During the first three years of college I was studying biology and chemistry with the ambition of following in my parents’ footsteps and going to work in the pharmaceutical sector. I enjoyed learning about the physical sciences, and problem solving within them; however, I was unable to imagine myself being happy in this field for the next 40 years. Often, when I would sit in Rutgers’ Chang library to study, I would invariably find myself deep in thought; daydreaming of the life that I wished was my reality. These daydreams consisted of homesteading on a beautiful landscape, self-reliance, and what I thought to be true freedom. This transcendentalist dream that persisted over and over brought me to the point of wanting to run away; I didn’t want what society had to offer. I wanted a lifestyle that didn’t seem so prescribed, and one that was physically active and took place outside. It took a lot of soul searching to finally change my major to Agriculture and Food Systems and become a farmer. I didn’t grow up around farms, nor did I know anything about agriculture in general. My initial intent was not to be a vegetable crop farmer per say, but if I was to become a homesteader, I would have to learn to grow food. It was 2016 when I made this decision; my goal was simple: to obtain the skill sets needed for self-reliance.
Through my coursework as an agricultural science major, I became very aware of the unsettling state of our planet. Global climate change had, by this point, become widely accepted and the culprits had been named. Industrial agriculture sat in the top 3 on the list of culprits. Monolithic farms that grow via tillage and chemical fertility destroy the soil and release massive amounts of carbon into the atmosphere. By destroying the soil, they then rely on the continuation of chemical input to achieve fertility; a sort of crop life-support. These farms also often use chemical pesticides and herbicides that destroy the native ecology, and create resistance in pests and weeds only leading to the use of more potent products. This approach, to me, is senseless; however, it is what a land grant university would still prescribe. I had often heard that it is not possible, or that you are very likely to fail, farming without chemicals. The discovery of this conundrum instilled in me a duty to prove the viability of farming using only organic, natural methods.
By the end of 2017, I had only one year of farm experience under my belt and had also opened my first small farm business, Jersey Natural Farm. Through serendipity I obtained employment with Ethos Health, in Long Valley, New Jersey. Our philosophy on farming was virtually identical, and our mission in agriculture was also the same. In the summer of 2017 I was an apprentice to Farmer Nora, of Ethos Health, who taught me the practical applications of our mutual farming philosophy. From Ethos I was given a platform to start my business and fulfill their market demand for the 2018 season. During this time, I learned what it takes to be a farmer and had gained real insight into the world of agricultural business.
Year one of Jersey Natural Farm was a dose of reality. I was previously aware of the difficulties that accompany the farm life, but I had not yet experienced them. What I learned was the importance of doing, or not doing, and the timing of actions; also, the consequences of making the wrong decision. There is no cheating mother nature, and your mistakes will manifest themselves on your farm and you will have to live with them until they are remedied. It is important to work only with nature, because nature always does what is best; to do otherwise is counter-productive. I will enter the 2019 season with a greater level of experience, and surely there will be new challenges, but I have confidence I will conquer each one.
From where I see now, there is hope for agriculture. The public is becoming increasingly informed on the importance of regenerative organic agriculture. There is seemingly an influx of young, regenerative organic farmers, and there is a new demand ready to be fulfilled. I’m excited to be a part of this movement, and to not know what’s about to unfold. I don’t ever expect one year to be like another, and I feel that I’m, for the most part, in control of my life. In order to find my path in regenerative agriculture, I had to learn to listen to my heart; now that I’m on my path, I only have to follow it.