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The new kids on the block: a new veteran family farm’s perspective.

Updated: Oct 19, 2022

British White Cattle, mothers and calves, at Demeter Springs Farm in Mansfield, Tennessee 2022.
The Divine Bovine Nursery grazing on the fresh spring grasses this spring at Demeter Springs Farm.

For those who are reading this and may not know us, we’re a family that has fairly recently been able to retire from the mobile American military life and finally settle down on some clean land that we plan to do some regenerative farming on. We want to nourish and nurture ourselves, our community, our state, our country, and our planet. We feel this land we are stewarding wants that as well. We’re the new kids on the block, and I don’t mean the singing boy group. Honestly, however, we’re used to always being viewed as the new kids on the block. What we’re not used to is being able to stay put for more than 3 years, and we’re very happy and grateful we’re at the stage where we can do so.

I, personally, am not new to the Ag realm. I’ve been gardening since I was a wee one, even spending candy money on seeds, which none of the other neighborhood kids could understand, and thus contributed to me being “differnt”. I didn’t go into opening an herbal shop or working at a sustainable farm once I graduated high school because it just wasn’t practical. Back in the late 90’s, in my hometown of Nashville, the “Buckle of the Bible Belt”, herbalism was still frowned upon as witchcraft or selling snake oil. My practical Taurus nature knew I wouldn’t be able to have enough customers to pay the bills. Also, back then, there were no sustainable farms that I knew of to work on. Thankfully Nashville is no longer that way. In my 20’s, I met my active duty Army husband, and for 2 decades we’ve sacrificed all an active duty family sacrifices. For me, that included not finishing my Ag degree because we PCS’d to a place that didn’t have a university close enough for me to attend while raising our children. My husband was a pilot in the Army and wasn’t home to physically help out much. My career and degree were put on hold until my husband retired. Now he is retired, and we were lucky enough to find this land. Things felt like they were finally falling into place.

Once we got here in late 2017, the growing season for that year was done, but that was ok since really it takes a full year to get to know a property. Being a mobile military gardener that moved often, I knew that well. We immediately started looking to see what financial support we could get, thinking there was decent support perhaps for women farmers and veteran farmers. All we were told was we were too new and small. All finances going into setting up our first-generation farm came out of our pockets, but maybe that’s not a bad thing. That means we don’t have any financial help agency overly demanding what we can and cannot do, and we want to use sustainable methods.

Then in 2018, I became pregnant (and sick) with our youngest. 2019 was dedicated to my body’s postpartum recovery. 2020 was to be the first year we were to really get started on getting this farm going, but we all know what happened that year. Meat processors shut down to new customers in an honorable attempt to keep the non-regular big company customers from shutting out the regular, smaller customers. However, that hit us too. We’ve been having to sell our cattle at way below their worth at sale barns just to have some sort of income to help with expenses.

The bigger vendor markets that brought in our largest income shut down, and we tried to support the hyper local ones in 2021, but there wasn’t much support there for a variety of reasons, including us being new, again, and therefore aliens for many to not support while they claim that they’re patriots who “support the troops”. We’ve had hobby farmer neighbors (no disrespect to hobby farmers meant), that have never studied the science of agriculture and only do what the war chemical turned “ag” chemical companies tell them to do, say we wouldn’t last 5 years, of course while not knowing a thing about our family. Well, we’re still here.

Now in 2022, the bigger markets are opening back up, and we’re looking in surrounding areas for them to sell at and be a part of. Now we’re running into being told there’s already a vendor like us selling at their event and turning us down. We are being shunned newbies yet again, when on one level, we aren’t new. I am originally from the northern TN and southern KY area. Also, my type of work is not new to me. I’ve been doing it for three decades now. I’ve been selling herbal products professionally for over a decade, but of course I had to move frequently, and therefore, start my customer base all over with each move. Most customers don’t want to pay shipping, and with rising shipping prices, I can’t blame them. In addition to that, it is indeed more eco-friendly to shop local. In the ways in which we are new, it is because we sacrificed 2 decades of our lives for our country. I guess I was naïve to think folks would be more considerate of that.

I don’t share this perspective of ours for pity, sympathy, likes, follows, or marketing. I’m sharing this because if this is happening to us, even with our white privilege, even with the claims of support being out there for veteran farmers and women farmers, it’s happening to others too. I’m sharing this for awareness. I’m also sharing this to limit the number of times I have to say it. Being a farmer and a mother takes a lot of energy, and I must be conservative with my energy. Like I said before, my unfinished degree is in Agriculture. I chose to do my research papers on many things, including the importance of small farms in our overall national, planetary, and species health and prosperity. Small farms provide diversity which is essential in health and survival of our economy and ecosystems. They support families and communities. They put money back into our economy and communities, unlike the corporations and monopolies. They are usually more likely, although sadly not always, to care for the land in an eco-friendly manner since they are also living on that land: drinking the local water, fishing from the local waterways, hunting the local game. These small farms are dying out. Most farmers are aging out, and they do not have anyone to hand the torch to. WE NEED TO ENCOURAGE NEW FARMERS GETTING INTO THIS NOBLE AND ESSENTIAL TO HUMANITY PROFESSION, especially ones who will be beneficial