Since one of the oft touted benefits of buying local food is that you get to know your farmers, I thought I would present you with a thumbnail biography about the Farmer and myself so that you might have some small insight into why we do what we do. We have never really done that before because it is very weird to write about yourself. If you read this blog, you know that growing things is a big part of our life, so I am just going to write about the non-NMFO stuff. Hope it turns out okay...
The Farmer was born in 1959 and grew up mostly in Charlotte. His dad was in law enforcement and his mom worked for the school system but they both grew up in the farming community where we are presently located. His parents moved to Charlotte in the late 1950's but because their family ties remained strong, the Farmer spent lots of his weekends and most of his summers coming back to the farm where he spent much of his time helping his grandad and great-grandad work on the farm. He also spent a lot of time outdoors which is where he developed his great love and understanding of nature. One of the reasons he got into organic farming is because of the connection to that love of all things natural. To be able to make a living doing something that is such a noble venture, as well as something that is part of your very core being, is about the best job I can think of right now. Besides, he has the greenest thumb this side of the Jolly Green Giant.
In Charlotte, his family lived outside the city limits, in a rural area where there were still several working farms. When he was about 12, he had a job, before school, at the dairy farm behind their house, feeding the cows as they were being milked. He had a great big bucket that he had to keep refilling at the silo and hauling back to the barn to keep the cows happy and calm. I think he might have also done some milking when he was a teenager.
After graduating high school, he attended college in North Carolina, where he played soccer (first ever freshman to start for his team...he was pretty good) and got a degree in Industrial Design and Engineering. He then spent 15 years or so working as an engineer for a design firm that made precision and micro instruments for industrial uses. Things like drill bits the size of a human hair and stuff like that. He also worked on projects for the auto and computer industry. Eventually, he left the field of engineering and headed west to pursue another life.
All of his life, the Farmer gravitated toward to the water, rivers, lakes or the oceans, which lead him to take up sailing at a young age and he remains a proficient big boat sailor to this day. His love of wind, water and waves, sparked an interest in a fledgling sport back in the early 80's called "windsurfing". Quickly mastering this sport, he spent several years with a corporate sponsorship on the windsurfing circuit. Kite boarding came along in the 90's and the progression into that sport just came naturally. Today he continues to pursue these sports, whenever he can get time away from the farm to do so.
Gifted with an incredibly right and curious mind, the Farmer is a true Renaissance man. He has many wide and varied interests that don't involve water. He is a licensed falconer and knows a whole lot about raptors. He plays guitar, Dobro, banjo and percussion. He practices yoga. He can build just about anything from the ground up and can make fire with a couple of sticks and a strip of leather. One area of particular interest to the Farmer is the study of Native American spiritualism and culture, particularly the Hopi. He hopes to complete his spiritual healing studies someday. And he always tells the truth, even if it stings a little. The Farmer is pretty cool.
The Farmer's Wife
I had a wonderful childhood. I grew up in a small town near the foothills of the Blue Ridge Mountains that was big enough not to be "backward" and small enough so that everybody pretty much knew each other. I was a "town girl" who had grandparents with a farm just outside of the city limits. They grew a huge garden every year which fed us pretty well and that granny taught me how to cook with ingredients fresh from the garden and the value of preserving part of the harvest every year.
Besides the big garden, there were also had apple and cherry trees to climb. We played under grapevines that Granny constantly admonished us to stay away from, lest we get stung by yellow jackets or bees. I don't remember ever getting stung by a yellow jacket until this past year. They had a mangy 3 legged cat that hung around the barn most of the time and presented us with tiny kittens to play with many times. (back then nobody spayed their pets). They gave her away a couple of times but she always returned so they just gave up. I loved that old raggedy cat. I won't say I ran wild at their farm, but is certainly was a free and wonderful place to be.
My other set of grandparents lived in town but had a huge back yard that was a wonderland to me as a child. That grandmother was from up North and cooked weird and exotic things like asparagus or rhubarb pie, with ingredients from her own garden. They had a crab apple tree in the back and a quince bush covered with big thorns and she made jelly out of those fruits. They also had a couple of apple trees that I wish we had saved cuttings from because I now realize that they were heirloom varieties. There was one tree that had the absolute best apples I have ever tasted. I don't eat apples to this day because of that tree...haven't found a variety that even comes close to the flavor and I searched for years before I gave that quest up. The closest I ever came was the old time Rusty Coat.
My grandfather also had a solarium where he grew some really exotic plants, like the giant jade tree that was taller than me as an adult or the Bird of Paradise plant that bloomed almost continually and from which he sold the flowers to the local florist. He also had a full sized lemon tree in the greenhouse that he used the lemons from to make incredible lemon meringue pies for which he was well know among the local widows ( my grandmother died with I was 19).
These city grandparents were organic gardeners and I remember growing up reading Rodale's Organic Gardening magazine because there were always several issues on the coffee table in their den. They had a big compost pile in the far corner of the yard, next to the asparagus/rhubarb beds and I used to marvel at all of the worms when I "helped" my grandfather turn the pile.
That early exposure (I was probably around 10 when what I was reading in the ROGs at their house started to sink in a bit) really shaped my lifelong interest in organic growing methods. In the late 60's I finally made the connection between organics and what was happening to the environment, to health issues, etc. Reading "The Silent Spring" by Rachel Carson had a tremendous influence on my views about the world.
After graduating from high school, I worked through my life by going off to college, getting married, having kids and working my way up to a successful career. My marriage failed and I was at odds on what direction to take with my life. It was a very confusing time and I was really at a loss for where to go next. One dream I never lost through all those years was to go out West and find a commune where I could grow my own food, get back to the land, live free, etc. (Of course that was my dream! I grew up in the Sixties...).
It took me two years to make the decision but I decided to see if any of that dream was still alive. I finally quit my job in 1994 and a week later I was on the road. The reality of it turned out to be that I just needed to clear my head and re-evaluate the direction my life was taking and it worked. Through those travels, I discovered that my dream had matured considerably and that my path was not what I had envisioned at all. That is what brought me to the place I am today. The best thing about taking that dramatic step was that I found someone to share my journey.