portrait by Michael Wilson
In a way, I am right back where I started. After a good 17 years growing up in the suburbs of Dayton, I transplanted to Hyde Park, NY, to study culinary arts at the Culinary Institute of America. Intending to pursue an illustrious career in big-city chefdom, I found myself fixating on the reality of how food gets to the kitchen. Being nestled in the Hudson Valley, a region teeming with small farms that supply the great belly of New York City, I was in the right place to get my hands in the dirt. As
I approached graduation, I took a turn at a fork in the road, which would end up being the long way home.
Instead of donning my chef’s hat in Las Vegas as a sous chef, as I had planned, I ventured to the Stone Barns Center for Food and Agriculture to take on an apprenticeship in animal husbandry. It was an anomalous farm experience that introduced me to both my eventual husband, Rich, and a way of life that has become quite intoxicating.
Rich, a fellow livestock apprentice and suburban kid like myself, agreed to move north to Ithaca with me to continue our pursuit of learning how to tend the land. During our two years of working for a farming couple growing organic vegetables, volunteering on a shiitake log farm, relief-milking for a small raw milk jersey cow operation, and observing the well-developed web of food growers and consumers, we were inspired to manage a farm enterprise ourselves.
As life would have it, an opportunity to move back to the Midwest to co-manage a farm came knocking. And so we uprooted once again and planted ourselves on the tip of the thumb of Michigan to cultivate a piece of land for a venture capitalist. It turns out that starting a farm with our own grit, determination, and heart—but someone else’s investment—allowed us to authenticate our entrepreneurial madness in a very safe way. After seeing what we were capable of, that madness started to drive us toward autonomy as farmers and as a family.
We identified our goal of connecting to a piece of land on which we could raise a family and a whole lot of food for a community that we love. Just as we were coming to the realization that we needed to fuel this fire, another star aligned and we found that we would be welcoming a little one to the world. What better place to start a farm and build our nest than right back where I started?
We spent a year living with my folks, scouring farm listings, patching together income, and bringing baby Marion (whom we call May) into the world. That year concluded in discovering our new home in Brookville.
So here we are. Our roots have found ground in which to grow deep and strong, in a place beautifully familiar, one that I am happy to again call home.
Sam and Rich Wickham are among them. They founded Foxhole Farm in Brookville, OH, in April 2018, setting out to transform 27 conventionally cultivated acres into a sustainable farm growing vegetables, microgreens, herbs, and, eventually, sheep. They sell at Dayton-area markets in Centerville and Oakwood, and supply Dorothy Lane Market and a handful of nearby restaurants.