Modern Farmer: Let’s start at the beginning. Did you grow up in a farm family?
Jennie Finch: Yes and no. I’m from southern California but my parents and my brothers were born in Iowa. I feel a strong connection to those Midwestern roots. I don’t know, I always felt some kind of pull whenever I saw cows and pigs and chickens.
MF: But did you ever expect to become a farmer yourself?
JF: Oh no! It has definitely come as a surprise. It will be three years in August and I still can’t really believe it.
MF: How did it happen?
JF: I was living in Arizona with my husband [Casey Daigle of the Arizona Diamondbacks] at the time. Casey was always a Southern boy, so when he left the Diamondbacks, he was ready to head home. We found an 80-acre ranch in Sulphur, Louisiana, 10 minutes from the Texas border.
MF: What do you farm?
JF: All kinds of things. We grow all the vegetables we eat — tomatoes, cukes, potatoes, onions, peppers, turnips. There’s a sunflower seed plot. We also have chickens, a goat and a couple of horses, and we bought a nearby exotic animal farm. So now we have African waterbuck, elk, weird animals like that. Casey’s dad raised Charolais beef cattle, so we plan to start doing that too. Oh yeah, and bush hogging — we’re going to sell hay.
It’s not like softball is totally forgotten. But this farm is my life now.
MF: Are you ready for cows?
JF: [Laughs] Casey always said he would never get cows, because he knows how much work goes into it. His dad was constantly on call, calving and tagging and all the rest. And the cows were always getting out. It’s not easy!
MF: What’s surprised you the most about farming?
JF: The expense. You don’t realize how much it costs until you start buying tractors and fences and things to maintain it. All the little things that really add up. But it’s not just the expense; I’m always being surprised, always learning. I didn’t even have a garden growing up ”“ now I’m learning about soil and how to take care of it, spending time on the Internet researching fertilizers.
MF: Do you miss softball?
JF: I miss the camaraderie and spending time with my teammates but otherwise not that much. When I retired in 2010, I was ready to step away; my heart was full. I still stay connected to the softball community, running clinics and commentating for ESPN, so it’s not like softball is totally forgotten. But this farm is my life now.
MF: Do you see any connections between softball and farming?
JF: Mental toughness and knowing what you can endure. Facing challenges head on and learning that hard work pays off. There is nothing more gratifying than seeing your efforts rewarded, whether its pitching or caring for animals.
MF: What’s been hardest about your new life?
JF: Losing animals can be devastating. It’s a constant struggle to keep coyotes and bobcats away from the babies. We’ve got high fences around the perimeter and we’re always riding around to make sure there are no holes. Then you’ve got the hawks going in for the chickens. It’s tough.
MF: But rewarding?
JF: Oh yes. We’ve got three kids ”“ Ace, Diesel and Paisley ”“ and I love being able to feed them off our own land. My family knows the freshness of everything, they know how our cows are being fed and taken care of, where our chicken comes from, even how to hunt for deer.
MF: Are your old teammates surprised where you ended up?
JF: My friends tell me I’m crazy all the time. It’s just so different from my upbringing. “Who are you and what happened to you?!” they say. Then they visit and they see what it’s like out here, fishing and hunting and riding 4-wheelers. I love taking old friends out frogging ”“ we catch ’em, clean ’em, fry ’em up and eat the legs. It’s a wild ride.