Then, they were outwardly successful, but were working long, late, unpredictable hours as an engineer and in sales, respectively. Pace says when the couple’s paths did cross they were tired and stressed. Their health was declining and their relationship with each other, friends, and family suffered.
Pace and Holloway, who are originally from the suburbs just outside Philadelphia, decided a change was needed, and in early 2014, they moved to central Pennsylvania. While neither had any farming experience, they eventually found 14 acres – that had once been part of a large dairy operation – and are now in the process of converting it back for agricultural use. Pace says their Rooted Farmstead, located a few minutes from Pennsylvania State University in State College, still needs a lot of work before it can start producing for the region, which she briefly hints at in her winning Instagram photo.
In the meantime, Pace and Holloway are raising ducks and a flock of laying hens (who are named after members of the pop groups TLC and the Spice Girls). They are also in the process of restoring a circa-1800s barn on the property, one of several outbuildings there, which they plan to use as a community event space to generate revenue for the equipment, land preparation, and infrastructure they need to begin farming. A portion of the restoration was funded through a recent Barnraiser campaign. If that wasn’t enough, the couple is planning their wedding. But, says Pace, they are healthier and happier than they were in their former lives, which may be the truest measure of success you can hope for.
Modern Farmer: Why do you consider yourself a modern farmer?
Christie Pace: “That’s the way it’s always been done” isn’t an option for us. Our land didn’t come with an instruction manual. We grew up in neighborhoods where the entire block was smaller than our farm. We didn’t inherit any equipment except a zero-turn lawn mower that was part of the sale of the house. We are truly starting from the ground up. While it’s daunting, it also gives us a fresh perspective and, out of necessity, we’re open to new ideas and concepts. We are able to establish innovative, sustainable practices from the onset. Nothing is off the table.
MF: Why is it important to you to support local agriculture?
CP: We’ve already experienced the impact this community and lifestyle can have on your health and happiness. We hope that by sharing our journey we can make it more accessible and approachable. You don’t have to grow up on a farm to become a farmer. You don’t have to work long hours at a job locked away from your friends and family to be successful. You don’t need 100 acres to grow your own food.
MF: If you could grow or raise any food or animal, what would it be and why?
CP: While the purchase itself may have been a bit impulsive, we want our farm to be intentional and sustainable. To help us, this past semester we partnered with Penn State University, serving as the subject for Dr. Kathy Kelley’s Retail Horticultural Business Management class project. The students studied the region, sustainable business practices, our personal interests and capabilities, and in groups presented their recommendations. The concept that resonated with us was an apple orchard. The land and region lends itself to production, but more importantly, by offering a mix of cider and eating apples we’re able to incorporate agritourism and agritainment opportunities to connect with a wider mix of the community (children, families, adults, students, etc.) to help support our vision of making agriculture more accessible and approachable.
What’s your favorite vegetable?
CP: Tomatoes. Which we quickly learned is also the chicken and ducks favorite after a few garden break-ins…
If you could give other modern farmers any advice, what would it be?
CP: Don’t be afraid to ask lots of questions. Stupid questions. Like, really stupid questions. Most of the people in the industry want to help and are incredibly eager to share their knowledge. And if you’re shopping for land, turn off those acreage filters!
MF: Do you have a farming/agricultural hero? Why do you admire them?
CP: Not one specifically. Anyone who’s embarking on a similar journey has all of our respect.
Want a chance at an interview with Modern Farmer and other cool prizes? Just post a picture or a video on Twitter and/or Instagram with the hashtag #iamamodernfarmer and you’ll be entered for a chance to win. Every week, we’ll choose one winner to be profiledonModernFarmer.com. Every month, one of the weekly winners will be picked to win $100 in Modern Farmer swag. One of the monthly winners will also win the grand prize: A VIP trip for two to the Farm Aid 2016 concert!
Added bonus: If you purchase an “I am a modern farmer” t-shirt, you’ll stand in solidarity with the hardworking men and women who produce our food. You certainly don’t have to don the shirt to post and have a chance to win, but with sales of these tees, Modern Farmer supports independent farmers with a donation to Farm Aid.
Need inspiration? Check out all the #iamamodernfarmer posts from across the country – and around the world!
See official contest rules here.