Beck's Blog

From Our Family Farm to Yours

3

Jan

2017

Why I Farm

Beck's Why I Farm Roadtrip - North Dakota Farmer, Dana Dagman

Growing up in the suburbs, Dana Dagman never imagined she’d become a farmer. In fact, when she met her husband, Travis, they had no intention of coming back to the family farm.
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11

Nov

2016

Why I Farm

Beck's Why I Farm Roadtrip - Illinois Farmer & Veteran, Matt Swanson

Raised on a family farm in Illinois, veteran Matt Swanson always knew he wanted to return someday, but wasn’t sure when it would happen. After being medically retired from the military in 2008, he’s thankful for the experiences that shaped his outlook as a farmer.

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31

Oct

2016

Why I Farm

Beck's Why I Farm Roadtrip: Maine Farmer, Sue McCrum

For Sue McCrum, potato farming is a family affair. Siblings, cousins, parents and children each use their individual talents to fulfill specific roles on their family’s farm in northern Maine.

She has plenty of experience picking potatoes, but these days Sue serves the farm best by sharing her family’s story as an active member of the community and former American Agri-Women President. She passionately advocates for family farms like hers close to home and in Washington D.C.

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27

Oct

2016

Why I Farm

Beck's Why I Farm Roadtrip: New York Farmer, Mike Bulich

Surrounded by the beautiful Hudson River and Catskill Mountains, Mike Bulich and his family raise mushrooms on their New York farm. Like many farms across the United States, a lot has changed since the Bulich Mushroom Company got its start in 1945.

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22

Oct

2016

Why I Farm

Beck's Why I Farm Roadtrip: Connecticut Farmers, Freund Family

For over 30 years, Theresa Freund has warmly greeted the customers visiting her East Caanan, Connecticut farm market in search of fresh produce, gift items and baked goods.


“When Amanda was born, I realized I couldn’t really milk cows and chase after heifers. I tried, I really did try.” Theresa recalls. “I put her in a little carrier on my back and I was like, ‘Sure, I’ll help you catch that heifer.’ But then all of the sudden I was slipping and I had this baby. I even tried putting her in a little carrier outside the barn and there she was, crying. So I was like, ‘Oh no, I can’t do this. This is not going to work.’ But I’m not the type of person that’s going to sit around and twiddle my thumbs, so the big garden just got bigger and bigger.”

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21

Oct

2016

Why I Farm

Beck's Why I Farm Roadtrip - Rhode Island Farmers, Loren & Gina Thurn

Over the last nine years, Loren and Gina Thurn have been diligently working to grow their farm in a way that supports their family and hungry community. Through innovation and challenging themselves, the couple has built up their ornamental business and expanded into produce production. With greenhouses and hydroponics, the farm is able to provide healthy food to the local community year round.

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17

Oct

2016

Why I Farm

Beck's Why I Farm Roadtrip: Connecticut Farmers, Jonathan and Hazel Secchiaroli

When he came over from Italy, Jonathan Secchiaroli’s great grandfather settled in Connecticut to begin a farm. He started with a barn, dairy cattle, and some pigs. The pig business grew, so the family transitioned to a pork specialty. In 2011, Jonathan took over the farm, and the responsibility of providing his community with protein, from his father and oldest brother. Today, Jonathan and his wife, Hazel, live and work on the farm along with their three young children.


Farming has been a part of Jonathan’s family for generations. Hazel, however, was raised in San Diego, California, and considers herself a “city kid.” When she moved east in 2000 to be with Jonathan, Hazel experienced quite a lifestyle change. “It is sort of a different way of life, so it was an adjustment at first, but I think seeing how much the farm was really part of his family helped. His family was so welcoming.” Hazel recalls.

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6

Oct

2016

Why I Farm

Beck's Why I Farm Roadtrip: Vermont Farmer, Joanna Lidback

Joanna Lidback’s Jersey herd started with a 4-H project “gone wild.” What began as childhood lessons in science and responsibility eventually evolved into a passion.


For a while, Joanna farmed with her brother. After recognizing their different styles and ideas, they decided to pursue their goals separately. “One thing I’ve learned, and I take it with me in my consulting business is sometimes you have to know when it’s the right time to say, ‘No, this isn’t going to work. Let’s salvage our sibling relationship, in this case, and move on and do our own thing.’ That’s what’s important to me.” Joanna smiles. “It worked. We’ve been closer than ever since we went our separate ways.”

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27

Jul

2016

Why I Farm

Beck's Why I Farm Roadtrip: Virginia Farmer, Coley Drinkwater

Coley Drinkwater is a world traveler, entrepreneur and dairy farmer. Every morning her alarm goes off at 3:19 a.m. to start another day working alongside her family at Richlands Dairy Farm. This isn’t how she always pictured her life, but she loves it.


