Our journey towards farming started seven years ago in Irvine, California. The two of us were dissatisfied graduate students, both yearning to live a radically different lifestyle. I was studying the evolutionary ecology of plant-insect interactions, while Nathanael was studying the political economy of the Canadian Tar Sands oil. While we both were interested in our studies on an intellectual level, we both felt disconnected from the greater world and wanted to make a direct difference in our communities. I had been yearning for my own farm since I was a child and had been considering leaving her academic life for farming. When we fell in love, we made the decision to embark on a new life together and we decided to head back to the East Coast. Within months we had moved in together and got engaged.
In the spring of 2012, I finished writing my Master’s thesis, while Nathanael sold most of our belongings. We saved every penny we could for our future homestead. One week after I defended my Master’s thesis, we jam packed an old second-hand trailer and towed it with our ’92 Subaru across the country. One tiring week later, we began our farm apprenticeship at Goldfinch Gardens in the high mountains of North Carolina. We learned the ins and outs of growing vegetables on a small and intensive scale. We learned how to harvest and package produce to a high standard, how to prepare beds using hand tools, and how to weed without breaking our backs (most of the time!). All the while, we were planning our wedding and our future life together. We got married at the end of the summer at Oconee State Park in South Carolina.
We stayed in the mountains through the winter, and I applied for jobs while stoking the woodstove. The following spring, I landed a job as the farm production manager of Piedmont Biofarm in Pittsboro, NC. We packed our belongings back into our blue striped trailer and moved down to the rolling hills of the NC piedmont. The farm turned out to be understaffed and in a phase of transition. I worked hard restoring order to the farm and training new farm interns. This experience accelerated my understanding of farming and fueled my new found passion. Nathanael began working at the local food co-op, and between farm vegetable seconds, day-old bread, and expired yogurt… we survived on very little, scrimping and saving for our future farm!
While we loved our Pittsboro community and being near my family, we felt that North Carolina was not the right place for us to settle. The signs were becoming clear that we were to move again. After a turbulent summer of Moral Monday protests and whispers of fracking entering our region we began to re-think our tenure in North Carolina. We had made so many friends in Pittsboro, but it seemed like everyone was going to head in their separate directions. Vermont’s support of new farmers seemed like a breath of fresh air in comparison to the struggles of farming in the south. The following spring, we once again packed up the blue-striped trailer and headed north to Brattleboro, Vermont, Nathanael’s adopted hometown.
I found a job at another small vegetable farm, New Leaf CSA, while Nathanael steadily worked as a cashier at the Brattleboro Food Coop. I further honed my farming skills and gained an understanding of farming in Vermont, while Nathanael worked his way into a full-time schedule at the Coop. All the while, we lived in a camper in Putney, helping friends build a house in exchange for a place to park. When the weather grew colder, we decided to plant ourselves here, buy a house, and begin our farm.
Our housing search lead us to Guilford by chance. We were looking for a small, cheap, fixer-upper within a 15 minute drive to downtown Brattleboro, and we chose the first house we looked at. We loved the feel of the house and we could look past its imperfections. We were also very interested in the beautiful fields across the road from the property. Before we put in an offer on the house, I met with Ann Rider, our current landowner of Up The Road Farm. The potential was there to start gardens on her property. We moved in November, just in time before the cold weather really set in. Five months later, our kitchen was filled with seedlings! Our first season of Up The Road Farm had begun!