Farmer Voices

Finding Love on the Vegetable Farm

By Lauren Rudersdorf | Photos By Lauren Rudersdorf 0

Five years ago, my husband and I began a farming business together. Fresh out of college, much of our decision to start a farm was based on the fact that we couldn’t imagine an existence where we weren’t a team. Our young romantic life had been a beautiful journey of exploring ourselves through the lens of a person who was dramatically different. Our strengths were different. Our weaknesses were different. Our perceptions, our goals, and our history were different. Conversations in those early years pushed us. They made us examine parts of ourselves we’d never examined before. They made us learn things about ourselves that weren’t always comfortable. It made us stronger. More than anything, our first three years together showed us that, despite some hiccups in finding ways to kindly express our differences, our divergent skills, interests and personalities were a major benefit. It didn’t take long for us to decide that our life and career needed to thrive off of this dynamic. 

My husband is disciplined and steady, falling pretty easily into owning a business that requires daily attention. Kyle diligently shows up at our greenhouse before and after work all spring long no matter how early or late. He’s always in the fields when he needs to be, coming up with some new way to streamline a process or become more efficient. He goes through the same bed of vegetables three, four, or sometimes ten times a season. He’s thorough and attentive. He loves to work with nature, study the soils and tend to our plants. He works harder than anyone I’ve ever met. His dedication, persistence and ability to nurture is incredible to me. He really is a natural-born farmer.

I am the opposite. Though raised on a farm, I always fled that life. I am energetic and a bit chaotic. I run full force into whatever I’m doing until I change my mind and decide I want to do something else. Anything that requires daily attention is my worst nightmare. But with Kyle, these aren’t negative traits. I complement my farming husband by racing into the fields when he needs me and out of them when I see some other aspect of our business that needs attention. I draft weekly newsletters, test recipes, meet chefs, crunch numbers, obsess over farm communications and marketing, create spreadsheets, keep records, network, and figure out how to pay our employees. With Kyle, my scattered ways make sense.

Love on the vegetable farm doesn’t look all that different from any other kind of love except for the fact that it exists largely outside the home under big blue skies and through rain storms. We’re just like you. We’re trying to learn how to better complement each other rather than kill each other. We’re working hard to find balance. We’re trying to keep the romance alive despite constant conversations over seeds, recordkeeping, and financial goals. We’re fighting the urge to take one another for granted as we fall into our different roles.

It’s communication. It’s hard work. It’s yelling about things that don’t really matter and learning to let go. It’s forgiveness. It’s understanding. It’s compromise. It’s sunrises and sunsets. It’s watching the storm clouds roll in and feeling the change in pressure on your whole body. It’s racing to the farm after work to help with a project that is just impossible for him to do on his own. It’s sharing the first ripe watermelon of the season straight out of the field while the sun is on our faces and the juices run down our hands. It’s unrolling row cover on windy days and each standing at one end of a hundred-foot row, trying hard not to let it fly or smother the young plants. It’s the rhythm of transplanting a thousand heads of lettuce together. It’s arguments in the field that get overexaggerated because of heat, sweat and exhaustion. It’s filling a crate with a hundred ears of corn or twelve watermelons or sixty pounds of cucumbers, and then carrying it to the truck in tandem with the person who makes you stronger.

It’s understanding each other’s working style so intimately that you know how to be helpful and when to get out of the way. It’s learning to be open about your strengths, your weakness, your faults and your struggles. It’s finding a way to be both strong and vulnerable at the same time.  It’s understanding when the other person needs quiet and the space to figure things out. It’s learning to put pressure on at the right times, but never during the wrong ones. It’s being simultaneously fiercely independent and still finding ways to work together. It’s nurturing. It’s strengthening. It’s beautiful. It’s a level of trust I never thought I’d put into another human being. It’s not always easy, but I would never dream of changing the love we’ve found on the vegetable farm.

Lauren Rudersdorf Lauren Rudersdorf owns and operates Raleigh's Hillside Farm outside of Evansville, Wis., with her husband Kyle. Together, they manage four acres of leased family land, growing vegetables for a small CSA and area restaurants. They are currently filling their 2017 CSA and also looking to hire a part-time employee. In her free time, Lauren loves to share stories about farming, life and food on her blog, The Leek & The Carrot.

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