Happy Valentine’s Day, y’all! To celebrate, Jessica Manly talks with some of our farmers about L.O.V.E. We’ve got some tips from a couple that have been farming together for 44 years, a story of finding a farm partner and true love on “The Tinder,” and a surprise Valentine’s message for a certain Young Farmers Podcast host.
Recorded at Radio Kingston, edited by Hannah Beal, music by Tom Daly and “Memories in Love (ID 1144)” by Lobo Loco.
Two Bear Farm, Whitefish, MT: http://twobearfarm.com/
Abbie Corse, The Corse Farm Dairy, Whitingham, VT: https://thecorsefarmdairy.com/
Carolina Mueller, Middle Ground Farm, Austin, TX: http://middleground-farm.com/
Cara Fraver, National Young Farmers Coalition, Business Services: https://www.youngfarmers.org/
Harrison Topp, Topp Fruits, Paonia, CO: https://www.youngfarmers.org/2017/03/national-uncertainty-community-hope-and-pruning/
Jeff and Annie Main, Capay, CA, Good Humus Produce: https://www.goodhumus.com/
Ben Shute, Hearty Roots Farm, Germantown, NY: http://www.heartyroots.com/
Jessica: This is the young farmers podcast and I’m Jessica Manly, Communications Director, stepping in this week for Lindsey while she meets with members of Congress in DC. To celebrate Valentine’s Day, I’m talking to some of our farmers about L.O.V.E. Love for stewarding the land, the challenges and rewards of working alongside your life partner. We’ve got some tips from a couple that had been farming together for 44 years. A story of finding a farm partner and true love on quote “the Tinder” and a little surprise Valentine’s message for a certain Young Farmers Podcast host.
Tess: I’m Tess Brown Lavoie, farmer at Sidewalk Ends Farm in Providence, Rhode Island and the Board President of the National Young Farmers Coalition. I’ve been a member of the National Young Farmers Coalition since 2011 because it’s important to me to align the work I have the privilege of doing on the land with a broader movement for a more equitable agricultural landscape in this country. For $35 a year. You can join too. In addition to being part of a bright and just future for agriculture in the United States, you’ll also get discounts like 10% off Farm Tech and 10% off Vermont compost. To join, go to young farmers.org/join.
Jessica: Yeah, this is our very special young farmers and love episode. Can you start by introducing yourselves and your farm name and where you farm?
Todd: Sure. We are Todd and Rebecca Ulizio with Two Bear Farm and we’re located just west of Whitefish, Montana and we’re a certified organic vegetable farm.
Jessica: How did you guys meet each other?
Rebecca: Todd was apprenticing at a local farm here in Whitefish and I brought my students on a field trip and that’s the first time I met Todd. That was my first day at work.
Jessica: Oh my gosh.
Todd: So then like a couple of weeks later there was a farm hands meeting in town and we both attended that. And this is kind of the running joke, I think Rebecca felt bad for me because I was an apprentice on a farm and working hard. So she offered to go out for a beer. But I tell everybody that she was hitting on me.
Jessica: Rebecca, what’s the truth? What, what was going on? I really feel kind of bad for him because he was, you know, move to a new town and I was not really interested. And even on our first quote unquote date, I brought like four friends. It was just, you know, bringing home the point this is not a day.
Rebecca: Um, yeah, she made me work hard.
Jessica: So when did that, when did the tides turn? When did you guys realize that you are maybe interested being more than friends?
Todd: It probably took like a month or two to finally kind of like realize that we were dating but then it moved really fast after that. I mean really, it was like four months in. I never said it cause I didn’t want to jinx myself, but I was like, yeah, I could certainly see farming with her and obviously having that lead to more.
Rebecca: What, so it was, it was kind of thinking about having the farm together first that you know, you could kind of see that happening. You could see Rebecca as a farm partner first and then, and then, a life partner or did it kind of happen at the same time?
Todd: I think it was the same time.
Rebecca: Yeah, it was definitely the same time.
Jessica: What was it about Todd that made you feel like he was somebody that you could see yourself farming with then and being in a relationship with for the long haul.
Rebecca: Todd has mad skills. And I think, he does, and that was so attractive to me. I’m like, oh my gosh, he can fix anything. Um, and then Todd’s been an accountant and he’s been in a wildlife biologist and now he’s a farmer. So I think just having had those careers and he’s just super successful, I just felt like anything I did with Todd, it would just work out.
Jessica: And Todd, what about you? What about Rebecca made you think that this is somebody that you could not only farm with, but love?
