Community Philosphy Blog and Library

Why We Farm: Rogue Chickens, Bolero Carrots

A year and a half ago, my husband Travis and I decided we wanted to be organic farmers. Neither of us had a background in agriculture. In fact, I was probably about as disconnected from physical labor as you can get — I was pursuing my PhD. This weekly series will take you through Travis’ and my journey to own and operate our own organic farm. From a farm internship in a tiny New York town, to management positions at the largest CSA farm in the southern United States, and now our current project of running a one-acre farm in Austin, Texas, our experience has been filled with wild successes, sharp disappointments, and self-discovery. I hope our story can provide others with ideas and resources for their own farming projects–urban or rural, big or small, hobby or professional. I also hope it can shine some light on the new organic movement surging in urban spaces and among America’s young people. To me, our collective attempt to reconnect with food is a testament to the ability of youth to create, even in difficult times.

In late October, about three weeks after two farmers offered a field to us, Travis and I got our first seeds in the ground.  A variety of carrots called Bolero, we had seen another farmer in town have success with them, and we wanted to try our hand at it.  It took us about three hours to amend with compost, till, seed, and lay drip tape for six beds.  We used an Earthway seeder to do three rows of carrots per bed — I really like Earthways.  But these might be even cooler.

It was steady work:  seed three lines. Lay three lines of drip tape.  Repeat.  About an hour into it,  I looked up to examine our work.  We were halfway done.  Travis was dragging; he had already done farm work for eight hours that day.  Now he was putting in two hours more.  It made me realize how much work “farming on the side,” even on a quarter acre, was going to be.

Travis was worried that the unevenness of the drip tape’s watering would compromise the carrots’ germination, but that was the only watering system we had.  That was the beauty of the incubator farm: if something didn’t work, we could learn from it and try it again differently without the pressure of having to make a steady income from our field.  Plus, we noticed one of the chickens on the farm liked to escape from the coop and hang out in the okra patch next to our field.   While we were seeding, she would wander over and begin scratching at our beds.  We would chase her off, and ten minutes later she’d come back.  She was pretty harmless at the time, but we knew she’d wander over and ruin our crops in the future.  We dubbed her okra chicken… and we didn’t trust her.

The next day, I went to work landscaping for a private home, where I have made friends with the neighbor across the street.  He mentioned what beautiful weather we’d been having the last few weeks.  “Yeah,” I said.  “I wish it would rain.”   … that probably sounds weird, I thought.  Because it’s our first crop, my anxiety is running higher than normal.  It’s a little maddening: you put all this work in, take all these precautions, but at some point you have to step back and leave it up to the seeds.

Neysa is currently farming an acre of organic vegetables in Austin, Texas. For updates on her farm, visit www.dissertationtodirt.com or follow her on twitter @farmerneysa

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