Some people have asked, "Have you always wanted to farm?" Well... Yes, and no. Like many people from a farming background, I can honestly say I grew up wanting to farm. If you're a farm kid like me, you will probably find the whole idea incredibly romantic. Here in Central Illinois, growing up on a farm probably means riding with Dad or Grandpa in a combine at harvest, taking them snacks and supper in the field, and doing your best to help load those 50 pound seed bags in the spring. I learned how to drive a tractor in high school, and helped my dad with cultivating.
"It's a cultivator, Andrea, not a plow," he correctly me. "Nobody uses moldboard plows anymore, they're bad for the soil."
My family has farmed for generations. Like a lot of other families in the area, our ancestors came over from Germany and started farming as soon as they arrived. My great-great-great Grandpa broke the ground out of sod, and said it was full of snakes. I guess as an environmentalist, I should be a little bummed about all this Prairie turning into Farmland, but it's hard to scorn the work that put food on the table all my life. When my dad made the tough decision to get out of farming I was crushed. At the time, I was only in middle school but thought that one day I could be farming too. I guess I took it hard for about a week, as any pre-teen girl would do, and moved on. I didn't hold a grudge against my dad (How could I?) and was lucky enough to land in a major that I loved at University. I thought I had found my niche in life. Like most people though, my path was not laid out straight ahead of me. Surprisingly, a Bachelor's in Environmental Science does not exactly result in an immediate career when you graduate during an economic recession.
My post-college crooked, rocky and at times seemingly dead-end path eventually led me to a job as a Horticulture Technician in the Sunshine State. Every day I rode past my friends immaculate vegetable garden. He started his own tomatoes from seed (Whoa, you can do that!?), trellised his crazy warm-climate malibar spinach, and grew crops in colors I didn't know existed. My grandma has kept a garden all her life, but I had no idea such colors and variety existed for vegetables. The best part of my friend's garden? We tasted it. I bit into the purple mustard greens and was shocked at their radish-like heat. We grabbed a couple leaves of romaine to add crunch on our sandwiches at lunch, and we made faces when we ate a leaf of the slimy malibar spinach.
"This tomato is an heirloom called Cherokee Purple," Scott told me. You're telling me tomatoes can have history?
I was hooked.
Today, I love my job. I am so glad I didn't land that perfect job with state or incredible internship with the government. I'm also thankful for all the little jobs I had, the ones I really didn't enjoy, that collectively built the skill set I needed to start my own business and serve my customers. Farming for me isn't really a job, or even a career. It's my life.