And then there’s Grace. The 17-year-old tends to the flock of sheep and manages the family’s gigantic garden, where they grow a huge assortment of fruits and vegetables. In a nation where most people give little thought to where their food comes from, Grace has a close relationship with her food and the land.
“I feel like a lot of people who haven’t grown up here don’t realize that if you go to a grocery store and buy a box of raspberries, that’s like at least four months of work right there,” Grace says.
Her parents have set aside a portion of their land hoping their kids might one day build houses for their future families on the property. But as Grace gears up for college, she’s contemplating what comes after: Will she return to her family’s 187-acre farm in Mount Vernon, Ohio, or say goodbye to the farm life? At a time when it’s harder to make a living farming than it was in the past, many young people are leaving rural farm counties in search of more-lucrative prospects elsewhere. It’s a difficult decision, especially those who feel that farming is a way of life.
“People are working other jobs . . . and trying to farm at night,” says Johnathan Hladik, Policy director of the Center for Rural Affairs, who’s a sixth-generation farmer himself. “If you want to come back, you’ve got to know that it’s going to be your second job.”