We need inspiration. We need role models who are getting up every day to do what needs to be done. There are some entrepreneurs we want to be like more than others, and that’s who will be profiled in this space. It’s fitting that a woman who is strong, determined, no-nonsense, and by all accounts “a rock star” is Fortyology’s inaugural Boss Lady.
Fertile Ground Farm, 100 acres of farmland in Waterloo County, Ontario Canada. She manages a farm that produces weekly vegetable boxes (aka Community Supported Agriculture) for 250 families, and operates the business as well as the tractor.
Number of chickens: 100
I spent seven years in the Community Development field, and while I loved it, I was burning out fast. But, I was scared to quit my job. I was 32 and felt like I’d already invested 7 years. What the hell is 32 for if not starting something else?
That grip of expectation and feeling like you need to set yourself up, or, you need to do what others expect of you. I felt guilty having a good life. I was crying a lot, I saw the futility of my work. And, I was sick, I couldn’t digest food, was anxious. Doctors couldn’t diagnose me. The only thing making me feel awesome wass this work out in the garden. I did an internship at a farm, and jumped in with both feet. It was a major, major choice. Taking the risk and freeing myself from those expectations was what stopped me from being sick.
My sense of integrity is affronted by the falseness of large-scale farming that passes itself off as people who have empathetic relationships with their animals. It makes me work harder. The responsibility is on me to take on education. I won’t be able to justify my prices if people don’t understand why what they’re buying is a different product than what’s at the market. Sometimes I enjoy it, sometimes I resent it that I have to explain.
Biggest ongoing challenge:
Maintaining energy is one of the hardest things for sure. There’s the exhaustion from physical labour. There is a multitude of small decisions.
Five years ago I hit a crisis point and was burning out. I’d been farming for 6-7 yrs, 16 hours a day in the field and then admin work at night, I was surviving on cream cheese bagels and summer sausage. I had this little advisory committee made up of friends, CSA members and community members who I’d meet with for feedback and bounce ideas off them. I gathered them and said how exhausted I was. I said, I need to make 50% more money and work 75% as much. If we can’t put a plan in place, I’m done. We raised the price of CSA shares, dropped the farmers market (4am-3pm every Saturday), and it totally changed things. I don’t feel burnt out any more. There’s more money going into savings. They suggested that I hire more staff so there was more bodies carrying the work.
Can frame a wall in a pinch, and fix a tractor
Talent Show Skill:
Plays a mean banjo
It’s important for me to take time to eat well. Not just healthy, but, pleasurable food. The last thing at the end of the day I want to do is make food, to make a proper meal, but, I try to take time to enjoy it at the table, not in front of the computer. And, sleep – I need to be in bed by 9:30. Those two things take care of 80% of the crises.