On the Farm: The New Greenhorns

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“Plant lady is the new cat lady,” and I, for one, am ready to fully embrace that as the new life motto. As a first-year, first generation farmer, I have been referred to as a “Greenhorn” a lot lately. So, I had to do my own research. What in the world is a Greenhorn? If you Google the word, Merriam-Webster defines a Greenhorn as, “an inexperienced or naive person; a newcomer.” In the world of sustainable agriculture, however, Greenhorn has come to fruit it’s own, unique, definition; one which replaces the negative connotation of being naive with a sense of purpose and bravery. Greenhorns are first-generation farmers, embracing our inexperience, in order to promote the conservation of the environment, one seedling at a time.

These Farmer newbies are proactively, ‘thinking globally and acting locally’, taking our local communities by storm with diverse, sustainable, agricultural methods rather than traditional monocropping and industrial farming techniques. If you are on social media, you have probably seen #BuyLocal, #ShopSmall, #SupportYourLocalFarmer, but these trending phrases are so much more than simple hashtags on Instagram, they are part of the rebellious local food movement, and you’re going to want to be a part of it.

The Road to Self-Sufficiency

“The Road Not Taken,” by Robert Frost, explains what taking the road less traveled by really entails. It’s not always pretty, and it’s almost never the type of simple decision that you’re able to wake up, throw the covers off, and bound carelessly towards. It’s actually quite difficult to go against the norm and pursue your life purpose, especially when it’s a path where financial security is not always easily attainable. My journey towards self-sufficiency has been anything but rainbows and running through the fields holding hands with my boyfriend and business partner, Jordan. I want to openly and honestly share with you some of our experiences thus far, as two 24-year-old, greenhorns, pursuing careers we’re passionate about over financial wealth.

Another late night crawling into bed after spending hours meticulously pasteurizing substrate, in order to be able to inoculate our mushrooms. It may sound like I just described an illegal science project, however, it’s actually just the first step in our small farm’s budding gourmet mushroom growing operation.

 

We haven’t always been this way, in our former, “normal lives”, Jordan was a bartender and I worked a cozy office job. In this case, being your own boss doesn’t mean you get to sleep in when you work late, if anything, it’s the exact opposite. Work late, rise early, and do it all again the next day if you want to pay your bills on time this month. Self-sufficiency does not yet equate to an off-grid lifestyle for us.

Rain or shine, weekend or holiday, it’s all just another day in the life when it comes to caring for the well-being of plants and animals. When the ecology of an entire farm lies at your fingertips, it’s simply not an option to take the weekend off when your friends head out of town. Of course, before purchasing the farm, we were aware that we wouldn’t be leaving any time soon, and decided it was well worth the sacrifice. There are bigger fish to fry in the farm-to-table mission. The disconnect between people and their food is alarming. What I’ve quickly learned, is that food is an intimate subject. Everybody wants to save the world, unless it’s inconvenient.

Small farms are comfortable with being uncomfortable, never taking the easy way out and always going the extra mile to ensure quality produce. Quick fixes are not welcome, instead soil is the heart of the small farm. Building up our soil with rich, organic, nutrients and material, has the potential to sequester carbon from our overly polluted atmosphere. Think about the impact of that statement for a second. It’s much easier to write off greenhorns as new-age hippies, than it is to make real lifestyle changes. I said it before and I’ll say it again, food is an intimate subject.

This is a movement; connecting our communities back to the food on their plates, and the land which it comes from, is vital. There is no more time to waste. Food IS life, and knowing that we provide sustainably grown, organically produced, real food for real people, is more than enough to get us out of bed on any given rainy day. Dr. Vandana Shiva, an environmental activism pioneer, perfectly highlights the importance of each sown seed by stating, “Seed is the source of life and the first line in the food chain. Control over seed means control over our lives, our food, and our freedom.” There is freedom in choosing to be a greenhorn, and we take great pride in actively participating in our local food movement.

Rebel

Small farms all over the country are competing with Big-Ag to make their produce and products more convenient for customers, it’s an uphill battle. You don’t have to quit your job to have an impact on the local food movement in your own community. Instead, start with baby steps; seek out a small farm near you, call your local farmer and ask if they have a C.S.A program (Community Supported Agriculture) that you can participate in. C.S.A programs give life and necessary financial means to small farms like ours all over the country. Community members buy weekly “shares” of produce from their local farmers, gratefully accepting that it won’t look like store bought food, and in turn, it will be seasonal and packed with more nutrients and flavors.

 

Supporting local farms in your area gives you the chance to reconnect with nature, and with the food on your table. When you have a weekly share of fresh produce, you are more likely to use that food to cook a nutritious meal for your family. It is rebellious to think, act, and live outside the box. It is rebellious to support your local farmer, rather than the chain grocery store down the street. It may not always be as convenient, but I promise you that it’s worth it, and that your choice alone genuinely makes a difference.

When our future generations ask us all what we did to protect the environment, they deserve to be answered with honesty. Think globally, act locally. Start having an impact by rebelling three times a day, at every meal, and simultaneously support your local farmer’s small farm with big dreams. It’s a win-win.

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About Author

Haley Gaetano

Greenhorn; a first generation, first-year, farmer. Registered Yoga Teacher. On a path to self sufficiency, and passionate about all things health and wellness related. I grew up in the suburbs of Nashville, nowhere near a farm. I was, however, raised in an environmentally conscious home where we were actually featured in the Tennessean under the title, “Gaetano Family Walks the Walk Straight to the Recycling Bin.” No, I’m not kidding. We all end up exactly where we’re supposed to be, but I never could’ve imagined life would lead me here. When my boyfriend and I moved out to the farm, it almost felt like a reality TV show. We’d both worked on farms before, but it’s much different when you’re your own boss. We were, and still are, so NEW to this. Embracing our inexperience for the sake of pursuing our passion. I received my BA in Sustainability from the University of Tennessee, Knoxville, but I’ve honestly learned more in this first year of farming than in all four years of college combined. What a long, strange trip it’s been. I believe that while sharing our experiences may sometimes be embarrassing, it’s well worth it in order to move towards the bigger, greener picture. In a nutshell, I am pursuing my passion for creating, sharing, and sustaining this alternative way of life. “[…] the only people for me are the mad ones, the ones who are mad to live, mad to talk, mad to be saved, desirous of everything at the same time, the ones who never yawn or say a commonplace thing, but burn, burn, burn, like fabulous yellow roman candles exploding like spiders across the stars.”

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