“I went to school for human nutrition, food and exercise because we weren’t encouraged to come back to the farm. I was thinking about doing occupational therapy when I graduated, but I would have to go on full-time for another two and a half years for occupational therapy. I was like, ‘I just want a break from school.’ I’d always wanted to travel the world, so I thought, ‘If I’m going to do it, I’m going to do it now while I don’t have any real responsibilities to anyone.’ I worked as a waitress and saved my tips for a year and a half, and then bought a plane ticket and went around the world. It was just awesome. It’s one of the best things I’ve ever done. I got home in early August and they were getting ready to start chopping corn. My dad needed help and I was broke. I already knew how to do what we were doing so he wasn’t going to have to train anybody. I needed the money and I could live for free at my parents’ house, so I started working for him. Then I was like, ‘I always enjoyed the farm. I don’t know if I really want to go back to school.’ I took that time to decide, ‘Is this what I want to do? Is this where my heart is? Or is this going to be the kick in the butt I need to go to grad school.’ I’ve been here ever since. I just fell in love with it.”

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25

Jul

2016

Why I Farm

BECK'S WHY I FARM ROADTRIP: VIRGINIA FARMER, ROBERT HARRIS

Robert Harris is a first generation farmer in Virginia, but that doesn’t mean he loves what he does any less. In fact, building his operation from scratch has given him more determination to do what he loves and a passion for helping others in his shoes.

“Farming’s all I ever really wanted to do. I can never remember a time when it’s not what I wanted to do.” Others in Robert’s family farmed, but there wasn’t a chance for him to be involved. His great-grandpa and grandpa farmed, and his dad grew up on the farm. But when his dad was in high school, his great-grandpa decided to retire the farm because he ran out of help. By the time Robert was born, they didn’t farm anymore.

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22

Jul

2016

Why I Farm

Beck's Why I Farm Roadtrip: Delaware Farmer, Marie Mayor

For some, farming is a lifelong dream. For others, it’s an unexpected blessing. That’s the case for Marie Mayor, co-owner of Lavender Fields at Warrington Manor. She never imagined that a simple trip to tell a moving friend goodbye would open the door for her to begin farming.

“I became a farmer when I was about 56. I retired from the federal government. I had been in education for 42 years, I think. Now I’m here. My partner, Sharon, and I have been doing this for 14 years. We came out here to buy a lavender plant and the farmer was moving. She was getting married and moving to Australia to grow lavender there. We came to tell her goodbye. She said, ‘I don’t know what I’m going to do. My farm deal fell through yesterday.’ Sharon and I said, ‘Who’s your realtor?’ Just on the spur of the moment we bought a farm. It’s absolutely the truth and I tell the story because I still can’t believe I did it.”

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21

Jul

2016

Why I Farm

Beck's Why I Farm Roadtrip: Delaware Farmer, Brian Hearn

You don’t have to grow up on a farm to fall in love with agriculture. Brian Hearn, farm manager at the University of Delaware, is living proof.

“I never really grew up on a farm, but I always worked on farms. My grandfather had a very small farm. He had a few chicken houses and five acres to till. It was like a five-acre garden. When I was little, I’d play in the garden.” From there, Brian went on to work for farmers in his area.

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18

Jul

2016

Why I Farm

Beck's Why I Farm Roadtrip: Maryland Farmer, Jennifer Debnam

Jennifer Debnam has never pictured herself as anything other than a farmer. When she’s not in the breeding barn, she’s likely helping the next generation of farmers through Farm Bureau, 4-H, or on her own family’s farm.

“I grew up on a farm. We didn’t live in this area of Maryland. We lived in Howard County. That’s between Baltimore and Washington D.C., very close to Columbia, Maryland.” Jennifer recalls. As development in the area increased, and rented crop land was sold, the family had to make some difficult decisions. “I was in high school, my sister was in middle school, and my brother was somewhere between us. My parents sat us down at the kitchen table and said ‘We have enough to farm here for the rest of our lives. But if you guys want to farm we probably need to move.’ What did we know? We were like, ‘Sure we want to farm!’ It took us about two seconds to get that answer. Dad had always hunted in this area and said, ‘I know where I’d like to go.’ So we ended up here in Kennedyville.”

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13

Jul

2016

Why I Farm

Beck's Why I Farm Roadtrip: Maryland Farmer, Hannah Cawley

Growing up on a farm is a unique privilege. For Maryland cucumber farmer, Hannah Cawley the farm is where her first lessons in hard work, patience, and teamwork were learned. Following in her father’s footsteps and working alongside her family taught Hannah commitment.

Hannah was raised on a diversified farm in Caroline County, Maryland. The area offers sandy soil and a favorable climate for produce. “We till about 1,000 acres of corn, wheat, barley, soybeans, peas, and sweet corn but our big thing is cucumbers. This year we’re going to plant somewhere around 1,300 or 1,400 acres of cucumbers.” Hannah’s farm can raise two crops of cucumbers per year, thanks to their seasons. Most other cucumber producing states only have the right weather conditions for one harvest a year.

