Updated: Jan 23
So, it's been a while since I last posted a blog. Like, a long, LONG while. I recorded this little update to my video blog, it's just a quick update about the direction that we're headed with blogging this year.
I think I also owe it to this blog, our website, and anyone who may actually watch, listen to, or read this stuff to do a written blog post for once. So, take a seat, get comfy, and prepare yourself for one of the lengthiest "about me" sections that you may have ever read. It has very little to do with farming. To make it easier on you, I have divided this post up into sections.
I was born in New Jersey but my family moved to Texas early enough that I don't really remember it. I have three brothers, I'm a middle child, my father is Irish and my mother is Latina, from Puerto Rico. I went to speech class in Kindergarten and 1st grade. I'm left-handed, outspoken, stubborn, and quick to defend those I love. When I was a child I was loud and I could spin a tale quicker than almost anyone I know. The easiest way to glaze over my childhood is to say that it was tumultuous and traumatic in places and those hard times made an impact on my adult life.
As a teenager, I didn't get along with very many people. I often think about the people that I disliked in high school and wonder if I really didn't like them or if it was some sort of jealousy or projection that I didn't understand at the time. I had a few close friends over those years, but my teenage years were not a very fun time. All I really remember about those years is that I really didn't want to be where I was. I remember that I began to talk about moving to far-off places when I was around 14 years old...I think I started by wanting to own sled dogs in Alaska. I'm glad that I had the good sense to make my way through high school and attend a little bit of college before I really struck out on my own.
I was 20 on September 11th, 2001, and when the terrorist attacks on the World Trade Center happened, I got serious about my want to experience the world. Sometimes I read about other people who changed their lives abruptly in the days following 9/11 and wonder how many of us there must be. In October, 2001, I sold almost everything I had in Texas and began my years of travel.
I often think back to my walkabout years with a sort of romantic veil that makes it easy to forget how hard it was. I used to tell people that I'd read On The Road by Jack Kerouac and then decide it was time to move again. Although I did continually read that book when I needed inspiration for change, the truth is all those years of traveling solo represent a lot of hard and lonely times. The wonderful people I met, and are still my friends, helped me to grow into a greater person than I would have ever been without those lonely trials. I also came to understand myself and not fear being alone, although I still needed to grow quite a bit.
I never did own a pack of sled dogs in Alaska...which is good because I really hate being cold. I first moved to Gettysburg, PA - because that's where I ran out of money. After living there for about a year, I moved to Las Vegas, NV for a year, San Diego, CA for two years, and briefly to Hudson, FL. I worked as a clerk stocking magazines, a sales rep for stores selling instruments, a customer service rep in a motorcycle shop, a front desk receptionist at a medical clinic, and a customer service rep for a motorcycle parts distributor. I also did transcription for an accident-re-constructionist and worked as a customer service representative for an IT licensing company. I returned to Texas when I was 24. I learned that I was pregnant shortly thereafter.
The Single Mom
Being a mom is a central part of who I am today. I love my children more than anything and I can't imagine my world without them. That being said, I never really thought I wanted to be a mom. That's horrible to say but it's absolutely true. Looking back on my life, there are a lot of things that I thought that I wanted or didn't want that didn't go my way...I am forever grateful for the twists of fate.
I was surprised when I found out that I was pregnant. I was engaged at the time and I married my first husband when I was 6 months pregnant. Thinking back on this time, it's clear that my time spent moving to different places may have helped me to figure out who I am, but it didn't really help me to work through my problems or my past. While I was still pregnant, my marriage became a bad situation, but I didn't really know what to do. --- If you find yourself in a bad situation, please remember that there are Crisis centers and hotlines that you can contact in your area that are there to help you ---
The day my daughter was born, it was like everything in my life snapped into focus. I suddenly understood not only what it really means to love someone, but that I would always want to work for the well-being of something more. It sounds so crazy to write it, but having my daughter saved me. My first husband and I broke up when she was about 3 weeks old and he moved out when she was a month old. Although we did try to make it work once for the benefit of our daughter, that quickly fell apart. I look at all of this time, until my oldest was 5, as my years as a single mother.
To be completely, 100%, soul-shatteringly honest, my relationship with Rich is the only real and healthy relationship I have ever had. Like, ever. Yet again, this represents an area in my life where I didn't know what I wanted. My dear friend who introduced us to each other wanted to introduce us YEARS before I would let her. I was so sure that I was the only person who knew my type that I wouldn't listen to her...until one day when I finally did.
When Rich and I met, I knew that it was a different sort of connection. Not only was he someone who drew my interest and made me laugh, but his approach to life and helping others aligned with my own way of looking at the world. The relationship that we have is balanced and complimentary. For all my craziness, he brings sanity, and for all my wild ideas, he brings in reality. We have been together now for almost 10 years.
We had two more daughters over the years, and our three girls are now 13, 6, and 3. Rich works at a few different places outside of our farm. His helpful nature makes it so that he is always busy with work both on and off the farm. Although I get a little crazy about our timelines being all over the place sometimes, I wouldn't have it any other way.
