We sat down on the stairs to the deck. Our faces were red and sweat was dripping from our hairlines down. Our arms were even sweating. It was early June in the Lowcountry and already 90 degrees at 9am in the morning, when Katie first came to me at the Forsyth Farmers Market in Savannah, GA. She was looking to volunteer on a farm. At this point in my farming career, I hadn’t financially been able to support myself or my family, let alone another person. But I knew I needed the help and I didn’t want to pass up the opportunity for help. I welcomed her as a volunteer and she came out the next week. After watching her work the first day, I knew I needed to pay her because there was no way that I could lose her. It’s a dance I still do today, as all of the girls that I employ deserve far more than I could ever afford. But each month that passes, I financially push myself to see how much more I can afford to give them. I’d pay them before I’d ever pay myself and I’d choose that 1000 times over again.
Katie mulched in the garden on her first day, alone. There was only 1 wheelbarrow and only 1 pitch fork. The 10 tons of mulch had come in the day before and there was no way I could’ve done all of the animal chores AND done the garden mulching. I watched her from a distance, while I worked, going load after load after load. I couldn’t actually believe that there was another woman that existed in the world that would work as hard as I did and on top of that, work for free. I reminded her often to take water breaks, something that I still say to the girls. (These days, they ask me too, “Have you eaten today?” “When’s the last you had some water.”) After the morning passed, I said, “I’m going to buy another wheelbarrow. I have an idea how to do this better.” I didn’t really have the money to buy a wheelbarrow even, but I rushed over to the feed store and found one that was already put together. I rushed back to the farm and unloaded the wheelbarrow. Katie worked for days with me following the first and slowly that 10 tons of mulch went to 8 tons and down further to 5 to none.
Every 6 loads that we wheeled in and spread through the garden, we would stop for 15 minutes. It worked out to be about 15 minutes on and 15 minutes off. One of us would scoop, the other would take the full wheelbarrow into the garden and then leave the empty one to be refilled. I thought for sure that we would die in the heat and humidity but she kept pushing through just like me. We would sit together every 15 minutes up on the stairs to the deck as we gulped water. As the sun changed positions, we would move to be under the covered deck and under the fan, being careful no to get to comfortable in the cushioned seats, for fear we wouldn’t want to get back up.
That was almost exactly a year ago and since then, we’ve grown from Katie, to Julia, to Phoebe to Corinna. We’ve gone from 1 wheelbarrow to 3. As our farm grew, so did our team and so did our tools. Over the last year, I have had the privilege of working with so many amazing women. When I posted this photo from our garden just the other day, Katie commented, “From 1 wheelbarrow to 3.” She’s been there through so much of our growing pains with us. When I read her comment, I teared up thinking about just what this last year has looked like for our farm, all the people we have welcomed to our farm, all of the women I have gotten to work with and all of the growth we have made happen. I used to think that the only way to prove myself was to accomplish what I set out to do alone. I’ve learned there is more value in having a team behind you than being able to take all of the credit yourself. When people say to me now, “You do all of this alone?” I can proudly say, “No way, we wouldn’t be the successful business we are without a team of amazing people behind me.”
And just like Katie has done over the last year, all of the other women on my team have proven to me, time and time again, that there are so many women that exist that want to work hard and learn and make a difference. My team has challenged me to lead them but what I’ve gained in that has been so much more valuable than they could ever imagine. They have challenged me to remind them and myself that everyone has something to offer and that all of their special skills, all of their unique parts are welcomed and appreciated on our farm. On our best days we are unstoppable but guess what, we’re unstoppable on our worst days too because of who we are individually and collectively. Wealth to me will never be how much money I have stashed away in the bank someday. Wealth to me will look like all of the women we’ve inspired and changed, all of the women we’ve believed in, the team we’ve built behind what we do and who we are. Wealth to me, will be measured by the lives we’ve touched on our farm and through our work and not by the number of wheelbarrows themselves that we own but by the people standing behind those wheelbarrows who have stood behind me and our farm. From 1 wheelbarrow to 3 and a future of so very many more.
(Big shout out to those on our team not pictured here: Corinna, Julia, Beth, Cathy, Laura, Savannah, Jessica and countless others who come and help whenever they have time to visit) And as always, special thanks to my husband who puts up with my shit, my big dreams and all my requests, day in and day out and does so much behind the scenes work, I couldn’t even begin to list it.