“Take a deep breath, you can do this,” that’s what I spent the whole morning trying to tell myself in order to avoid a complete meltdown. I’m no stranger to my interpersonal pep talks, I’ve spoken to audiences of thousands and competed in international Track & Field competitions, and it always worked for me. But this time was different, this time I was walking away from a job most people would perceive as life success, and despite my body and mind telling me to cease all planned actions, my heart and soul were telling me to move forward and follow a new path. But this decision, this action, didn’t just impact me. I provided the sole income for my family and we were living in Switzerland for my job. This meant dragging my family half way across the globe to a completely new life and utter uncertainty.
It’s not like I did this on a whim, I had planned it for well over a year. But the nay-sayers started to get to me. “ARE YOU CRAZY, WHO LEAVES A 6 FIGURE INCOME AND A JOB YOU EXCEL AT, TO BECOME A FARMER”. That evil disabler, fear of failure, started to creep in and was doing its best to crush my optimistic spirit. With my hands shaking, clammy palms, and sweat literally dripping down my brow, I fumbled to dial my husband for re-assurance. Feeling broken and confused I began to hyperventilate and started to cry. Jan’s deep voice brought me back to center and soothed me enough to compose myself and walk away from a 20+ year safe, secure, successful career as an executive in the healthcare field.
I want people to know just how hard it was to walk away from security and some level of certainty. But for me, I had to make this move, as it was far more difficult to stay in a job when I knew I was capable of more. I live by one of my favorite quotes “There is no passion to be found playing small – in settling for a life that is less than the one you are capable of living” by Nelson Mandela. This is why I let my heart guide this decision and not my head which was telling me to play it safe.
Let’s rewind about 39 years to explain how I got to that memorable day. I was born on a frigid January morning in Homer, Alaska. Our family of five co-existed in a 200 sqft. cabin with no running water. While our home was small our homestead was expansive and full of life. My family lived in nature and from nature in almost every way you can. I loved everything about that lifestyle but it was rather remote and eventually my parents moved us to sunny Southern California. Despite the move, Alaska gave me a lasting imprint that has influenced my entire life. Nothing can take away the memories of picking fresh fiddle heads on a foggy morning, or laying in fields of wild flowers seeing my first bald eagle souring through a blue hue sky. The struggles of living in the wilderness all seemed like exciting adventures to me and gave me a curious, sometimes restless spirit. It also gave me a strong sense of self-reliance, resilience and determination.
To say I stood out in Southern California would be an understatement. But I’m not complaining, I never minded going against the grain and it has been instrumental in manifesting who I am today. Though I missed Alaska, I was now surrounded by friends and family, and life was good. But I was soon awakened from that unicorn and rainbows fairy tale. My close uncle and godfather Chris was diagnosed with AIDs and it had a profound effect on my life. Up until that point I believed I could do anything. But for 5 years I watched Chris suffer an endless battle slipping farther and farther from life. Him passing is not what bothered me, it was the suffering he went through and the fact that I couldn’t do anything to change his situation. Chris inspired me most of my life, but his death inspired me to try to change the healthcare system I felt failed him. This is what ignited my FIRST CALLING.
I attended college on an athletic scholarship and pursued a double major in Microbiology and Biotechnology with an intent to help heal people from disease. The weekend I graduated from school I married my high school sweetheart Jan (different story – different post), and a week later started a job in cell culture producing recombinant therapies for hemophiliacs. I worked in nearly all the operational areas of Biotechnology, moved into Pharma Oncology, Ophthalmology and eventually into the Nutritionals field. For 20 years I had such an intense passion for what I did, I felt I was making a difference in people’s lives. I helped launch several chemotherapy treatments, Ophthalmology treatments and Nutritional supplements. I met patients and saw the impact it was having on them and their families, it felt right and I felt like I was fulfilling my calling.
In my late 30s, despite achieving high career success and reaching all my goals, I started to lose my passion for what I was doing and I could not understand what changed. I started seeing my close friends and family getting older and their health declining despite the entourage of treatments available through modern medicine. That’s when I started to realize how far down the chain I was working while trying to make a difference. It was like swimming upstream, no matter how hard I tried, I felt like I was having less and less of an impact.
At this point in my life I had another person close to me experience a rapid decline in his health from type II diabetes. For the first time in a long time I felt that same helpless feeling of seeing someone I love dearly suffering from disease. He was taking several well-known pharmaceutical drugs but his health was still spiraling in the wrong direction. I used my network and own knowledge of nutrition and fitness to try to help him. I saw his health start to dramatically improve, saw his doctors reduce his medication and saw that food and moderate exercise started to reverse his illness. This time it wasn’t any pharma drug that helped, it was clean nutrient rich food. That’s when I started focusing more on alternative options farther up the chain and found a new passion. This is what I believe has become my SECOND CALLING. This has forged my new passion for “Food as the first form of Medicine”. I didn’t want to just play in the supply chain, I wanted to directly impact the source of food through farming.
I didn’t want to just jump into farming in general, I wanted to go back to my roots from Alaska and ensure what I was doing was supporting nature as well as people. I researched many different farming practices both old and new and fell in love with Aquaponics and Organic No-till Bio-Intensive Farming. Both integrate modern and ancient practices of sustainable farming, both utilize my previous education and experience, and both have ample opportunity to enrich the field with new innovation and knowledge.
So that’s how I became a farmer, and rather than working in an office, I get to spend nearly every day playing with plants and connecting with nature. I get to produce clean healthy food that lets people go beyond just eating but rather helps them nourish their bodies. I can directly support people in preventing loss of health, achieve their optimal self, and increase longevity and wellness through food. And I hope more than anything I can inspire others, including my children, to overcome the fear of following their calling in life, even if it means a more difficult path.