After Rich and I first moved in together, I had the option to become a stay-at-home mom. This is the point where a great deal of soul-searching happened on my end. All I kept thinking about was the many times I had made deals with the universe. Deals that basically said if I could get past whatever horrible dilemma was in front of me (usually affording something like daycare) then one day, I would find a way to give back to the world. I didn't really know what that meant at the time, or how it was going to work, but I knew that I was not on the path to be a stay-at-home mom. As it happened, one of my best friends and I were discussing my future when the idea of anthropology came up - and what began as a whim and a half-cocked idea turned into 8 years of classes, a Bachelor's degree, a Master's of Science, an intimate understanding of the world of food and agriculture, and a farm.
Most people think of Jane Goodall or Indiana Jones when they hear about anthropology, but that's not what I do. I am a cultural anthropologist, so instead of interacting with primates like Goodall or in archeological findings like Indy, I interact with and learn from different communities of people. A cultural anthropologist is someone who works with groups of people on the community level, sometimes working as a consultant on a problem or a mediator between groups. Anthropologists are interested in understanding a group of people from both the inside (as a member) and the outside and they are interested in understanding holistically - or looking at the whole picture with all the history and social constructs included.
During my graduate courses in anthropology, my specific interest was in learning about food, food systems, and nutrition. That led to learning about environmental and health concerns related to food and farming and eventually, to the development of food systems. My graduate thesis project was to research local food farmers in North Texas to understand how they find success, and I became a farmer somewhere along the way.
What began as my want to help increase access to nutritious foods has brought me to the place I am today. My anthropological interests remain situated around food, farming, and access and I also want to help design sustainable food systems. I could talk about the world of food and farming for days and days - as my blog will come to show.
Although I went to college to learn anthropology to apply it to food, in the end a lot of what I learned helped me to understand my own life. Through taking courses in anthropology and interacting with a cohort of amazing students interested in self-care and mental health, I was FINALLY able to work through some of my own problems and to deal with parts of my past. During this time in my life, I realized that in order for me to be healthy, I would have to learn to live out loud - or to live without hiding the aspects of my life that I can't control that make me feel ashamed. Part of the way we live, our farm life, and even this blog is to support that change in my world and way of being, to truly live out loud.
It really wasn't my idea to get into farming when we did...I thought it was too much to take on. At the time, I was about to start my second year in grad school and our kids were 11, 4, and almost 1. We had decided that we wanted to sell our two houses that we had before we met and move into one. While we were looking, Rich found our farm and talked me into truly beginning this journey. Starting our farm ended up largely helping my graduate research project to succeed, and it was through that project that I met the many amazing farmers who taught me about the different methods that we are trying here.
When we first started farming, my main interest was in learning to design and grow a market garden. While I've learned a lot about growing plants on my own, my research with local food farmers opened up a whole world of understanding for me. We are still in the early stages of building back our soil from years of tillage, but we have a vision for our farm and an idea of where we are headed. I now understand that my main interest is and should always be the whole farm and learning to make all of its moving pieces work together.
Raising livestock and poultry is much different than having house pets, but I have found that this has come to be one of my favorite parts of farming. Rich is much stronger than I am, so while he's usually making sure an animal is secure I'm the one doing the close-up work, like health checks and milking. We both trim the goat's hooves. Through interacting with our animals daily we have made them comfortable with who we are and easier to handle, and we are constantly learning more in order to provide proper care.
The very best part of being a farmer, to me, is the baby farm animals. I try to be present for the birth of every animal on the farm, sometimes at the cost of a social life for months on end. Currently, we are working to build more infrastructure (like fencing) and waiting for the beginning of kidding season in about a month. I think we may get chickens soon, but we will need to first build a coop.
The Maven of Sustainability
What does the future hold? I honestly have no idea. My dream is to find a way to use these different things that we are learning through farming to help in creating a societal shift to sustainability. Heavy, right? I dream of becoming the Maven of Sustainability and through this blog sharing in the ways I learn to farm and live more sustainably.
Although the term 'sustainability' is overused in many places, I do think that it is necessary for all of our futures to learn to live sustainably. The real question now is not whether we should shift to living sustainably, but how. How do we find a way to easily live sustainably so that when I wake up late and I'm still groggy and really just don't want to deal with life, it's still easy to live sustainably? Is there a way? I sure hope so.
I also want to find a way for all of us to make this shift together. If you are concerned about climate change like I am, then you know that we are all in this together. A part of that is designing ways to make these sustainable solutions more accessible. Our goal for 2020 is to increase access through donations of 10% of our farm goods, fine luxury soap products, and handcrafted goods to different charities. I will be continually revisiting this idea of how to make the shift to sustainability together.
That about covers all that I can think to tell the world about me today. There's more I could have included but this is a 10 minute read already! So, Happy New Year, a little late! Feel free to introduce yourself and tell me what brings you to our blog...maybe one day I'll even figure out how to reply to the comments.