When Adam and I first said "I do" and moved to Ann Arbor in 2007, we heard about a local community garden project with plots for rent and signed up. That first year the weeds grew higher than the plants, but-- to my total amazement-- delicious vegetables hid in that jungle and made their way onto our plates.
That winter I read Barbara Kingsolver's Animal, Vegetable, Miracle, and was taken with the idea of growing our family's food and eating locally. I poured over seed catalogs and fell in love with the names of beans grown by Seed Savers Exchange. Armed with one trusty garden reference book, I seeded a flat of tomatoes in the windowsill and faithfully woke up 15 minutes early to water them with a baster every morning before work. I planted out our second season plot that spring and made friends with mulch. Everything grew! Tomatoes took over our kitchen in August.
Over the next decade I grew food as a gardener and worked professionally as a registered nurse at both St. Joe's Hospital and Michigan Medicine, but I became discouraged seeing the same folks repeatedly admitted to our unit with preventable diseases brought on by poor nutrition and lack of education about exercise and wellness
But when the daffodils bloomed in 2012, our daughter was born. Our lives changed in ways large and small. Her birth brought me home to our community, to building deeper relationships and spending time outdoors. Her delight in the worms, weeds, and wind brought great joy and wonder for me, and made me look for new opportunities to share gardening with children and adults.
I dreamed about creating a farm where we could connect children and young people-- those just starting out in life-- with really nutritious food and the joy and peacefulness that comes with working outdoors side-by-side with others. When our youngest child started school in 2017, I began the adventure toward doing this earth work, committing to building a sustainable farming business that serves our community. We're two years into this journey and I've learned that small business owners wear many hats and develop diverse skillsets. I love the problem solving. I love connecting with the diverse people that are drawn to the farm. I love the creative opportunities. Most of all I love that I am doing work that I strongly believe in together with people I love.
In 2018 we became long-term stewards of one small corner of a homestead established in 1832. This land has seen many families struggle, work together, build up, tear down, come together and fade away. We want to be the gentlest caretakers we can be.
We can create habitat for an abundance of biodiversity-- bees, monarchs, snakes, birds, toads, turtles, and earthworms. We can add important infrastructure to extend our growing season. We can offer hospitality to our community and do the important work of educating the next generation about good food, sustainable agriculture, and community building.
It is important to us to grow food in the cleanest way possible because we know that our agricultural practices impact the soil we eat from, the air we breathe, and the water we drink. We decided to show a public commitment to sustainable practices by applying for organic certification as soon as we purchased the land in early 2018. Accountability is important. By the power invested in Oregon Tilth, we were officially certified organic later that year.
We are working toward a sustainable future for our land that includes annual and perennial vegetable crops, fruit, cut flowers, water retention ponds, comfortable spaces for people, and perhaps even livestock. This is a longterm project!