The search for the Naked Acre
My foray into agriculture began in 2010 in the Pacific Northwest where I interned at Sunbow Farm in Corvallis, Oregon. Splitting my months between guiding at-risk youth in the wilderness of the PNW and returning to root down in the slow, steady work at the farm, I developed a love for labor and a deep connection to working within natural systems. I was humbled and hooked immediately because the challenge and opportunity for learning were inherent in every aspect of growing food. After volunteering at a farm devoted to education and social justice issues in Eugene, Oregon throughout 2011 and a short detour to Colorado on my way back east, I had enrolled in the University of Vermont’s Farmer Training Program beginning in 2013. It was here that I started to learn the skills necessary to begin my own small-scale operation.
Shortly after graduation from the program on Halloween in 2013, I planted my first garlic crop in Waterbury Center where I was fortunate to be offered as a space to grow my business. When spring came, I bought a cheap pop up camper which was to become my 3 season home for the next two years. That first season especially was devoted to digging in, learning as much as possible, having a (threadbare) shoestring budget, and worrying about bells and whistles later on.
In the spring of 2014 I worked my first bit of bare land by hand with very little investment money, learning as I went: contacting chefs and produce buyers, trying to identify diseases and pests, learning the habits of specific plants, beginning to open the door to the rich Vermont agricultural community, and creating relationships not only with people, plants, and myself. The following season, I opened more bare field space, doubling my production and by October I was looking for a new place to lease. Thankfully, the result of a serendipitous customer buying one bunch of kale led me 2 miles up the road for the following two seasons. By 2016 I had acquired some small hoop houses and my equipment list began to grow and I was determined to remain an almost entirely one person operation. As my business grew so did my self assuredness that I had found my right path, and I felt full and content with the lifestyle this work had provided.
Then on the first day of August in 2016, everything shifted. That night I went out on a first, mostly blind date with Genica. Having both invested our days in working with plants and soil, we had a lot to talk about. By week 2 we were discussing the prospect of purchasing land, not yet necessary together but we both knew what we were talking about. In early 2017 we put an offer on some land in Johnson which was ultimately rejected but which led us to a 40-acre piece of property in Hyde Park. After three days on the market and digging holes in the February snow to look at the sleeping soil underneath, we put in our offer and initiated our relationship with the land where we find ourselves today.
We came to discover that the land owner had previously dabbled in growing on the property with her former partner and we were fortunate to be offered her understanding and sympathetic nature as we began jumping through the hoops of financing raw land. As the 2017 growing season began, I was commuting a half hour there and back to the leased farm in Waterbury, working more land than a walk behind BCS can probably manage, completing all the steps to purchase our land, beginning a new farm, and on top of it all, planning a small wedding for mid-summer.
And so on August 1, 2017, just one year after we shared our first meal together, Genica and I were married on our new property and began a life off the land. To begin the 2018 season with a sense of ownership and longevity in mind was a unique experience. Genica expanded her home gardening and design business, Home Front Gardens, to include edible and cut flowers, and I increased vegetable sales. In a cooperative effort, we entered into a relationship with this land in the hills of northern Vermont and through all the bare fields I have experienced in my short career in agriculture, the turning over of new land almost every season, this naked field feels the most where I belong.