I’d all but given up on the Swinging Bridge Farm, accepting it as being out of my reach and beyond my control. However, sometimes in life, good things come to us when we least expect it.
I was in the process of letting it go─wrapping my head and my heart around the idea that it wasn’t meant to be. I spent yesterday picking myself up once more. I worked in the garden, in the soil and the sun, easing my wounded heart. I made sauce for cabbage rolls to feed my family, and ran some errands in-town. After school let out, my sister Marie came over from Farmington and we went together with my younger son to the apple orchard.
That’s where I was while my realtor, Leah, was frantically trying to reach me with the good news. When I returned home there were messages from Leah in my email and on facebook messenger: “CALL ME!!!” and “Sam! I have good news!!!”
I called Leah and she said the most wonderful words: “Sam─you got it! You got the farm! We’re under contract!”
Reportedly, the Seller went to bed Tuesday night and did not sleep well. She was overwhelmed by the number of offers for the old place, which had belonged to her late husband. She had everyone coming at her and she just needed some time to sort it all out. When she woke the next morning she knew she wanted to help me get my farm and signed the paperwork.
I was overjoyed. I am overjoyed.
This is a HUGE win for Runamuk. And for me. But it’s just the first hurdle.
In my mind I envision the path to farm-ownership as an old fashioned steeplechase─the kind where horses and riders race from one town’s steeple to the next. Along the way runners have to jump streams and low stone walls, duck low-hanging branches and fallen trees on the path. Right before the finish-line there is one last colossal obstacle to overcome.
Getting a Sale Agreement for a property to farm on has been a bigger obstacle than any I’ve encountered thus far, but the barrier looming before me now is the USDA’s Farm Service Agency.
When I went in March to see Janice Ramirez at the Somerset County USDA office to get more information about the options available to me as a beginning and female farmer, I learned that the FSA does not consider farm incomes of just a few thousand dollars to warrant property investment. My farm income for 2016 had been just over $6K, which could have been considered as such, so at the time I opted to wait until I was in a stronger financial position to make such an attempt for financing.
I’m expecting to bring in about $14K through Runamuk this year. My cash projections for the last few years show that I have more than doubled my farm income every year for the last 3 years, and indicated that trend continuing over the next 5 years.
I’ve done my homework. Extensively. I make 3-5 year plans and revisit them every January as part of my farm-planning process. I’ve worked toward carefully crafted goals year after year to put myself in a good position to make this happen, and now the time has come to put it to the test.
I am a tumult of emotion.
Largely I am confident this is going to happen─that my time has finally come. Yet there is a part of me that is terrified that I will make this big bold attempt to leap over this last monumental hurdle─only to come up short. I’m afraid I will fail and everything will come crashing down on my head, leaving me bloodied and broken in the ditch. I am afraid of losing the respect and faith my community has placed in me, and that I will never have another opportunity to make another play for a farm of my own.
Still, I have come too far to turn back now. There’s too much at stake to even think about giving up. It’s not just about me anymore. There are people who have helped me along my journey, people who look up to me, and even a few who depend on me─whom I owe this to. There are beginning farmers and women farmers out there who need to see someone succeed so that they can have hope of someday obtaining their own farms.
There are my own aspirations of doing more to help pollinators, to teach the world how we can all be just a little more bee-friendly. And there’s me─I’ve worked to make something of myself, of Runamuk, and I owe it to myself to see this thing through.
So rejoyce with me in this victory. I have a legally binding Sale Agreement for the Swinging Bridge Farm!!!
Now brace yourself, because I have just 45 days to obtain a Letter of Qualification from the FSA for financing. Eeeeeeek!
Check back soon for more stories about my journey to farm-ownership and my mission to cultivate a pollinator conservation farm! Save bees, save the world!