Todd: I think the love part was pretty easy and then quickly, quickly going out into the field and seeing how dedicated she was and how hard she works. Like she, she has always really kind of outworked everybody on the farm.
Jessica: Yeah. Do you feel like because you’re working together all day and you’re living together, like what, what are the ways that you guys get support or what are the ways that you guys take time for yourself or plug into your community outside of your relationship? Or are you just together all the time and it works for you?
Todd: You know, we each trust each other and have confidence in each other that we’re going to do our best and we’re working towards a common goal. You know, it’s easy, you know, it’s easy to just do it all summer without needing the separation.
Jessica: Do you guys, do you try to set up boundaries between your farm life and then your romantic a whole personal life or is it possible?
Rebecca: I think that right off the bat we established a lot of um, distinct roles, and we really have respected each other in those roles. And then also like our latest kind of sort of thing that we’re doing to help with that boundary is, number one, I’m not allowed to talk about farming until, what is it after eight.
Todd: So I got like just putting a deadline on the day. You can’t start talking about farming until 7:00 AM and you have to stop by 7:00 PM. I mean that’s the main boundary, really. We both love what we do. I just needed to recharge a little bit, like warm up in the morning and calm down at night so I could sleep. Rebecca kind of was going 24 seven so that took a little bit of work just in making sure each other understands, you know, what our needs were and given all that we’ve been through and how hard we work, you know, the relationship has held up great.
Jessica: Do you have any, do you have any advice or tips for some farmers that might just be starting out in their first one or two years living and working with their romantic partner?
Rebecca: I think that just the delegation of roles like to have very specific roles. You know, I’m manager of the greenhouse, Todd is infrastructure man. Like just having really specific roles. I think it’s super important. And then kind of respecting like Todd said, respecting each other’s roles. And this is something we just talked about. It’s the idea that, because so this year I usually run the crew, and because I’m trying to reduce stress in my life, Todd is going to take that over this year for me, I think one thing that we said to each other, is like, hey, even if it looks like some things aren’t going the way I want them to just let it play out. I mean maybe voice like concern over what could happen. But like let your, let your farm partner kind of play some things out because then you can maybe discover some amazing new method or you know, it’s just that flexibility.
Jessica: And is there anything that you would like to say to each other, to your Valentine, before we close on air?
Rebecca: You got mad skills. Get back to work.
Abbie : I’m Abbie Corse. I farm at the Course Farm Dairy in Whitingham, Vermont, which is very south. Um, what about 10 minutes from Massachusetts and I farm here with my parents.
Jessica: What is it, what do you think is at the core of what really lights you up about farming?
Abbie : I think it’s like the ocean. I don’t know how else to explain it. Then to parallel it to how I’ve, I’ve heard people who live by the sea explain it. There’s a, there’s a rhythm and a pull that the land can have from being here. There’s like a part of me that’s um, awoken here that isn’t anywhere else.
Jessica: Can we start by, would you introduce yourself, your name and your farm name and where you, where you are right now?
Carolina: Yeah. So my name is Carolina. I am a partner to the owner and operator of Middle Ground Farm and we are located just outside of Austin, Texas.
Jessica: Are you working full time on the farm?
Carolina: No, I, I am kind of, my role is to sell the produce. I help out like once a week. More of a support than anything else.
Jessica: What, what is the name of your farm partner/life partner?
Carolina: So my girlfriend’s name is Lorig and she is the one who owns and operates Middle Ground Farm, the farm that she started just about two years ago.
Jessica: How did you, how did you guys meet each other?
Carolina: So before she started her farm, she was, she started a nonprofit teaching farm called Farm Share Austin. And they were selling at the farmer’s market where I was working, very much like a family market where everybody, where everybody knows your name, like Cheers. So I had known her for a while and you know, she had this kind of badass status but I at this point hadn’t kind of figured out that I was crushing on her. And over a few months she and I kind of started chatting. There was one day when our two boots were placed next to each other, um, and she invited me over for a Friendsgiving party that she would do every year. And so that was kind of how it started. And then a few weeks later I was talking to mutual friend of mine, or of ours, who was my farm manager at the farm where I was apprenticing. And I was like, oh no, I think that I have a crush on Lorig and I don’t know what to do with this. And thankfully my friend was, knew enough, about Lorig to know that she was going to be very shy, she wouldn’t be the person to make the first move, she’s really respectful. And so she was like, if you want anything to happen, you’re going to have to be the one to make it happen. And I was like, okay, that’s good information. And so, uh, you know, we, I asked if she wanted to go on a hike together, so we did that. Then I was like confirmed, definitely crushing on Lorig and there was this, yeah, I mean it was really kind of solidified this one day when she walked up to me at the market and we were talking about the new Star Wars movie and I just looked at her and I was like, whoa, she’s, she’s got these big beautiful blue eyes. And I was still like, smitten.
