To say farming is in my blood, is an understatement.
In fact, most of my ancestors are listed as “farmer” on their U.S. and Canadian census records.
Growing up, I lived on a dairy farm. My “job” on the farm was feeding the calves in the hay barn, as my dad spent the evening milking.
My days were filled with the sweet smell of silage. In the summer, my legs were scratched, criss-crossed in lines that looked like they came from a red marker, but stemmed from joyful leaping on round bales with my little brothers. In the spring, I climbed the 40-year old apple tree beside the clothesline, feeling the breeze on my face, smelling the ripening blossoms, and listening to the robins sing.
In third grade my dad sold the dairy cows. I remember going to school and coming home to any empty barn, where nearly 30 Holsteins had stood the night before.
We still continued to care for and dabble in “farming” as I entered middle and high school. Looking back, we entered more of a “farmstead” phase where my dad raised a cow for beef. We had some chickens, one year even a pig, and a vegetable garden brimming with green beans and tomatoes each year. The farm was an auxiliary to our real life.
In my mid-twenties, I served a year as an AmeriCorps member in Buffalo, where I became responsible for caring for two community gardens. Both community gardens were located beside community meeting spaces- the one next to a church in Riverside and the other next to a community center on the West Side.
At the community center, I started a girls’ empowerment club and together we planted seedlings and seeds in the garden boxes. Throughout the summer we harvested the cucumbers, tomatoes, and greens that grew.
Over the summer, I facilitated a summer camp out of the church and together, about 30 kids and I tended to the vegetables and towering sunflowers that filled the once vacant lot.
This experience with the community gardens, led me back to growing things.
When my husband and I moved into our first apartment, we grew a patch of vegetables, and I even tried my hand at starting a CSA.
However, as I write this in 2021, I realize why it didn’t work out. I still needed to learn and reconnect more to the earth. I dove deeper into heirloom varieties, experimented with herbs and flowers (something of a luxury when I was growing up), and I learned more about square-foot gardening, permaculture, and companion planting.
Through my full-time job, I visited numerous food-focused non-profit organizations locally and across the country. I planted 1,700+ watermelon seedlings one afternoon alongside a team of students in Detroit, weeded and seeded a hoop house in Baltimore, and tended to a compost pile in the Lower 9th Ward in New Orleans.
But in 2020, when my dad came to me with an idea to team together to more intentionally care for the land my grandfather had purchased in the 1950s, I was overcome with a mix of sublime joy and debilitating anxiety.
We both love to garden. We are both interested in no-till, permaculture, and organic growing practices. We both recognize the difference in a locally-grown tomato and one purchased from the grocery store.
So I said yes.
As I write this in March 2021, the smell of a warm spring breeze lingers in my hair. There is dirt on my red rubber boots. My cheeks have been kissed pink by the afternoon sun.
I am so ready to care for the tiny seedlings as they emerge into deliciously ripe veggies that can be shared with those that you bring around your table. My heart is bursting with anticipation as a season of growth and harvest descends upon me.
3 thoughts on “My Journey to Farming”
Hi Aurora! I am Tammy Schul and live in Lewiston. I think my husband, Kevin Schul, may be a cousin if your grandfather was Roy, his father’s (Don) first cousin. I love your website and passion for farming. It’s refreshing these days! Just wanted to reach out and say hello!
Hi Tammy- Western New York is small, small world indeed! Yes, Roy was my grandpa. Thanks for stopping by, saying hello, and making that connection!