Organic farmer and CSA owner Liz Graznak kneels to reveal what lies beneath a low tunnel: the bright green leafs of a tatsoi plant. (Photo by Jessica Naudziunas)
Liz Graznak owns and operates Happy Hollow Farm, appropriately named as the 82-acre property sits along Happy Hollow Road in Jamestown, Mo.
Graznak has been at the growing game for years as a farm intern and apprentice in Missouri and Maryland.
But 2010 was her first year as a full-time farmer — and it was a rainy one. She had to plant and replant to save her vegetable crops, which she sells through community-supported agriculture shares and at the Columbia, Mo. farmer’s market.
Graznak learned a few lessons in her time shadowing other farmers, and now she has some well-tended wisdom to share. As we finished up a tour of her farm on a January morning, we walked over melting ice, mud and rocks back to my car. I asked what has been her biggest challenge in year one and what advice she would give a novice who wants to become a farmer for real.
“I knew enough to avoid making huge mistakes. Because I have done it before. I interned for a year. And then I managed a farm for somebody else for a year. I worked for six years in the real world to save enough money to be able to get a loan to buy this farm. That’s the biggest challenge that I think anybody would tell you that’s wanting to farm. Where are they going to get the money to buy the farm? Hopefully, hopefully, you have land in your family so you don’t have to buy land. Or, you have a wealthy relative. I put this dream off for 10 years because I didn’t have money to buy a farm. And so I worked. And I saved every freakin’ penny I could. That’s the hardest thing for anybody that wants to get started. Because it’s not just the land you have to buy. It’s tractors, equipment, everything. And if I hadn’t apprenticed, I wouldn’t have known that — right? Try and get some experience before going out and doing it on your own.”