We get that one a lot. Granted, lately we’ve noticed people’s reactions trending towards the positive and supportive, but we’ve been on the receiving end of our fair share of raised eyebrows. Most people assume that because I’m an Air Force pilot (I know, I know… the old joke applies: “Q: How do you know someone is a pilot within the first 10 seconds you meet him? A: He’ll tell you.”) that I want to go fly for the airlines after retiring with 20 years of active duty service. Not a bad plan for most, but we’ve got different ideas. So the obvious question is, what brought us to this decision to leave the Air Force after only 12 years in order to start a farm?
I’ve always had a love for the country, having grown up in the rolling hills of New York State’s Southern Tier. I left the nest to attend college in Florida, followed by pilot training in Georgia and Mississippi, but my heart stayed grounded in all things rural. My wife (Heather) loves to tell the story of when we were newly married and stationed in Illinois: I was driving home and passed a newly cut field of hay. The smell was exactly as I remembered it from my childhood, and I immediately called Heather at home. “Put some shoes on and step out by the road, I’ll pick you up.” After picking her up, I drove back out to the field, stopped and rolled down the window. “Smell that? Stick your head out the window and take a big sniff!” I’m pretty sure she had decided I was crazy, but as I remember it she played along nicely, saying “What? It smells like grass.” She didn’t get it at the time, but it gave me a chance to tell her all about the great memories I had of baling hay with my family, drinking “sun tea”, eating Tootsie Rolls and cooling off/washing off the itchy chaff with a quick dip in the pond!
So I’ve always known we would move back to the country and raise cows someday, but needless to say Heather wasn’t exactly on board early on. But lots of things began to change when she got pregnant with our first born. Besides the obvious world-rocking stuff everyone goes through, we found ourselves questioning lots of things that we had accepted without a second thought up to this point. We began to educate ourselves on the issues surrounding vaccinations, food safety, pesticide use, GMOs, our government’s “regulatory” system and a host of other problems. Most importantly, we began to think for ourselves. Before we knew it, we were checking out birth centers, reading up on alternative vaccination schedules, eating organic food and writing our elected representatives about the dangers of genetically modified organisms!
At this point, I wouldn’t call us full-blown hippies, but we’re close (without the illegal drugs, of course). Heather has had both of our children 100% naturally, without any drugs or medical interventions. We are active in our local food movement, have a garden, and make as many things for ourselves as we can. Heather even has a thriving business called Simple Splendor Soaps which has become very popular for her all-natural soaps, lotions and lip balms. Heck, I even use baking soda/apple cider vinegar instead of shampoo and unflavored Jello as a substitute for hair-gel!
Don’t get me wrong, we’re not growing hair in all the wrong places or smoking our minds with alternative substances! For crying out loud, I’m a military pilot with a masters degree married to a pediatric occupational therapist with a doctorate! We just happen to believe there is a better way than the current industrial mindset when it comes to our health, food and general well-being. So what do you call us? Nothing fits perfectly, but you’d be pretty close with the label “Crunchy Conservative”. Over the past 4.5 years since our son’s pregnancy started our world-view has changed drastically. But we are more passionate that ever about the issues I’ve mentioned, and couldn’t imagine not doing something about them if given the chance. It just so happens that that chance has presented itself in 2013!