Planning for the Farm Dream
Eric and Annabel of Bay Branch Farm in Cleveland, Ohio have followed a plan to get to this year. The year they would trade-in their 9 to 5s for full-time farming. After fifteen years of saving, building, trialing, and spreadsheets, the timing and budget have finally lined up to make the farm dream a reality. When asked, “can you make a living doing this?” and the response was “NO!”, there was understandably some confusion.
They wanted to put their response into context. During the last decade or so they had leveraged time-off to transition their urban home and adjacent lots into a half acre diversified farm. They had dabbled in CSAs, plant sales, and farmers markets to create a devoted following, and had built infrastructure to accommodate. From this they learned innumerable lessons, the biggest being, without the privilege of savings from their traditional careers they wouldn’t have made it this far. Even now that they’ve shifted to “full-time” farming they have maintained additional revenue streams like rental properties and side projects. Consequently they are resolute that you can not make a living on their small scale with farming alone. And so the plan continues.
The plan continues to allow them ownership of their own lives. It also allows them to create life, through the planting of a seed and nourishment of a neighborhood. Additionally the plan takes into consideration their strengths. Eric, the former software developer, is happy to tackle mechanics, building, trellising, and spreadsheets. Annabel, the former recruiter and consultant, is poised to continue facilitating marketing and customer service. Over time they have found their niche on the farm and now have the opportunity to provide more capacity to develop its potential. They are excited to continue their June plant sale, grow more flowers, and increase the number of on farm events. Future plans also include building an additional high tunnel to increase predictable revenue, because the plan requires income to keep the farm dream alive.
Besides the budgets and time tables, Annabel and Eric found something else that is helping to keep the farm dream alive as well - cultivating land and community. Undoubtedly the land has provided meditation, exertion, and purpose in its use and growth. Community has also provided joy and purpose in the form of growing fresh food in the city, cultivating conversations, and building camaraderie with other growers and suppliers. This is the drive that pushes them through the emotional and physical challenges that are required in full-time farm life.
The plan that started 15 years ago brought them to this point, and it continues to take them into the future. During the off-season they are taking the time to consider, what happens next? As they inch closer to retirement they want to be intentional about their efforts. Who will carry on the farm dream? Who will find the same drive and purpose? Eric and Annabel are actively seeking a person or persons who are willing to participate, learn, and eventually take ownership of their operation. To learn more or get in touch please visit their contact page.
From an outsider’s perspective it seems as though the farm dream was the reality all along. In planning, Annabel and Eric were already doing, and in achieving, they are already moving on.