September 12, 2016
I should start by admitting that the title quote isn’t mine. It belongs to Lyna Knight, one of the FarmHers who I had the pleasure of photographing at Lyna Berry Farms in Central Florida. It’s how she defines her life as a FarmHer, it’s very real and it’s right on point.
Lyna Knight and Susan Weicherding both spent careers in corporate America. Lyna in title work, and Susan as a CPA working for a large firm. They both lived and worked in Tampa, but it was wearing on them so they hatched a plan. Their plan was a farm. A farm that started with the purchase of 10 acres of land just outside the city and a dream of a different life. Once they had the land, the women put their heads together, considered the financial ups and downs of different commodities and decided they would venture into growing blueberries. Now is a good time to mention that neither of the women had ever farmed a day in their lives.
Upon pulling into Lyna Berry Farms, I was greeted by a beautiful tree-lined drive leading me back to the blueberry fields, a barn the women built with the help of family and of course, Lyna and Susan.
We started out the day by heading out to the blueberry fields where seasonal workers were picking the plump berries, one at a time. Yes, each and every blueberry you eat is individually picked, as are most of the fruit and vegetables grown in central Florida. The workers (all women that day at Lyna Berry Farms) worked swiftly to fill their buckets full of the ripe fruit, take it up to the weighing stand, empty it and head back out to pick in a new row.
As the workers picked Lyna and Susan headed to the packing shed where Lyna moved empty crates to get them ready for the next day’s picking and moved today’s full crates into a trailer.
Next they proudly showed me their chicken truck. The women explained that they were building a new coop for their growing flock of egg laying hens and they wanted it to be mobile so the chickens could be moved to a new location every few days for fresh grass and a new place to scratch - hence the name chicken “truck”. They were mid-construction on their cool little “truck” and were brave enough to let me help them out with my (not so expert) use of a few power tools. From there we visited “the girls” and collected a few freshly laid eggs before loading into the truck to take the day’s yield of blueberries out to the semi waiting at another field of theirs to load the blueberries and send them on their way to be packed and eventually, make their way into your grocery cart.
After they moved the freshly picked berries into the semi trailer, we continued down the road to another more recently purchased farm. They bought the farm for the land it offered to their blueberry expansion and the addition of a small herd of cattle but it also had an old farmhouse that they have been restoring. The house has turned out to be a challenging but rewarding side project, complete with a great big deck for stopping to view those beautiful Florida sunsets at the end of a long, productive day.
After spending the day with these women I will be the first to tell you they work they work hard. Harder than they ever have in their lives, but it’s good work. In fact, as Lyna says, it’s the best work. They have made mistakes along the way but have learned how to keep their farm not only going, but growing.
Watch video clips from RFD-TV here.
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