meeting wonderful customers, I’m exhausted. I know I will always be exhausted. My biggest hope and dream is that I will make a living on the farm, and that family farms across the country will as well. We need more farmers, and I plan to be one of them.