Jessica: So it really was a moment. I mean it was this kind of a slow burn of getting to know each other, but then you remember it being this one moment of looking at her where you knew.
Carolina: Yeah. Where it was just like that little Emoji with the hearts popping up around its face. And so then a few weeks later I, she had again asked people to come over and hang out and I kind of hung back and waited for everyone to leave. Which later she would like, I thought that was kind of weird and I, I asked her out on a date and we are about to celebrate our three year anniversary later this month.
Jessica: I love that. Are you guys, you’re not married?
Carolina: No, we’re not married. No. No.
Jessica: Okay. If you want to make a proposal on air, you feel free to do that.
Carolina: I think, I think she would kill me if I did that. She’s a pretty private person, like I had to make sure that I got permission. I was like, would you mind if I shared our story? And she was like, I just don’t want to be on it. But yeah, that’s fine.
Jessica: And because farming is so hard, and being in a relationship is so hard, how, what are, what are some of the ways that you guys find support?
Carolina: So, yeah, I mean there’s definitely, uh, I mean in three years, right? Things sometimes get hard and as lame as it sounds like food is really the thing that keeps us together and happy and joyful, specifically cooking together and eating together. Recently I’ve been coming home to dinner, being prepared, which is really lovely. And beyond that, I mean, we’ve got the Young Farmer Coalition and so it’s nice to have a sense of community. A lot of our friends are steeped in this work as well in one way or another.
Jessica: Thank you so much for sharing your story. And I want to close just by asking if there’s a special message you want to send out to your Valentine.
Carolina: Well I love you very much Lorig and we are going to be spending Valentine’s Day at the Texas Organic Farmers and Gardeners Association conference, so look out romantic getaway slash professional development conference. I’m just looking forward to being able to celebrate as kind of as part of our community, which is really important to us.
Cara: My name is Cara Fraver. I work for the National Young Farmers Coalition and I am a former diversified vegetable farmer.
Jessica: And was there a moment when you thought that Luke was somebody that you might want to, either own a farm or start a life with for the long haul?
Cara: Well, I think that Luke is a fantastic person to own a farm with. He’s very mechanically inclined and can look at things and say, oh, this works like this. How can you not see that obviously it turns like this and it throws dirt in this direction? And he is very observant and pretty organized, and very intense.
Jessica: All good farming characteristics.
Cara: Yes, great farming characteristics.
Jessica: You’re really thinking practically when you started dating him.
Cara: I think he also has really attractive shoulders and hands, so yeah, I mean he has a lot of other really likable traits.
Jessica: So tell me a little bit what, what was that like you know, having this relationship and life partnership and also running a farm business together. What were the, what were the challenges of that?
Cara: Yeah, I mean I think anyone that you talk to for this podcast can probably say the same thing, right? Which is that it has these both amazing highs and also pretty frustrating moments.
Jessica: Would you say that you have different kinds of work styles or ethics or…?
Cara: We are really different people. I think I am my friend Tracy Potter-Fins recently described that if you drill like a Y and X axis of people that in one corner there are people who get a lot of things done and upper left hand corner are people who really don’t get things done very well. And then on the bottom there’s like people who really value fun and people who really do not value fun. And I value fun more than I am high functioning and Luke values high functioning more than he values fun, which, you know, I think maybe, I mean Luke really, he does put googly eyes on everything and uh, loves like to play games and tricks and can make ridiculous puns. But he can just get a lot of things done and I’m more like doo-do-do I’ll have a good time doing these things.
Jessica: You get a lot of things done too, Cara. I know you.
Cara: Yes, yes, that’s true. But I mean, in comparison, it’s also hilarious to like have spent most of my adult life viewing my work life in comparison to one specific person.
Jessica: Could you start by introducing yourself, your name and your farm name?
Jeff: Jeff Main, with my, and with my wife Annie. We farm Good Humus Produce in Capay, California.
Jessica: How long have you been farming there?
Jeff: Oh, we’ve been farming here since 1983 and we farmed in various other places for eight years prior to that, since 1975.
