How The Heck Did We Get Here?

 
Central Park Farms.jpg

I sit here wearing a torn up pair of blue jeans and gumboots taking in the sweet and earthy smell of the dirt beneath me mixed with the now familiar oder of manure. When people visit they often comment about the smell, kids will even on occasion crinkle their nose unsure what to make of it, but I don’t notice it anymore unless I’m paused to really take in my surroundings. In this moment I can’t quite figure out how the hell I got here and why in the world as a woman in my late twenties with a successful corporate career I decided to throw away the salary and benefits to become a farmer. 

I didn’t know the first thing about farming. I had never grown a garden, or raised an animal besides a dog — And knowing now what I didn’t know then, a dog does not a farmer make. I mean I never even shopped at a farmers market.

But here I am, sitting in the field, my boots being gentle nibbled on by four week old piglets as I watch their mama Rosy flop all 500 plus pounds of her in a mud pit she’s made to keep cool on this warm September day.

So how’d I get here? If you want the simple answer, it was a boy. Let’s face it, in your 20’s it’s almost always a boy, but when it came to farming it wasn’t exactly how you’d expect. I did not become a farmer’s wife, I became a farmer.

I met Jay at perhaps the messiest point in my life, at 27 years old I was on top of my game with my career, was a proud owner of a house in one of the most expensive regions of the country, from the outside looking in, I had it all, including a husband I was in the midst of divorcing in a painfully drawn out proceeding.

When I first met Jay, the thought of farming was so far from anything I had ever considered for my life it was laughable. He was a retired 4th-generation Dutch bird farmer who had sold off his commercial quail business a few years before we met but even though he’d moved on from farming as a career choice, it was engrained in the very fabric of his family. 

I’ve always been a curious person, I love to learn and in the beginning I wanted to know everything about his past life as a farmer. I was smitten by him so I hung on his every word when he told me about life on a farm.

As I learned more, it wasn’t long before I had become disenchanted with the ideals of commercial agriculture and the idea of raising a few chickens for our families started to pop into my head. When I look back I realize now that there might have also been an underlying draw that I have yet to admit out loud that also led me to farming. I wish I could say at the time I wanted to jump into it to save the world or combat climate change but to be honest, it was the perfect mixture of loving a new challenge and wanting to see if I could pull off raising a few chickens and also what we’ll call a quarter life crisis that my failed marriage tossed in my lap.

Some women cut their hair, apparently I become a farmer. 

I’ll never forget bringing the idea to Jay. In my head it went a little something like this, ‘Heck no. No way. I’m not farming again. You’re not farming. We’re not farming. Nope. Not happening. No, no, no!’

Bless him, we were still so fresh into learning about each other that he didn’t yet fully grasp the fact that ‘no’ didn’t exactly exist in my vocabulary. I hadn’t climbed my way up into my corporate career in a strongly male dominated industry by taking ‘no’ at face value from anyone.

So after a little persisting on my part, Jay did what any wise man would do for the new love in his life, he agreed to set me up to raise a few meat chickens as long as I agreed to sell a few off to friends and family to offset my costs. He kept on throwing around the word few so casually that I knew I’d have at least a couple people willing to buy a chicken or two off me, so I agreed. 

Two days later I came home to find that Jay had set up a section in one of the old barns on his property with day old chicks and as I opened that barn door when I got home from work, I learned a good lesson about my new relationship, what we both consider a few is wildly different. There warming themselves under the heat of a chicken brooder were 500 baby chicks and just like that I was a farmer-in-training.

And just like that, Central Park Farms was born.

Kendall ~ Boss Chick at Central Park Farms

 
Kendall Ballantine