So many moments in life teeter on the outcome of a game of tug of war. Which moment, opportunity or experience is explored depends entirely on whom, or in this case, what, has a stronger pull.
For Danelle Myer, returning to
Sitting at a grey, iron table in the backyard of the Benson bungalow she now rents out, Danelle absent mindedly picks up segments of her long brown hair and twists them between her index finger and thumb.
“This house,” she said, releasing her hair, tapping her hands on the table and smiling, “this is my, ‘I am woman hear me roar house.’ I had been divorced for a few years and I knew as soon as we sold our house, I wanted another one. This is where I learned how to be a gardener. This is where I started to take out grass and put in plants. In many ways, this house reflects who I have become.”
The journey from a Benson urban-dweller to a
The first glimpse of how this new life might come to fruition came to her while planning a vacation to
“When I saw it, I just started crying and I said, ‘This is what I need.’ It felt,” she paused for a second to find the right word, “fateful. This is what I need to do. This is what I’ve been looking for.”
The CASFS is one of the most well-respected programs in the
She applied for the UC Santa Cruz program in October 2009, figuring it would give her enough time to save money, rent her bungalow and transition from her desk job as the director of marketing for
“In March 2010, I get a call from UC Santa Cruz with someone saying, ‘Can you be here in three weeks?’ I’m 38 years old. I have a mortgage, and I’m thinking how do I transition in such a short time? I called my mom and said, ‘What do I do?’ She said, ‘You go! You go, that’s what you do. You go.’”
That night Danelle’s parents drove to
“My dad, the conventional corn and soybean farmer, said, ‘This is your one chance. You have to do this.’ So in three weeks I packed up this house and stored everything in the basement, found a renter, went to the doctor for everything I could think of because I was going off of health insurance, and loaded up my two-door Honda Civic with everything I thought I would need for six months and drove west.”
First Day of School
“I remember pulling into the farm in
Feeling awkward at the outset quickly transformed into a deeper confidence about her purpose. Never mind that she didn’t have health insurance or even a job to return to, she was going to farm and she was moving back to her hometown to do it. With each new lesson on cover crops, crop rotation and compost, Danelle’s knowledge on the science of agriculture grew, rooting her belief of its value to her community completely. During the program, Danelle developed marketing plans, had business meetings with her parents and wrote in her journal about what the whole process meant to her. So much of what she is doing today has to do with her family’s land. She could’ve continued her life in Benson and rented the farmland, but instead she returned home.
“I’m part of something that I was born into,” she said. “How lucky is that?” Danelle is not alone in her desire to farm. According to the most recent agriculture census data, just over 30%—more than 1 million—
Also according to the census, while men dominate cattle, grain, commodity crops and overall farm size, women-operated farms dominate in vegetable, fruit, nut, poultry, egg, sheep, goat and general horticulture production. Still,
Although she and her father farm differently—he conventionally, she sustainably—she said they don’t argue about food philosophies or who drives the moral high ground in the farming world.
“The truth is I wouldn’t be doing what I am doing if my family hadn’t been doing what they’ve been doing,” she said. “So I can’t be critical of the past. I just have to focus on my future and doing things in a way I believe in doing them. We all have the same intention. We all want to grow food. My dad feels like he is feeding the world. I feel like I am feeding my corner of the world. If I’m critical of anything I’m critical of the system,” she said.
During her time at UC Santa Cruz, a friend contacted her about a possible job. It was part-time, food-related and flexible. It met all of her requirements. Before leaving
After staying in state parks on her return trip to the
“The first couple of months I was home, I kept hearing the same thing, ‘That’s a lot of work.’ And I would say, ‘Yeah, it is,” she recalled, pausing to reflect, “but there’s something to be said for having roots. I’m a fifth-generation farmer.”
Perhaps those roots are why she is selling more than she expected even this early in the year. People are finding her and thanking her for growing food for them in this way.
She would never deny that the past two years have been the most difficult in her life, both mentally and physically. She has used her body in ways she had never used it before, trusted her gut in ways that required tremendous faith and set out on her own to learn something from scratch. Even still, she never once felt like she shouldn’t be toiling in the soil by day and selling the fruits of her labor during quiet evening hours at the local farmers market.
“Planting peppers last May, I was on my knees facing west in the morning. I looked out over the valley and it was all rolling hills,” she shared. “I literally thought, ‘Oh, my God I’m doing it. I’m a farmer’ and I got a little teary.”
Where to find One Farm
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Where to find the food
You can purchase food from One Farm at LocalDirt.com/ OneFarm or visit Danelle through October 18 every Thursday evening from 3:30pm–6pm at the Harrison County Welcome Center Farmer’s Market between
Summer Miller is an award-winning journalist whose work has appeared in Every Day with Rachel Ray, Eating Well, AAA Living, The Reader and more websites than room to note. She lives with her husband and two children in