Remember that question your teacher asked in elementary school “What do you want to be when you grow up?” I was the one who always raised my hand and said, “A FARMER!” But, after 20 years of working in the insurance industry, I have leaped to something new. I will be taking my expertise in insurance underwriting and sales and applying it to my dream life — with the added benefit of also helping my fellow dreamers.
My dreams of being a farmer began years ago. Growing up, my sister, brother, and I would spend many weekends at my aunt and uncle’s picturesque 267-acre dairy farm in southwest Wisconsin. Their barns and home were nestled in a valley made up of three hills. Their big barn was a big two-story farmhouse with big, covered porches across the road from their home. The beautiful dining room faced the barn and had stained glass and built-in cabinets. The parlor was across from the dining room, and it met a large, lush pasture with a creek running through abutting limestone bluffs to the south. An old apple orchard grew on top of the bluffs.
I climbed rocks, picked raspberries, wild strawberries, morel mushrooms, and hunted rabbits, squirrels, and partridge with .22s. We played in the haymow with our cousins, helped with farm chores, got squirted in the face with milk during milking. Finally, the seven of us played in the yellow sugar sand at the base of the sandstone hill and went home coated in sand and sweat. My cousins even convinced me to tinkle on the electric fence (you only make that mistake once).
Everything eaten at the table was REAL. I knew where it all came from, RIGHT there on that beautiful piece of ground. My family raised cattle, hogs, chickens, rabbits.
My aunt’s garden was weedless, thanks to the many hands that pulled weeds. The garden was a cornucopia of deliciousness, from Asparagus to Zucchini.
Whether raised, hunted, or foraged, I KNEW where it came from. It grew there in front of my eyes. I felt it with my hands. We grew up respecting our food; it didn’t just come from the grocery store. We knew someone with a gentle heart raised the animals and vegetables with love, care, and sweat.
What I envisioned to be a perfect life was to live on that farm and be a farmer. But life has a funny way of sending you other places. I went to college to “be an engineer” (just like my dad), which meant my dreams of being a farmer faded. Once school began, trips to the farm were not as frequent since the school was more than four hours away. So, it didn’t move; I did.
Fast forward to my late twenties, during one of my infrequent farm visits, I assisted in delivering a baby bull calf; there truly is something special about the miracle of life. The thought of living on the farm came back into my head. I thought, “if this farm ever goes up for sale, I want to buy it.” But, again, life had different ideas for me. My chance to buy my little slice of heaven passed me by without even a whisper of notice. In my mid-thirties, my aunt and uncle sold the farm after my cousins moved away, and no one was left to carry on the family tradition. The new owners subdivided the land into smaller parcels, the barn has collapsed, and the house burned to the ground last summer. The fire marked the end of that chapter of my life.
Life has twists and turns, but some dreams never die.
The beginning of the suburban farm life….
In 1995, I married the most beautiful person in the world. I dreamed of life on a small farm in the country and raising critters. Maybe some cows, sheep, goats, and a horse. She wanted to live near the city. Our opinions were like Oliver and Lisa Douglas’ views from the TV show “Green Acres.” He wanted the country life; she wanted the city life.
We compromised and bought a townhouse. Townhouse living taught me that you could grow excellent vegetables in 5-gallon black nursery cans on a patio. My dream lived on, and just over two years later, we were blessed to find a beautiful little house with a barn. The five acres had two ponds and a large horse pasture. Located just eleven miles from the Minneapolis airport and downtown St. Paul, it seemed the best of both worlds. There was enough land that I wondered, “maybe we can have critters.” We closed on the house on a Friday, and I began my insurance career with The St. Paul Insurance Company on Monday. That was 1997.
Dreaming is good, but compromise can be better. We found a little bit of heaven right here next to the “Big” city. Living on a suburban “farm” has another considerable advantage; we are close to everything.
I’m looking forward to blending my farm dreams and insurance experience with you.
Have a Great Day, and Hug the Ones You Love!!