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How do you become a farmer? For us, it was by accident.

March 3, 2022

“Did you always want to be a farmer?”

We get this question frequently. I find it amusing, because the answer is NO WAY. In fact, I said something along those lines when Joe first floated the idea: “Absolutely not.”

We fell into farming by accident. Part of it stemmed from the tradition of the Catholic Worker, which has always had a “back to the land” model alongside its emphasis on hospitality. Part of it was practical, as I was pregnant with our second child, and our family of three was living in a single bedroom in our Catholic Worker house in Durham.

But we’ve found along the way that it did turn out to be a vocation. Our friends who initially sparked conversations about farming tired of it and returned to the city. But Joe and I slowly began to learn more, do more, and dream more. Both of us felt unsettled in the lives we had built and models of success we tried to emulate. We hadn’t possessed the imagination to think of stewarding the land as the answer to that questioning, but over time we have come to see it that way.

I’ve been thinking about this over the last few weeks, as we prepare for the farm to ramp up again. Next week we’ll receive our first shipment of broiler chickens. Soon piglets will be foraging in the woods, and we’ll be moving the cows around the pastures, trying to catch up with the cool-season grass before it goes to seed.

In some ways, it’s exciting. But in other ways, even if we love our life and choose it, there’s still a bit of dread. The days are hot and long. It’s hard to wrangle kids and get out for chores in the early morning. The work is seemingly never-ending, blending into nights and weekends. And if you have any romantic notions of farming, try moving the pig paddock through thorny wild blackberries and invasive vines in the middle of July.

And yet we continue. We’ve oriented our entire lives around the farm, homeschooling the kids and bringing them with us on the chores. It’s a chaotic life, difficult and stressful and impossible for some to understand. I do long, on many summer weekends, to return to a life where I wake up and walk to the coffee shop, with nothing else pressing on my time. But I also know that we would be unhappy without our life at the farm, despite its responsibilities and demands.

So, as we begin this next farming “season”, I’d like to tell you how privileged we feel to grow your food. In many ways, it feels like we’re simply getting the opportunity to live out our dream. But we also take the responsibility to grow the best food possible seriously. We think of ourselves as a homestead first – as growing nourishing food that is the highest quality for our farm community, and only sharing that food with others when it meets our standards. And each year, we learn a little bit more about how to improve.

I can’t wait to share our stories and lessons from this season with you – the good, the bad, and sometimes, in the case of navigating wild blackberries, the bloody.

Michelle Sroka

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