Farming at 60? What the heck are you thinking?

By Karen Washington

What a milestone year this has been for me. I turned 60, retired and now want to fulfill my dream of farming full time. Do you think I’m crazy? I found out early on that you cannot farm alone, so I am happy to be farming with my closest friends. My friends are passionate about farming and growing food.

Each one of us is blogging about our experience as we search for land and prosperity. So be patient with me as I turn my thoughts into words.

I am currently farming once a week at Roxbury Farm with cohort Jane Hodge. I have been growing food in NYC for the past 28 years but need to take it to the next level in terms of acreage and capacity. Sounds ominous and scary, you bet; but this is what following your passion is all about.

Jean-Paul and Jody have been extremely gracious with their time, giving us some good advice. Their first advice (jokingly I hope) was not to farm; followed by some sound advice to think small and intentional. Roxbury farm is a biodynamic farm. You can imagine what went through my mind.  They quickly read my mind and stated that they believe in integrating plants with animals. This very simple concept has allowed them to grow the best vegetables and produce the best meat in Columbia County.  I also found out that Roxbury farm was the first to start a CSA back in 1991.

Since retiring in April this year, I am learning a lot about myself and the desire to farm. I would like to share some of them with you.

  • First of all, let me make it perfectly clear, farming is hard work and labor intensive. From sun up to sundown your body and mind belongs to the fields.

  • I love growing food, but hate the mosquitoes and am mindful of the ticks.

  • You are either planting, harvesting, washing, packing and or distributing throughout the growing season.

  • You have to use body mechanics - there is lifting, bending, twisting and turning. (My physical therapy background has sure come in handy).

  • Microclimates are present, so one must get used to the changes in temperature during the day.

  • Take frequent breaks and drink plenty of water. (Its perspiration, not rain, that trickles down my face and back).

  • Be open to learning something new; expect to be on top of things when they don’t go as planned. (In other words be flexible and creative).

  • Take time to reflect at the end of the day. (Your hard work is worth it and rewarding).

  • Lastly, when you love and respect the land, and it will love and respect you back.

Now let’s get back to why I am doing this at the age of 60 and retired. It’s simple: I love it! I love the smell and feel of the earth. I love the fact that the vegetables that we grew and harvested are making someone happy. I love lying in the fields and feeling my body excited about being alive and close to nature. But most of all I am thrilled to be looking for land and farming with a great bunch of friends.

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