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13

Jul

2016

Why I Farm

Beck's Why I Farm Roadtrip: Pennslyvania Farmer, Tad Kuntz

“You do it because you like it, not because you want to get rich. It’s not for the short hours.” Tad Kuntz says growing fruit is in his blood. “I’m a 4th generation fruit grower. I grew up on a farm north of Gettysburg, about a 600 acre orchard. My dad, my two uncles and my grandfather were fruit growers. My great-grandfather was too, but I never met him. My grandfather and father taught me pretty much everything I needed to know to be in the business. I went to college and majored in horticulture just to learn why you do it the way they told me to do it. Most of my education came from them.”

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12

Jul

2016

Why I Farm

Beck's Why I Farm Roadtrip: Virginia Farmer, M.L. Everett

“Experience is the best teacher.” M.L. Everett counts himself lucky to have the experiences of generations before him on top of his own to guide his decisions for the family’s diversified farm in Virginia. M.L. says, “A lot of farmers this day in time will tell you, ‘I’m not self-made. I have a good start from previous generations.’ A farmer has to know a lot about a lot of different things. He’s got to be a scientist, electrician, a plumber, a mechanic, a carpenter. Those trades have been passed on from generation to generation. Each builds on what the previous generation had learned through experiences.”

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8

Jul

2016

Why I Farm

Beck's Why I Farm Roadtrip: Virginia Farmer, Sarah Leonard

Sarah Leonard's family has been on the same farm for 100 years. “The farm was given to my great grandmother as a wedding present, and then they kept buying land,” beamed Sarah. Over the last century, a lot has changed for the Virginia farmers, including their neighbors. Busy roads and big cities surround the farm now. They couldn’t pick up their milk cows, beef cattle or row crops to move, so the family’s only choice was to adapt to their changing surroundings. “We’ve chosen to embrace our neighbors, and we enjoy it.”

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8

Jul

2016

Why I Farm

Beck's Why I Farm Roadtrip: Pennsylvania farmers, Adam and Diana Dellinger

After moving all around the country for their jobs with USDA’s Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS) agency in 2013, Adam and Diana Dellinger were ready for something different. So, they decided to start their own hops farm in Carlisle, Pennsylvania called Sunny Brae Hops. “We don’t fit into any of the normal farming boxes.” Diana laughs.

“We started thinking about homesteading and definitely knew we wanted to do that whenever we finally got a piece of property. Adam was starting to get antsy to do something different with his time than being at the office. He was getting tired of that kind of life, but we weren’t ready at that point to do anything about it so he stuck it out until we moved back to Pennsylvania. Even then we didn’t make the jump right away, because it takes quite a leap of faith to say, ‘I’m going to leave my salary job to go farm.’ Everyone looks at you like you’re crazy because it’s hard to make money farming. It took us a long time to get where we are today, and even now we’re just in the beginning stages of the farm.”

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5

Jul

2016

Why I Farm

Beck's Why I Farm Roadtrip: Pennsylvania Farmer, Haldeman Farms

Just like other businesses, many farms work best when each person is in charge of something different. At Haldeman Farms in Pennsylvania each member of the team has a specific set of responsibilities matched with their talents. Brothers Gern and Tim Haldeman, and Martha Graybill each have very different roles on the farm, but together, their efforts are what make the large family farm work.

For Gern, “What do you want to be when you grow up?” was never even a question. He always knew he was going to farm.

“I don’t remember what grade it was, but when I was in elementary school the teacher had us imagine what we were going to be or what we were going to do when we grew up. I remember saying, ‘I don’t need to do this because I know what I’m going to do.’ And the teacher said, ‘You don’t know what you’re going to do.’ I said, ‘No. I know what I’m going to do.’ She said, ‘What is that?’ I said, ‘I’m going to be a farmer.’ That still didn’t get me out of the exercise. I had no idea how, when or where it was going to happen, but I knew somehow I was going to be a farmer because that’s who I was, that’s all I enjoyed, that’s what I did.”

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2

Jul

2016

Why I Farm

Beck's Why I Farm Roadtrip: LEAF Project Founder, Heidi Witmer

As farmers do their job, they aren’t just raising crops. They’re growing communities and building up the next generation. Heidi Witmer had that in mind when she started LEAF in Carlisle, Pennsylvania.

“LEAF stands for Leadership, Education and Farming. At the core of it, it’s about cultivating young leaders through the meaningful work of raising food. On a deeper level, as a farmer there’s this idea that you’re in partnership with potential. Any seed that you’re touching already knows what it’s going to be, but the fullness and the depth of its abundance is the farmers’ job. I’ve been an educator most of my life, and I felt really strongly that our most important crop, our young people, weren’t getting that level of cultivation. They already have their potential, they already have their strength, they’re on their path, but we sometimes weren’t exposing them to appropriate adversity at the right times or really fertilizing their soil in the way we should be.”

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