How I Became a Farmer

So how did I become a farmer, or at least a farmer-in-the-making?

It wasn’t part of my life plan, I can tell you that much.

In 2006, I was working at the Library of Congress. Because I was still a new employee on probation, they decided not to keep me. It happens. Because I’m deaf, I was able to get social security disability. In 2007, I started dating Jen. And then I lost my SSDI without warning. After discussing it, and with each of us feeling calmly confident that we’d treat each other kindly if it didn’t work out, we decided to move in together. We felt we really had something, and we didn’t want to lose it if I moved back to my home state of Massachusetts.

After moving in to the townhouse Jen had recently bought, and after some ups and downs with the aggravating bureaucracy that is the social security administration, I decided as a practical matter to start growing some of our food in our postage stamp yard. My dad and I had a garden together when I was a kid, and I loved it. So it was fun getting back into it. We were able to grow a nice amount in that tiny yard. I think we grew tomatoes, cucumbers, kohlrabi, kale, collard, Swiss chard, and sage. I also cultivated some native plants such as dandelion and plantain. (These last two prompted a comical “your yard is weedy” notice from the local HOA. To this day, we sometimes point to a meadow and say, “your yard is weedy” and laugh.)

When Jen’s mom needed in-home care, we moved in with her in West Virginia. Her mom was able to afford professional help, but we were happy to move in with her for the extra support. When we started living there, we had her mom’s permission to start a garden. We built a deer fence around it and grew corn, watermelon, squash, tomatoes, cucumbers, dill, okra, beans, and various greens. We continued working on increasing how much of our own food we grew after Jen’s mom passed away, with the goal of growing as much of our food as we possibly could. I made so many jars of pickles during that time.

In 2018, it became apparent to me that Rockwool – the mineral fiber insulation manufacturer of questionable environmental repute – was not going to be stopped from building a heavy industry facility about two straight miles from our home. As jen is asthmatic and neither of us wanted to die of cancer, and since we had been thinking about moving to Massachusetts some day, I turned to her on impulse one day and said, “why don’t we do this now?” Without missing a beat, she said, “Okay!”

We put the house on the market, and when it sold, we found our current place. We weren’t looking for a farm per se – just a place where we could continue our food growing goals, among other things. It was almost like this place was waiting for us. It had been on the market for a while – about a year, I think. To me, it seemed mind-boggling that it hadn’t been snapped up, but our realtor said that the housing market here can move very slowly. And I guess many people don’t share our goals of being surrounded by nature and not being able to see our neighbors unless we go visit them, or vice versa. We love making new friends and hanging out, but when we’re just at home working on stuff, we value our privacy.

So anyway, when we knew what we were getting with our new place, our goals expanded dramatically. And because we bought the farm (I always giggle internally when I say that) for much less than what we sold our old home for, we were able to acquire things to further our homesteading goals without going into debt. (We are very debt-adverse, had been for years.)

It will be three years here in November of 2022, and it’s only been this year that I’ve actually started thinking of myself as a farmer in my head. I’ve loved the heck out of going in this direction, and I can’t wait to see where this goes.

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