A woman 20 something years of age explains why she left college to embrace her true passion in the countryside outside Atlanta.
I may not look like your average farmer, and honestly, it surprises a lot of people to hear that I am one. But, I’m not your average farmer, so I’m okay with that.
Although some have guessed that I inherited farming from my family, the truth is that I was raised in Michigan suburbs and my farming experience was limited to helping my grandpa and dad in the yard, a couple of cherry-picking excursions, and keeping some herbs alive.
In 2009, I got my business degree from the College of Charleston. Until then, my plan had been to continue on with my master’s in financial analysis which would eventually lead to owning my own business. But, in 2008 as I was picking out my program and planning for my future, the recession hit.
I was already pretty deeply in debt at that point, and realized that I no longer wanted to pursue business, and I wanted to do something that wasn’t going to bury me that much deeper in debt. Throughout college, I had worked in a couple different restaurants and had frequently visited Charleston’s local farmers’ markets. These combined with the report I did during my senior year on Whole Foods got me seriously thinking about our food’s origins as well as those who grow it.
There was only one problem: I had no idea how you go about becoming a farmer. So I did some Googling, and that’s when I stumbled upon an apprenticeship program in Chatthoochie Hills, Georgia. It seemed perfect. The 25-acre farm is part of a community called Serenbe that really emphasizes preserving green space for its residents. It’s always run itself off of young farmers who are learning how to farm and want to continue in the profession when they leave; so I’d basically be paid to be trained for nine months. It would give me time to learn the ins and outs of farming—but also to see if I was crazy to be seriously considering it as a career. (Plenty of people I knew were skeptical—including my mom, who was like, “This is just a phase, right?”)
So, I applied for an internship which required both an interview and a whole day of being in the field before I was accepted. There were two things I distinctly remember from that first season: my back hurt a lot during the first month, and I absolutely loved every single moment. Every day was a new learning experience and a new chance to grow something different. I got to grow vegetables I’d never eaten or even heard of before, like Swiss chard and kohlrabi.
To be honest, I wasn’t expecting to love it so much. I was just as surprised as my family when I realized that this is what I wanted to do with my life within the first three months of the internship. As soon as I knew it was what I wanted to do, I started planning on exactly how I could pursue my dream of organic farming following the internship.
I ended up getting a job starting the vegetable-growing program at a farm in South Georgia, and then, when the farming managers I had worked for at Serenbe left, I came back to take over that job in early 2014.
It’s not all blue skies and sunflowers (a little farming humor for you there). My hours are pretty crazy. I probably do 60 to 70 hours a week on the farm and another 25 to 30 hours in the office, whether that’s writing a newsletter promoting our community-supported agriculture program, handling the money that goes along with that, or managing our restaurant farmer’s market businesses.
As you might expect, my love life hasn’t exactly benefitted from the long hours. When I tell most people I’m a farmer, at first they think it’s cool—but the further I get into relationships, the more they inevitably struggle with the fact that farming is my lifestyle.
It’s not just a job that you do every day. It’s a culture, it’s a way of life. You have to embody farming—so it’s hard to find someone who’s not a farmer who understands and can embrace that.
I also find wearing so many hats really empowering—I’m using all of the skills I’ve learned to grow produce and running my own business, just like I always wanted to.
I really want to encourage young farmers and women in particular to start farming (I actually think women have an inherent attention to detail that really lends itself to the job). While it may be a stereotypically male world, it doesn’t have to be. Like I said before, I’m not your typical farmer—and I couldn’t be prouder of that.