When I was in college, I used to go on Habitat For Humanity projects during breaks. One year, I invited my best friend (we've known and "liked" each other since our teens, see photo to the left), Ryan, to go on a HFH project in Tennessee, and then to visit it’s headquarters in Americus, Georgia. After saying “Happy Birthday” to Millard Fuller (in person… he was so gracious), we headed to the farm community where Millard was inspired to start Habitat For Humanity. The farm is called Koinonia Partners, and it had an organic garden. We were invited to stay for a few days. Maybe it was the fact that it was spring time in southern Georgia and we were in love, or it could have been the taste of the surprisingly sweet and crunchy turnip we shared in the pecan orchard, or maybe it was simply the idealism and God-centered vision at Koinonia that inspired him, but something stirred deeply in Ryan’s heart about that garden.
Inspired, Ryan planted his first garden that same spring (1996) in northern Michigan at the Bay Area Adventure School in Traverse City, where we were teaching. Later that summer, he brought me to that same garden to ask me “to walk through life’s journey” with him! (Yes, that was a marriage proposal, even though he placed a pair of leather sandals into my palms, instead of slipping an engagement ring on my finger!)
Soon after we were married, Ryan interned for short time with Dave and Pat VanDyke at Sky View Farm in Maple City. Then
we headed back to Koinonia Partners, in Plains, GA, for an internship.
After six months there, Ryan went to school for sustainable agriculture in North Carolina at Central Carolina Community College, where NC extension agents and real farmers taught the classes and tuition was affordable! Students were also required to intern on several farms and put in over 400 hours in hands-on training.
In 2002, Ryan landed a job as a farm manager in East Jordan at the Wagbo Peace Center. Then in 2006, we switched to running our own business, Providence Farm, out of Wagbo, until we bought our own land in 2008, which is located at the northern tip of Torch Lake, near Eastport, MI.
is too long to tell here, but I can tell you that it involved years of praying, (We believe in God's love and providence for us, and have let Him have charge of our lives, though imperfectly over the years,) and searching, (Ryan was more knowledgable about the land for sale in this region than most real estate agents in three counties).
We also had an observant friend and customer who also noticed Ryan's incredible gift in growing vegetables. Our friend knew Ryan, saw his work over the years, and enjoyed the many vegetables he grew. She also owned a fine piece of farm land on the north tip of Torch Lake and she offered to sell it to us at a price we could afford! Not a day goes by that we don't feel blessed beyond measure to be here, in this beautiful spot, doing what we love while raising our children. Can anyone tell why we named our farm what we did?
Depending on the time in our growing season, Ryan’s mind is on managing the gardens and our farm team: cultivating, planting, weeding, watering, harvesting, tilling, etc. Depending on the day, he may be fixing equipment, planting, cultivating, directing and participating in the harvest, washing and packaging of shares, market, restaurant and grocery store produce, attending to our animals needs, repairing or ordering equipment, researching products or equipment and more...
The older two kids may be with him in that work or with me at one of our four farm markets. I, like many other moms, balance mothering/homemaking with my jobs on the farm: handling correspondence, publishing the newsletter & website, marketing, attending 4 markets a week, and hosting 2 CSA pick-ups at our farm a week. I also enjoy hosting many on-farm events such as tours for all ages, CSA pot-lucks, and classes about various topics.
Biggest Challenge? Creating balance for our family amid the work. We want to be able (and our children to be able) to look back at this time in our life as a mix of an adventure, rewarding hard work, and fun. I often think of our business as a baby. That first phase of life with a new baby is exhausting, requiring constant attentiveness and energy. But as our “baby” matures, we enjoy the rewards of that initial time as we watch our farm develop. Our soils become richer. Our customers return year after year. We acquire the tools we need to make each job more efficient. Our team of employees gets stronger. And our children are learning the value and challenges of good stewardship of the land, hard work and healthy food.
Other Perks of the Job?
"So neither he who plants nor he who waters is anything, but only God, who makes things grow."
Thanks for reading our story. If you want to see a short interview with us, click here.