Celebrate the culture of agriculture & share skills (Growing! Cooking! Eating!)

A REAL WORKHORSE: This week, HOMEGROWN chatted with new member Alexis, an equal-opportunity equine and vegetable lover living in Maine. We were intrigued by the mention of professional kitchens and bakeries in Alexis’s past, but nothing pricks up our ears like the declaration that someone wants to be a farmer. Get to know Alexis below and learn a little about her journey so far, then browse her photos. And, Alexis, we can’t wait to hear updates as you follow your path. We’re rooting for you!

What is Meet Your Neighbors? Most of us spend a fair amount of time tending our online gardens, but it’s easy to forget there’s a real person behind every quiche recipe, chicken inquiry, and hoophouse design here on HOMEGROWN. Well, nuts to that! MYN gives us a chance to meet over the back fence and shake hands. (Or maybe hug? We’re huggers. But no pressure.)

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Comment by HOMEGROWN.org on August 19, 2013 at 5:58pm

Hello, Alexis! Let’s tackle the geography first: You’re Iowa born and bred, but it was a move to NYC that made you want to be a farmer, right? How so?

Comment by Alexis Zimba-Kirby on August 19, 2013 at 6:33pm

I was born and raised in Iowa, surrounded by farms. If I knew one thing when I went to college it was that I DIDN'T want to be a farmer. But while fighting to bring healthy, farm fresh foods to lower-income communities, especially children, in NYC, I got back in touch with the farmers. That led to spending a summer traveling the United States WWOOFing (working on farms in exchange for room/board) - the rest is history.  

Comment by HOMEGROWN.org on August 19, 2013 at 6:36pm

Pretty cool. Where all did you WWOOF—and did you have a favorite locale?

Comment by Alexis Zimba-Kirby on August 19, 2013 at 6:41pm

I was actually going to go to Canada, but that fell through at the last minute. So I quickly pulled together the following itinerary: Michigan (vegetables), Pennsylvania (pigs and vegetables), and Vermont (dairy and cheese). The next year I WWOOFed in France - both in the Alps on a horse stable and in the Rhone Valley on a vineyard. 

My favorite place was definitely Buckland Farm in Pennsylvania - I acutally returned there the next summer to work as garden manager. It wasn't so much where the farm was located (although Pennsylvania is beautiful), but the people and their love of farming and having fun that brought me back. 

Comment by HOMEGROWN.org on August 19, 2013 at 6:44pm

That sounds like quite an itinerary—not to mention a great education for a future farmer—and it brought you to where you are now, working towards the goal of owning your own land. Tell us a little about the farm of your dreams: Where would it be and what would you grow or raise?

Comment by Alexis Zimba-Kirby on August 19, 2013 at 6:50pm

I want to have 5-10 acres of vegetable production, all sorts of fruit, heirloom vegetables, and herbs. I also want to include chickens and sheep in my crop rotation pattern, and raise some pigs on the side because I love them so much. Ideally, this would all be done with a horse-team. 

I would really love to sell my things in my own store, either on the farm or in a very near larger town/small city. I really like being able to market directly to customers, but I have found that CSA and Farmers markets take up too much time for little return. I like the idea of a store better, a place where people could gather around the food you raise. Maybe serve coffee and baked goods too. 

The "where" is harder - I love the East Coast, but I sometimes miss the mid-west. I am still trying to figure out where I want to be in the future. I am happy here in Maine for now, and it could easily become a permanent home. But there are so man factors to consider - and many that I don't know yet. 

Obviously, with any farm, it is best to start smaller than the dream. I would probably start with around 3 acres under cultivation, and a few pigs. 

Comment by HOMEGROWN.org on August 19, 2013 at 6:55pm

I can see it now—the early version and the long term—and you can bet any HOMEGROWN types wherever you end up would love to congregate in your store. Speaking of a horse team, who and what are we looking at in those photos up top?

Comment by Alexis Zimba-Kirby on August 19, 2013 at 6:58pm

That is my beautiful baby Chester. I also have another horse named Comet. They live with my mother in Iowa now, in semi-retirement. They were only riding horses, not work horses, but it is because of them that I love horses so much, and know how to handle them. 

I have had experience in France working with a horse team on the vineyard, but I definitely need more training in this area. Luckily, there are many farms and loggers in Maine that still work with horses. 

Comment by HOMEGROWN.org on August 19, 2013 at 7:05pm
He's a beauty. OK, one last question and then we'll let you get back to work (or catch some much-deserved shuteye): What’s for dinner at your house tonight?

And thanks so much, Alexis, for taking the time to chat with HOMEGROWN. We’re lucky to have you here, and we can't wait to follow along as your farming adventures unfold. Most importantly: Good luck!
Comment by Alexis Zimba-Kirby on August 19, 2013 at 7:08pm

Just getting started on dinner now - tonight looks to be tofu with snap peas (from the farm I am currently working at) in a sweet and sour sauce. Served over rice. 

Thanks for taking the time to interview me. If anyone has questions about WWOOFing or finding other farm internships (and about how to decide if it is the right farm for you) please don't hesitate to ask. 


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