Lifestyle Magazine

Driven: a Passion for Farming

By Whollykao @whollyKao

Driven: a passion for farming
I’m kicking off a mini-series called Driven. Each post in the series focuses on a friend who is pursuing their passion. And let’s face it: passionate people inspire others. They’ve certainly won my admiration. Hopefully they will win yours too!

Today I’m featuring my friend Grace. She and I have pretty much grown up together. Our parents were friends from before ether of us were born, and our families have celebrated every Thanksgiving and Christmas that I can remember together.

Driven: a passion for farming

Her backstory? Grace is a twin, and comes from a family of 5 kids. She went to college in Georgia, and fast-tracked it to Wall street after graduating. Three years in to the job, she decided her heart wasn’t in it. Fortunately for her, that’s when she got laid off. Grace took that as an opportunity to pursue her dream of farming, and promptly left the bright lights of NYC. And she hasn’t looked back.

Currently, Grace is working at Dragonfly Farms in Massachusetts, learning the trade of organic farming and reconnecting with the earth. She runs a blog called To Greener Pastures, which documents her experience on the farm.

I thought it’d be nice for y’all to hear about her experience firsthand, so here we go!

When did you first become interested in farming?
There have been a number of events throughout my life that have lead me to pursue this new career in farming, but perhaps the initial seed of interest was planted in me when I was a little girl and would help my mom in our backyard garden. My attraction to farming grew stronger after I interned for two months during my senior year of high school at Waltham Fields Community Farm (WFCF) in Waltham, MA. Students could choose to do anything during this “Senior Project” period and I decided that I wanted to farm! At WFCF, I had my first hands-on experience (besides my mom’s garden) at larger-scale food production; I learned about Community Supported Agriculture (CSA) programs and how something as simple as a farm can bring so much to the community it surrounds. In college at Emory, I had the chance to take a sustainable agriculture class that examined the issues surrounding food production (industrial mono-crop, organic, small-scale farming, and methods in between), changing consumer tastes (Slow Food movement, eating locally and/or seasonally), and the emergence of a new, more sustainable food system. 

Driven: a passion for farming

What’s it like to be on the farm?
After living and working in New York City for the last three years, living on the farm is like a breath of fresh air. I’ve always been an active, outdoor person – I played on sports teams ever since I was old enough to be in Midget Soccer. I got so entwined into the fast-paced, workaholic New York lifestyle that I never really got to enjoy the outdoors and essentially, be me. If there’s one thing I learned in the three years, it’s that I’m not a city gal. I missed the little things like hearing the birds chirp in the morning or getting out of the office during the the day to be able to enjoy the beautiful weather. For all these reasons, I think I’m loving the farm even more. I don’t see my days as “work” but more so, just playing outside for 8-10 hours.  

So far, the best part about being on the farm is the access to all the food we grow. I feel so spoiled being able to go out to the back and pick all the ingredients for a nice, hearty lunch salad or go out to the chickens and collect some eggs for tomorrow’s breakfast.  

The worst part of the farm, I would say, is that there’s always more work to do…more weeds (my least favorite farm task) to pull, more plowing/tilling/discing to be done. Also, with one day off per week, farming doesn’t afford the most exciting social life, other than talking to other farmers at the markets!

Do you guys eat what you harvest?
Yes, yes, yes! Not everything we take out from the ground goes to the market or in the CSA shares. Because of an ugly scar or hole here or there, the produce is unmarketable. These farm “seconds” make for delicious lunch and dinners! 

What do farmers do for fun?
Hmmm…good question…after a long day’s work, we usually break it down over some beers and snacks.  We also like to experiment with new recipes and find new ways to use the veggies we grow. 

Driven: a passion for farming

Driven: a passion for farming

Has working on the farm changed the way you eat or view food? How so?
Yes. I’ve learned to appreciate my food more now that I’ve had a hand in growing it. I used to be one of those people that would buy the cheapest thing in the produce section and think that the $2.00/lb tomatoes were a total rip off. Now that I know how much work goes in growing a marketable tomato, I’m not sure $2 even cuts it. Did you know that nearly one-third of the country’s tomatoes are grown in Florida? The workers that pick these tomatoes are paid by piece and on average, get 50 cents for every 32 pounds of tomatoes they pick. Consumers’ focus on cheap food is one of the reasons why the nation’s biggest grocery chains can squeeze their suppliers for the lowest prices. In the end, its the farmers, workers, and the land that are on the losing end. The bottom line is that when you buy produce from the grocery store, you don’t really know where it comes from, how it was grown, or even who grew it. 

Driven: a passion for farming

What was the hardest thing to adjust to from being on Wall Street to being on a farm?
My Wall Street job afforded me the means to live a certain lifestyle; I was able to travel, eat at the city’s best restaurants, go out with friends, treat myself to a weekly shopping spree, etc without ever really worrying about finances. Life is a lot more simplistic on the farm…I wouldn’t say it was a hard adjustment, but more of a welcome one. 

What’s it like being away from your twin, Joyce, and doing your own separate thing for the first time?
I’m totally ok with it. This whole experience has been a little like a self-discovery, more-or-less. I’m finding my own voice and really being true to myself. Joyce, along with my whole family, have been super supportive of me as I change paths and follow my dreams of owning my own farm. 

What are your goals/plans for the future?
…Speaking of owning my own farm…yes, its always been my dream. We (my brothers, sisters, and I) have always talked about starting a family business and we’re hoping to get things going in the next year or two.  The plan has always evolved around food; we’re leaning towards a farm-to-table eatery/cafe, but still trying to come up with a concrete idea…I know one thing for certain: that I’ll be farming whatever it is!  

To read more about Grace’s adventures in farming, hop over to her blog. I’ll have a new Driven post next week, so stay tuned!

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