It’s hard to imagine now, but 15 years ago I was living a block away from one of the busiest freeway intersections in the Twin Cities and directly under an airport flight path. I was burnt out working odd jobs, and my dog’s hip problems had gotten so bad there was a euthanasia date marked on my calendar. I was a wreck. It was clear that something needed to change: So I drew a circle on the map and started to look for a place to rent within that hour’s drive. What I found was a quiet old farmhouse on one acre of land in rural Le Sueur County. There were foggy morning sunrises, gravel roads and a community of farmers. I felt something in me settle. I was home.
The farmhouse I rented was owned by Jean and Dean Braatz who lived just across the way with their four children. They were then just beginning what would become a successful CSA business and spent their workday and their free time in the soil — planting, weeding, irrigating, tilling — learning through trial and error, all the while with their children by their side. The farm was a business for the parents, a game for the kids, and a classroom for all. It was a thing of beauty to behold.
I was inspired, to put it mildly. I planted and tended my first farm garden. I canned jams, made cider, froze garden veggies, and experimented with baking. I was healthy. I was active. I was more excited by my life than I had ever been in the city. And after two years of gardening, and of watching the Braatz farm and family grow, I began the search for a farm of my own.
I had spent time in southeast Minnesota as a girl, and I began watching for farms available in this familiar countryside. And in the summer of 2010, there it was, just past Daley Creek on Highway 16, a lapsed dairy farm, a for sale sign. Since finding this beautiful farming property I have been hard at work building the soil and my skills, taking every opportunity to learn, connect, and create a place to live and grow and raise my son Sebastian.
Now in many ways, this is a simple story of discovering where I belong, and the person I was to become. And though it is rare for a person to say that they were born with an understanding of their path in life, sometimes, once you arrive, you can see that the signs were pointing you there all along:
I recently rediscovered an elementary school writing assignment I had stashed away: “A letter to our future selves.” And there, scrawled in my 12-year old handwriting, I had written, “When I grow up I want to be a farmer. I want to have lots of animals. My farm would have lots of trees and a big garden.” I am now 41 years old. And as I look out at my flower farm, and the beautiful wooded bluffs stretching up behind my house, I am smiling as I congratulate myself and my 12-year-old self, for getting ourselves exactly where we always wanted to be.
Meet your Farmers
SarahJoy – farmer, florist, artist, mother
Sarah grew up in St. Paul, Minnesota. After completing her degree in photography and web design at R.I.T. in Rochester, NY, she returned home to Minnesota. In 2008 she moved to a 1-acre farming property in Montgomery, MN where she fell in love with everything rural and began the search for her forever home. The Driftless region of Minnesota called to her, as she had often visited as a girl, and since finding this beautiful farming property in 2010 she has been hard at work building the soil and her skills, taking every opportunity to learn, connect, and create a place to live and grow and raise her son Sebastian. Sarah is also the founder of Driftless Grown, local initiative with a mission of cultivating resilience in rural communities.