We didn’t become farmers because we are Local Foods activists.
We became activists because we are farmers making our living from local foods.

American Dream….

At the turn of the century (as a child of the 20th century it’s a little mind-bending to use that phrase), Beth and I were comfortably ensconced in solid, upwardly mobile, professional, suburban lives.  I was embarking on a new consulting career (Andersen Consulting – now Accenture) in the booming information technology field (I’d had sales jobs before moving to the Chicago suburbs in 1997), and Beth was climbing the ladder at the venerated accounting firm, Arthur Andersen. She had parlayed her experience as a special education teacher and technology specialist into a position as an internal “professional skills” trainer for the firm.

Friends & family nearby, rising salaries, a beautiful baby boy, generous healthcare benefits, home ownership - at least an affordable mortgage…it’s easy to understand the “irrational exuberance” people were feeling.

A thin veneer….

When the tech bubble burst, consulting contracts were slashed. By the fall of 2000, my position no longer existed. I negotiated a few weeks of half-time work on an internal team and office time/space/amenities to conduct a job search. I soon took a position with Allstate (a client company where I had worked as a consultant). It was gratifying to land on my feet quickly. Still, our confidence in the “New Economy” was definitely shaken. Of course, working at such venerable companies gave us a sense of security.

Beth’s role at Andersen was a dream job – challenging work, amiable colleagues, good pay & benefits, plus a flexible schedule that allowed time with our growing little boy. Jody was finding that the well established insurance company (all is it secure) moved slowly and gave proof to the “stodgy” stereotype – perhaps a new challenge would be in order (MBA)?

September 11th 2001 –

 Working in a downtown high rise (or a suburban office park), suddenly carried unknown risks. Like so many, we began rethinking priorities. Our careers testing software and teaching “professional skills” felt a bit artificial.  

Our longing for realness only increased a month later as the Enron scandal began to unfold. Economic bubbles, special purpose entities, questionable accounting practices, all outside of our control, were affecting our lives in very tangible ways.

The move to the farm…

Inextricably tied to Enron, Arthur Andersen’s fortunes headed south quickly. By the spring 2002, it was evident that Andersen’s existence would soon be wiped from the world. Luckily, Beth was on maternity leave during the most wrenching turmoil at the Chicago HQ. In May, we drove to Ottawa to take Jody’s parents out for Mother’s Day. Over brunch, they spoke of fixing up their farmhouse to rent out. That along with his mom’s comment, “Gee, it sure would be nice to have you kids closer” spurred an eventful conversation on the ride back to the ‘burbs.

In June we put up a for sale sign in front of our duplex. In July, Beth scheduled a day of teacher interviews for open special education positions within a 45 minute drive of the farm, and Jody gave notice at Allstate. In August, we closed on the house sale and moved to the farm. Beth started teaching in Minooka at the end of the month. 

The first CSA in LaSalle County…

Before we left for the farm, our suburban friends threw us a “Green Acres” party complete with feather boa and pitchfork. One of the gifts we received was Eliot Coleman’s The New Organic Grower. Coleman’s book became our primer on market farming and his description of Community Supported Agriculture (CSA) resonated deeply with us. Doing something real (growing food) and connecting to a community of eaters was very important to us. In hindsight, a single chapter on marketing – 8 pages (I checked) set us on the course to where we are today. A special shout out to our friend Vicki Genz for the gift (I’m not sure she knows how pivotal it was!).

Nine short months from moving to the farm, we began delivering weekly shares to 50+ CSA members­. Unbeknownst to us another farm in our county (Growing Home, Inc) was, also, starting a CSA. But, since we started deliveries in late May (GH started in June), we were the first ;)! At another time, I’ll share how we connected with Growing Home and started a collaboration that continues to today.