Jessica: Do you remember what, what, your kind of first feeling that agriculture farming was something that you really wanted to spend your life doing? Was, was it, there on the farm at that house at Davis where are you really first connected with farming?
Jeff: It was a slow growth kind of a thing. I was raised in agriculture, right. Essentially in the agricultural world. So it was always available to me. It was where I worked in the summers and I really enjoyed it. I was educated as an engineer and Annie was educated in renewable natural resources. But I slanted my engineering towards water management, which plays right into agriculture. And she pretty soon realized that her real love was for plants and animals, not so much carrying a gun and enforcing laws in national parks. I knew that I wanted to work, work hard at whatever I did and not, not have to go ask somebody else what I should do next. So yeah. The, the, the, the options narrow themselves down to agriculture. And we were both, well suited for it really. But we did, we, it wasn’t like we had a background, we kind of learned as we went.
Jessica: So you’ve been farming together for around 40 years now?
Jeff: Uh, yeah. Yeah. 44.
Jessica: That’s pretty amazing. What are some of the most rewarding parts about farming with your, with your Valentine?
Jeff: You know, we have, throughout out those 40 years we’ve developed together and have pretty much had similar dreams the whole time.
Jessica: Is that something that you knew from the start? Did you kind of, that in her, that you had the same values and some of the same dreams fur the future?
Jeff: Well I recognized something, you know.
Jessica: What was it do you think?
Jeff: I was very attracted to her. The ways she, the way she carried herself and her, her talents, her craft talents and her ability to look at her love of nature was very, very attractive to me. Getting away from the hubbub of everyday life was also really, really important to me. So we, we kind of bonded over that too.
Jessica: Is there any advice that you think that you would give to some of our listeners that are maybe just in their first few years of farming or first few years of farming with their life partner? Looking back over all those decades, is there anything that you, any advice you could offer to them?
Jeff: Advice, wow. You know, the one thing I’ve learned about farmers and farming is that everybody is really, I mean, we, we are so different, but I will say the thing that’s been important for Annie and I, and I can’t really give it as advice, but I can say that the important thing for Annie and I has been, I think through it all we respected each other’s opinion, respected each other’s strengths and talents and then where there was one of us needed some help we’ve, we’ve supported each other. We always try to emphasize each other’s talents and make sure that our talents were used.
Jessica: What would you say are some of her talents and some of your talents?
Jeff: She’s talented organizationally. Her ability to create and persevere in organization of needs for the community has been really, really good. She’s really strong that way. She provides a substance, at Good Humans Produce, you know, if, if people come to visit, she’s the one that, she’s the one that organizes, she organizes events here in addition to, you know, the attention to detail that putting out orders and keeping things straight.
Jessica: Would you say that she is your Valentine?
Jeff: Well, she better be!
Jessica: After 44 years…
Jeff: After 40-after 44 years, she’s still the woman that I have beside me all the time and I love very much and I still appreciate all the talents that she has and I still support her wherever I can.
Jessica: Jeff, thank you so much. This was really wonderful. I could talk to you for a few more hours, but I know that you’re packing up this morning for deliveries, so.
Jeff: Yes, we are. Yes.
Jessica: And give my best to Annie as well.
Jeff: I will.
Jessica: Okay. Happy Valentine’s Day.
Harrison: My name is Harrison Topp. We farm and live in Hotchkiss, Colorado, we farm fruit. As in the main Top Fruits LLC. We grow peaches, apples, cherries, plums.
Jessica: And who, when you say we, who are you farming with?
Harrison: I farm with Stacia Cannon. I also farm with my family. We are all part of the LLC together. But the day to day stuff is Stacia and I.
Jessica: And your farm partner is also your Valentine, is that correct?
Harrison: Yes, she is my Valentine.
Jessica: How did you and Stacia, how did you guys meet each other?
