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Latest from Young Farmers

I farm like I cook, always learning as I go

Tomato Galette_cropped

By Maggie Bowling, Old Homeplace Farm

One of my absolute favorite pastimes is cooking. I recently realized that one of the reasons I like spending time in the kitchen is the continual experimentation and learning, as well as the satisfaction when I finally get a certain dish “just right.” I have become a much better cook than I was in my college days, and I often tell Will that my goal is to be an exceptional cook by the time I’m an older lady. Since it is a task I enjoy, I spend a lot of time thinking about it, looking up tips, trying new recipes, memorizing recipes I love, and learning patterns and methods so that I don’t always need a recipe to prepare a meal.

While washing the dishes the other night (and thinking fondly back to supper), it dawned on me that I love cooking for some of the same reasons I love farming. They both start out with trial and error and challenges that I can work through myself, at my own pace. I can gather information from experts, but then I get to try things on my own. I’ve become a better farmer over the past two years, and I know that I will do even better on the farm over time, just as I have become much better in the kitchen over the last ten years. Both activities also reward me with good food at the end!

Maggie & Kale_croppedThe first two years of farming have been full of mistakes. We didn’t build a large enough storage shed, didn’t fix the farm road and ditch until after two years of production (which caused a river to flow into the field after every rain), we didn’t hire help when we should have, we didn’t buy the right equipment right away, I let the weeds get away from me, etc. But all of those things (and many more mistakes) were just part of our learning process. There were also the days when equipment broke or we got a flat tire, and two summers of record rainfall (have I complained about the rain enough?).

While I wish I could have skipped some of our frustrating days, and I wish I would have thought things through more fully before beginning, I can’t change our mistakes. I am not wasting energy worrying about things that have already happened. I am looking ahead, and I have plenty to keep me positive.

Our farm now has a lot of wonderful infrastructure including an awesome walk-in cooler, packing shed, and high tunnel. We have more equipment, our deer fence has prevented any crop loss, I’m growing some delicious food, and we have built an ever growing, extremely devoted customer base.

When we first decided to grow and raise vegetables I was a little skeptical about finding a market in our area without having to drive to Lexington or Knoxville. I am pretty sure that my neighbors are still skeptical and think that I am a weird girl playing in the dirt, but we truly have found a local market for our products in eastern Kentucky, and I am happy to provide food to my region. We have found that the mix of meat and eggs that we work with Will’s parents to produce and my veggies allow us to attract and keep customers who are interested in the farm for varying reasons, and the diverse products help us keep up the excitement about the farm all year long. While our marketing may have to change some day, right now we planning to scale up simply to meet the needs of our area. This demand and the relationships we have made over the last two years give us a phenomenal feeling and keep our spirits lifted.

As I enter my third year as a farmer, I have flats and flats of plants waiting to be planted, and I am feeling optimistic about my ability to produce food well this year. I’ve picked up tips, learned methods and patterns, learned from a few other farmers, and I know I will improve my production in 2016.

I’m hoping to master a few crops and a few dishes (how to make truly fluffy pancakes) this year. The third time (year) is the charm, right?

This is Maggie’s last post for our Bootstrap series. For the past eight months, Maggie and three other young farmers have been blogging about what it is like to start a farm. Read all of Maggie’s posts here, and wish her well in the comment section! Apply now to be one of our 2016 Bootstrap Bloggers.









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