Two and a half years ago, I was a shell of a man, struggling to get to my feet and find my bearings after my divorce. I was broke and broken. I lived in my best friend’s spare bedroom and didn’t have my own car. I made it to and from work by bumming rides from family and friends. Each day was a challenge to find the motivation to get out of bed and force myself to trudge onward. Because of the terms of my divorce, I get to keep roughly $.51 on every $1.00 I earn. After taxes, child support, and insurance for my kids, my take home pay is barely above minimum wage. Those factors severely limit how often I get to see my children, and for anyone who knows me, you know how deeply that affects me.
Two and a half years ago, I faced tough choices. I could lay down and give up, and quite frankly, that option was pretty appealing. I could move somewhere else, closer to my kids, and start a new life. I went so far as to apply for jobs in South Georgia and North Florida. Then, one day, as I worked on cleaning up my motor home to get it livable, an idea came to me. I looked out at my family’s 27 acres and realized that one of the passions I’ve always wanted to pursue is growing vegetables.
I started researching what it would take to launch a farm. The more I learned, the more I realized that the future of farming is indoor growing, so I launched myself into studying as much as I could about aeroponics and hydroponics. At first, I leaned towards an aeroponic system because of the efficiency, and I built a functional prototype. However, the more I learned, the more I saw that those units, while efficient, are highly unstable.
So I went back to the drawing board and designed an ebb and flow hydroponic unit. In August of this year, I finally had enough money to buy all of the components necessary to build and launch the system. Today, I’m a couple of weeks away from the first harvest. From this experience, I’ve learned some valuable lessons, most notably that because of the grow rates of various plants, it’s important to have multiple systems to maintain proper nutrient cycles for each. To that end, I want to build our second unit that I can dedicate to one specific vegetable.
But like I said, I’m severely limited in my financial resources, so quite honestly, I need help. I’m currently running an IndieGoGo campaign to raise funds for this second unit. If I didn’t need this money to get the unit up and running soon, I wouldn’t be asking, but I know, based on my take home income, it will be mid-summer before I can have enough money to put into it. If I can get this system going now, I could effectively have three harvests in that time frame.
Recently, I’ve watched three specific fundraisers have tremendous success. A friend of mine raised money for a rock video. Within 48 hours, he had surpassed his goal. An acquaintance raised money for an independent film and received enough to cover production costs. Most recently, my publisher ran a campaign for a new book project and raised nearly 250% of their goal. I don’t resent the successes of these fund raisers. In fact, I supported each one, sharing links and writing blogs about them, but I am bothered by the lack of interest in supporting my project.
I’m trying to build a farm that will have a long-lasting impact on the lives of people in this region. We need more fresh, organic vegetables in this area. We need more sustainable agricultural practices. That’s not political either. It’s just a fact. Weather patterns are changing. During the grow season, we have extended periods of drought followed by intense storms. That’s not conducive to efficient farming. The future will have to be focused on developing indoor growing environments that are year round and efficient. I’m not even going to get into the effects of rising fuel prices on traditional farming, but our current model isn’t financially sustainable long-term.
So I’m asking for your help. If you can, please, contribute, even $1. If you can’t, please share the link, especially with people you know who might be interested. This farm has the opportunity to change lives, not just mine but those in my community, too. I believe that with all my heart. I have the plan, the design, and the ability to make it happen. What I don’t have are the financial resources. Please, help me make this a reality.
Here’s an update on the farm. These pics won’t really do justice to how hard I’ve worked the last three days to accomplish this, but it’s the best I can do.
There are still three or four trees to get from the hill, but I started with the two highest. I figured that would make the others seem easier. There are two more maples, at least two more ironwoods, and one elm that are the right size for harvest. I’m only taking out what I need for the cabins and am trying to minimize the damage to the young growth. I want to keep that hillside as natural and unblemished as possible. The other hill will eventually be cleared more because it faces south and should be good for certain crops.
Cutting those two trees and getting them down the hill was backbreaking work and took a lot out of me, but the feeling of satisfaction is worth it. Once we have enough logs for five or six cabins, we’ll begin the inoculation process. With any luck, in the spring, we’ll have fresh mushrooms ready for market. Eventually, we plan to have about 36 cabins total, but it will take some time to get there. Once that’s rolling, we should have a fairly steady supply. I’m pretty excited about it.
Working on the farm and writing book four have been amazing experiences this summer. For the first time in many, many years, I feel like I’ve found my place. My goal is to make both of these endeavors my full-time professions over the next couple of years. Working on the land nourishes my creative spirit, and writing feeds my soul. I’m grateful to have had the time to do both this summer.