Harrison: So basically what happened was it we grow, we grow up, we grow tree fruit and there’s a pretty, the fall or the spring, I mean is it is a sort of a break or break time for us. And, and it just so happens that that year we basically had a total loss on the farm. So we weren’t raising fruit, we were, we were just growing trees. And my, my off farm job is I worked for the Rocky Mountain Farmers Union. I’m a field organizer for the Farmers Union, which means that I travel a lot and I also that the Farmer’s Union headquarters is in Denver. So I found myself kind of going to Denver quite a bit and, and either on the way or or right before I, I get on, uh, get on Tinder and whatever the other ones were that we use. And I just like set up as many dates as I possibly could. So I’d be over there for like three or four days for work and I’d have like, like 10 dates set up. And I had this philosophy that a date, so last like five minutes because you just want to get a sense of whether you liked the person and whether you think it’s worth doing, anything more with them and then you can and then you can you know if you like them, you can keep hanging out with them. But it was all about production. And, and you know, it, it kind of made the loneliness worse for a while. I mean, I find folks and I date them for three or four months. And in the beginning they’d say, hey, farming is really cool, farming is kind of sexy. And then three or four months in, they say, hey, this farming thing, kind of a bear. I don’t know if I want to be a part of this anymore. And, and so finally one of these times I went in, I, I connected with this with this young woman, who, she was in a vet tech, you know, I, I set up my classic, this is a five minute date. We set up a walk around the lake and I thought, this will be great. I’ll go meet her, we’ll walk around the lake. We liked each other, we’ll, we’ll see what happens. And low and behold, we get all right. And really, you know, kinda slowly started to fall in love. And then that winter I made a pitch to her, I said, hey, you know, I’ve gotta, I’ve gotta go back to the farm next season and, and run things over there. But, you know, it’d be really great if you, if you wanted to come with me. And, and she, and she was, she was uninformed enough to say yes.
Jessica: How long have you guys been together now?
Harrison: I think we’ve been together about four years and we’re engaged. We are going to get married someday.
Jessica: Oh, congratulations!
Harrison: Yeah, totally. Well, thank you so much.
Jessica: When did you get engaged?
Harrison: Yeah. Yeah. We probably got engaged in June because last summer we also, we also bought another farm together. And were able to secure funds, service agency, a down payment assistance program, loans and, and closed on the farm in May and got engaged in June.
Jessica: So exciting. Will you get married on the farm, do you think?
Harrison: That’s the plan! Well, yes, we just got to get it in shape, man. You can’t have any more holes in any walls before, we got to pass all the holes before we get married.
Jessica: So we have to wrap up in a couple of minutes, but I’m wondering if you have a Valentine’s message you’d like to send out to, to Stacia, your Valentine.
Harrison: Well to Stacia, my Valentine, well, yeah, she’s the light of my life. She, she motivates me every day to wake up to keep on farming, to keep on grinding and make this work. I mean, you know, with working these two jobs, it’s also that we’re doubling the future together and so, she’s incredible.
Jessica: So let’s start, we’re recording now. Could you go ahead and say your name and, and your farm name?
BR: This is BR Shute from Hardy Roots Community Farm.
Jessica: And in addition to being a full time farmer, you have another roll?
BR: Yeah. In addition to being a full time farmer, I am, I cofounded the National Young Farmers Coalition with, among others, my wife Lindsay Lusher Shute. And I’m still serving on the board of the Young Farmers Coalition.
Jessica: Is it safe to say that Lindsay’s your Valentine?
BR: Yes, that was very sweet to say. Lindsay’s my Valentine, and, you know, I’ve, I’ve been with her through out, through farming and not farming and, and, and starting a new farm and going back and forth and figuring out how we could make it work and building her career. I, I wanted to share with listeners of the podcast who might not know, but, Lindsay’s first career and her love as a young person, was always music and she is a trained singer and a musician. And so, you know, I think I referred to our relationship as, as kind of harmonious and that, that actually really stands out to me as something special about our relationship is, you know, if, if people are singing and everyone’s singing the exact same part, it gets a little monotonous, maybe. But when you have harmony and you have different people kind of, singing the, the different parts that brings out something, you know, unique and special. And I do the farming and she does the policy and we raised these kids together and it’s this beautiful harmony when we’re working together like that. And then it, you know, brings out even more than, than the individual voices. It’s something special when it’s happening together.
Jessica: We got so many great stories from you on the Young Farmers Podcast Instagram. Thank you. I wish we could have shared them all. Thank you, Jeff, Carolina, Abbie, Harrison, Cara, Rebecca, Todd, BR for sharing your love stories with all of us. Share this show with your sweetie or your buddies or maybe even your grandma and send us a virtual Valentine by subscribing, rating, and reviewing the show on iTunes, Spotify, or wherever you listen. We really appreciate it. This show is recorded at the super romantic radio Kingston, edited by the lovely and talented Hannah Beal and it featured original music by the very dreamy Tom Daly. If you’d like to submit some music to the show, send it over to me at firstname.lastname@example.org. From all of us here at Young Farmers, Happy Valentine’s Day. We love you. See you next week.