MY STORY (appx read time 4min)
It’s Friday morning in the summer of 2015 and I’ve just had my first few sips of butter coffee as I make my way to work at the Last Resort Farm in Monkton, VT. As I head south, the horizon appears and I am overtaken by a sweeping moment of clarity. I am acutely aware of my surroundings and my place within them. The sense of understanding is transcendent, and I am amazed, humbled, and elevated by it. In this moment, I feel enveloped in a transformative energy: my goals seem attainable and worthy of tireless pursuit. As I pull into the farm, it is with the comforting certainty that I am heading in the right direction in every sense of the word. My day begins.
This was not, however, the way my days have always started. Throughout my adolescence and much of my Twenties, I subscribed to the commonly-held notion that happiness was a byproduct of financial success. This belief led me to earn a degree in Finance, which in turn landed me a seat at the trading desk of a successful global insurance company. By all conventional measures of society, I was a huge success story: a first generation college graduate from a blue-collar family who, by 25, was earning more than his parents ever had. Yet for all this, I felt a growing, gnawing uneasiness. It was as though I climbed halfway up the proverbial ladder of success and suddenly found that holding on was more painful than the view was worth. Suddenly I had no idea what I was climbing towards. Ironically, the longer I hung on, the more I felt like I was falling.
It was at this uncertain time in my life that a mentor introduced me to the Paleo diet. At a juncture when I was beginning to intentionally search for ways to lend greater meaning to my life beyond work, this new approach to food, health, and wellness immediately inspired me. I finally found truth in the famous declaration that ‘eating is a political act’, and realized that making intentional choices around food was a means through which I could begin to align my lifestyle with a larger value system centered on autonomy, health, community, and environmental activism. Consequently, the result of a simple dietary shift was an inspiring sense of empowerment: I finally realized my own capacity to take control of my physical, mental and emotional well-being on a daily basis. With this newfound strength, I was finally able to envision a new life for myself; while I could not see where this new road might lead, I was exhilarated by the possibilities.
Eschewing commonly held notions about what constitutes success, I resolutely decided to pursue a different path characterized by experiential learning and a new kind of risk-taking. In the spring of 2013 I left my job in finance and walked away from a life that was not bringing me true happiness. In a move that many would qualify as crazy, I packed up and headed North, enrolling in the University of Vermont’s Farmer Training Program. It was the first intentional step down a path I felt drawn to explore: I wanted to become a farmer.
In the intervening three years since that fateful decision, I’ve accumulated a wide array of experiences that took me out of the trading room and into the strawberry fields of California, the green pastures of Ireland, the cliffside orchards of Italy, and, finally, back to the mountains and farms of Vermont, where the practical application of my passion for food first took seed. Since I moved to Vermont in May of 2013 to explore farming, my life has been defined by a passion and fulfillment that had been egregiously absent in my life before it. The road has not always been smooth; there have been plenty of bumpy mistakes, sore muscles, and even periods of doubt. Yet throughout this period, I have always been able to find solace in the dirt under my nails, the views from my ‘office’, and the knowledge that my actions have a direct, positive impact on the people and communities that I have been honored to feed.
As a farmer, I am now even more convinced of the power of food as a tool for self-improvement and community-building. It is tremendously empowering to embrace the ability I have every day to make choices that enable me to be my best self and create positivity in the world around me. Leveraging this power of food and farming to build community and help people unlock their own potential is my new ‘career’, which is to say that it is the goal driving my own work and is the foundation upon which Blank Page Cafe is being built.
In the summer of 2004, my mother passed away at the age of 47. I woke up the day after her death and decided, at 20 years old, to fill my life with adventure, love, and meaningful work. Despite this determination, I was young and it took me the better part of eight years to figure out how to truly make good on my decision: I did not totally understand what true adventure, love, and meaningful work were, or how best to pursue them. In fact, my understanding of these things continues to evolve as I do. My journey of transformation and my striving for a life full of joy and discovery is ongoing; indeed, I don’t expect it will ever be over. On the contrary, I feel more determined than ever to embrace the possibility of all the uncertainty in my life. As I write my story, it is now with the conscious intention to fill every remaining blank page with tales of growth, exploration, and creation. It is my most sincere hope that Blank Page Cafe can be a space that enables others to do the same.