In May 2009, my husband Travis and I left our jobs in Boston to begin an internship on a 3-acre organic farm in New York. We had no background in agriculture; we were simply two kids who grew up in the suburbs, went to college, and were trying to begin our lives just like everyone else. As I pushed through graduate school and Travis pulled 80-hour weeks at an environmental non-profit, we began to wonder what it was, actually, that we were working toward. The worst economy in generations, two wars we didn’t understand, stymied income, an abysmal national deficit, neglected climate change, rampant resource consumption, health epidemics, food deserts, unattainable health care, and a monopolized food system that was making and keeping us unhealthy. We were frustrated with our situation, and the lack of control we felt over our lives.
And then we found farming. Farming seemed like the intersection of everything important to us: health, sustainability, financial independence, environmental responsibility, and community. But how to begin? Was it naive to think we could actually have a career in one of the world’s oldest professions? I googled “organic farms in the northeast” and found several internships in and around Massachusetts. One in particular struck me: a farm close to New York City, organic vegetables, 200 years old. Filled with the rush that comes from bucking the system, Travis and I moved to New York to try our hand at a new dream.
We spent the summer of 2009 an hour north of NYC on a picturesque, 160-acre farm (with only 3 acres in production). We learned the ins and outs of market growing, CSA planning, seeding, transplanting, cultivating, and harvesting. We went into the city every Saturday to sell at the Union Square Greenmarket. I sold kale to Mayor Mike Bloomberg. I fell in love with New Yorkers. But in November of 2009, our internship ended, and Travis and I moved to the city of my alma mater–Austin, Texas.
In Austin, we moved from farm interns to middle management. I became harvest coordinator while Travis oversaw greenhouse work. We made fast friends with the other managers on the farm, as well as the local food community. Our time in Texas has been filled with new friends, surprising discoveries, stubborn perseverance, unexpected changes, and a sharp learning curve. But because of the one-of-a-kind warmth and open-mindedness of Austinites, Travis and I have already come to feel at home here. We decided we’d like to stay in Austin, and began searching for land.
Then we met the farmers at Green Gate, Skip and Erin. CSA farmers on the outskirts of Austin, they are beginning the first incubator farm program in the area, connecting young farmers with land. Generously, Skip and Erin have offered us an acre of their own land to begin a fledgling organic farm. We feel extremely privileged to be the first young farmers to work with Skip and Erin on this project. While we farm for ourselves, we both continue to work full time on farms in the Austin area. After two years, we don’t pretend to know everything about farming, but we do know that farming for yourself is different than farming for somebody else. We are excited to jump in.
I hope you enjoy following Travis and me as we try to establish and run a successful organic farm in Austin, Texas. If you do enjoy yourself here, leave your mark by commenting on a post, joining my Google Followers, or sharing this site on facebook or twitter. I always appreciate comments and suggestions from readers. You can contact me at dissertationtodirt [at] gmail [dot] com. Happy reading!