My name is Kyle and I’m a farmer.
The product of an Ivy League education, an involved member of an applied economics association, working for the second largest Real Estate Investment Trust in the country, with a company car that was worth more than the house I grew up in, and beginning a family of my own in Southern Utah, I was on top of the world. Which is generally the catalyst for a challenge to form. An opportunity to grow. Pun intended. In the throes of the Great Recession, things changed for a lot of us.
When I was brought into the world, the first place I called home was Southern California. A home situated in between that of my grandparents and on the opposite side, my great-grandparents. It was small truck farm owned by our family of former poultry producers and commodity farmers. In the shade of Live Oaks we raised sheep, beef cattle, chickens, and in the field a legion of vegetables both for market and subsistence.
You dance with the one that brought you. It was more than a nod to my heritage, it was a choice to be honest with myself about my aptitudes, the things I enjoy, my moral, cognitive, and economic sensibilities, and the future I wanted for my children. So I became a farmer. There’s this idea that if you don’t inherit an operation, you can’t be a farmer. And it’s wrong. With a single acre of plowed ground, we turned our gardening hobby and handful of chickens into a product for the marketplace and we haven’t looked back. Our operation has grown to include 95 acres upon which we produce pastured pork, poultry, custom heirloom vegetables for high-end restaurants, and a nursery operation that produces a small number of vegetable plants for market in addition to thousands of native plants for use in environmental mitigation projects. In Utah’s high deserts we have some unique challenges so we’ve taken special care to make the most efficient use of finite resources such as water by implementing sophisticated drip technology, and in light of our alkaline, sandy, and rocky soils we take painstaking care to manage tillage, fertility, and our grazing methods so that we prudently use and invest in the future of our soils. In our wind swept valleys, we don’t want to lose topsoil to silting, so we take care not to. In a time when fertilizer run-off causes ecological complications down stream, we pay special attention to chemical volatility and usability. In a time when North America’s grasslands are becoming a desert, we manage our little pastures holistically to improve our small perennial ecosystem. Being a good ecological steward, however, isn’t simply a philosophical endeavor. Being a prudent land manager not only reduces input costs, but it makes us more productive in terms of both yield and quality. We want a better future for our children environmentally. We, also, want a more prosperous one. And we can have both if we’re willing to do the work. Every year our dirt gets better. Every year our product gets sweeter. And every year when the water goes off, the machines go quiet, and the snows start falling on the juniper trees around us, we know that the world our children will inherit has been improved.
The most important crop we grow is children. There are obvious moral and cognitive lessons to be learned in agriculture. In fact, agriculture provides the source material for the oldest religious and philosophical metaphors in the history of our existence. We reap what we sow. We prune trees to increase their productivity. We graft vines. But in addition to those most fundamental ideas, agriculture provides an economic lesson that we in the 21st century desperately need. In agriculture we make money. We create wealth. Albeit not a lot, at times, but in agriculture we’re not simply exchanging dollars for a service and calling that prosperity. I want my children to see first hand that they are capable of, and perhaps even inclined to, create things of value. Good agriculture takes raw materials, harvests energy from the sun, and creates the tangible products which make-up the bedrock of our economy. And in creating these real products we serve our communities. Moreover, when my children look at something we grew, the product of our toil can be judged independently of our intentions. They learn that the high nutrient density and flavor we achieve in a product has come about as a direct result of a decision we made about its inputs. Likewise, its faults stand independent of our ability to explain them away. Agriculture teaches children to think critically, to make a decision, then what to do with the externalities of those decisions. Agriculture teaches children to live in the real world, to solve problems, and that there are material advantages to doing the right thing. Not least of all, every morning when the gray sky to the east turns blue, pink, and amber as our fiery star rises out of the baleful night, our kids get to see the onrush of scenery, the smells, the sounds, and the feeling of dirt crunching under foot for which I think we all have an inborn fondness. Every morning our kids get to learn that they are part of the world, not simply passive observers.
I’m a farmer. My wife is a medical professional. Our kids are incredible little creatures endowed with all the talent and wisdom heaven could muster into their tiny bodies. And while I do occasionally wear overalls, we farmers are complex, reasonable, and generally intelligent individuals who are happy to offer our communities far more than the oversimplified cliché with which we are often branded. So the next time you wonder something about how your food shows up in the store or on your plate, talk to us. Let’s work together.
See you out there.
I’m an agricultural evangelist, an aviation enthusiast, a literature fanatic, an aspiring craftsman, a fly fisherman, a bit of a mad scientist, obsessed with economics, passionate about changing education paradigms, and my kids are my magnum opus. Shelley and I have been married for 10 years and we have three children: Eden (7), Yeats (5), and Emerson (9mo). Shelley is a Registered Nurse, a cake chef, and a full-time mom. Shelley and I are the co-chairs for our county Farm Bureau’s Young Farmer and Rancher Committee and I’m the Secretary-Treasurer for the Washington County Farm Bureau Board.
Read more about Kyle, his family and his farm at EdenValleyProduce.com.