Hightstown, NJ

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  • Brendon Pearsall

The Road to the Farm

The farm on a fall day.

When I was in elementary school I planted a bean from a green bean pod. This was one of those classic science demonstrations where you put the bean in a petri dish with a damp towel and watched it germinate. I got kind of obsessed with it, watching it grow and change every day. When it was large enough we were able to transplant the seedling into a little red solo cup of potting soil where it continued to grow, much to my fascination. After a few more weeks it was a respectable plant in its own right and I was able to take it home from school.

My mother had always kept a vegetable garden in the back yard, a habit that I would later grow to inherit. Tomatoes were the main focus of her efforts and the smell of tomato plants on a hot summer day is still one of my favorite scents. However, as a very young child I had never really paid much attention to the garden, it was there, it was hers, and I got yelled at to stay out of it and not ruin her plants. That all changed the year of the bean plant though. She gave me my own little corner of the garden for the bean plant, and over the course a couple of month it took over that little corner. I was amazed by how fast it grew, I checked on it all the time, and suddenly it was covered in green beans! Green beans that I had grown! There was only one problem, as an elementary school aged boy… I hated green beans.

Or so I thought. You see, up until that point, my experience with green beans had been exclusively with the canned variety. These were mostly prepared on holidays as either a mushy green near paste or as the equally mushy base of the dreaded green bean casserole. Both of which 8 year old Brendon despised. So it actually took my mother quite a bit of effort to convince me that I should try these beans that I grew. She finally sautéed them with a little bit of butter, salt, and pepper and I took my first bite… and now I’m a farmer.

Growing up I had no intention of becoming a farmer. I was not part of a multi-generational farm family, my parents were not farmers, and aside from a few distant great uncles there wasn’t a bit of agriculture to be found in my family. But ever since that bean plant I had a fascination with growing my own food. Gardening scratched that itch for years as I worked as a contractor and eventually returned to college to work on my degree. My love of fresh food, straight from the garden continued to grow as I learned more and more about how and why most of our commercially available produce is, well, terrible.

During this time I met my now wife, Alicia, and we began our life together. Between the two of us working full time, going to school evenings and weekends, buying a house, planning a wedding, and preparing to have a child, we would sometime stop and look at each other and sigh, and say, “We should just go live on a farm. Just stop all of this craziness and go farm.” Then we would laugh and go about the rest of our stressful hectic day.

Until one fateful day, I believe I was in the finals period of my last semester for my associate’s degree, when Alicia suggested the farm idea to me and I replied, “Well, what if we did?” This led to a whirlwind of research and the discovery that the school that I was already planning on transferring to for my bachelor’s degree had a great agricultural program that included everything from plant science, to agricultural production, to business and marketing courses. And so that fall I started at Rutgers University School of Environmental and Biological Sciences as an Agriculture and Food Systems Major.

That, dear reader, is the introduction to the story of my farming life. There is certainly more to tell about my path towards becoming an actual farmer, but that is for another day. Now that you have gotten to know me a little bit, I would also like to get to know you! Please comment, ask questions, let me know if you’re actually reading this. My goal is for this blog to be part of a conversation between you and one of your local farmers. I’ll post on here as the season progresses to answer questions, give gardening advice, and talk about my experience being your friendly neighborhood flower farmer.

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