Community Philosphy Blog and Library

Why We Farm: The Search for Land Begins

Neysa working 2

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.

Originally Posted on Dissertation to Dirt, August 2010

I have some big news.

After months of reflection and internal searching, weighing the options, and talking (read: arguing) with Travis, I have decided to resign from my job as harvest manager at Johnson’s. I gave two weeks notice on Friday.

There are a lot of reasons for this decision. Unfortunately, this is not the time to divulge the entire story of everything I’ve been going through at Johnson’s. What I can say is that Travis and I have discussed my future there, and we both decided that my staying was no longer contributing to our goal of getting our own farm. It makes more sense for me to find an off-farm job, begin a small farming project on the side, and try to grow our business that way.

I want everyone to know that this certainly doesn’t mean I don’t like farming anymore.  This is just another chapter in my path to owning and operating my own farming business with Travis, and I’m confident that this is the best step forward.

search for land

In my year and a half of working on organic farms, I have learned a lot of what I expected to learn–that broccoli and cabbage are part of the same family, that garlic is ready to harvest when half of the leaves turn brown, that tomatoes are a pain in the ass to grow, and that hot peppers are way more productive than they should be. But I’ve also learned a lot of things I didn’t expect. Like that farmers, organic or not, can’t pay their workers a living wage because of the demand for cheap food. That wholesaling to large grocery stores is a quick ticket to bankruptcy. That there are all kinds of ways to farm and still be considered “organic.” And that we better get our heads around just what we’re looking for as we’re trying to make a change in our food system. As I look for land to farm on my own, I’m keeping all these things in mind so they may shape the kind of operation Travis and I have. Farming is not just about making money to me. Viewing food as just a commodity continues to plague our food culture.

search for land

I also want to say that since I announced my resignation to my friends, everyone has been incredibly supportive and helpful in trying to connect me to other employment. I’m looking, predictably, in academia since that is where most of my experience is. I expect to stay connected to the farming community in Austin through volunteer work, the Austin Grower’s Guild, community gardening, going to the farmers markets, and any other way I can think of.

When I told my boss I was leaving, he seemed to think it was because I wanted to do something other than farming. Quite the contrary. I am more motivated now than ever to farm, and to get something started of my own.

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

One Response to “Why We Farm: The Search for Land Begins”

  1. I love this post and admire your perseverance; why IS it that hot peppers are maniac producers? The economics of farming that you outlined are fascinating to me, a barely-able-to-start-basil-seed “farmer”.

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