In 2001, I was given a baby calf from a farmer who lived on the outskirts of Dallas. I named the calf Romeo. Since I lived in Dallas in a home owner’s association, I was not sure where to hide Romeo.
I called my parents and begged them to let him temporary hide in their yard and garage. They agreed and I created a make-shift stall from old fences. Six months passed and Romeo grew larger. I needed to move him before anyone found him since he was peeping through their wooden fence and mooing at the neighbors.
My father, a retired pharmacist, had a lake cabin in Waurika, Oklahoma. On the weekends, I would pack my two daughters in my jeep and head to the cabin where we felt free. We could not hear the roar of cars, only birds and coyotes. I felt that was the place for Romeo too.
I made friends with one of the local farmers and asked if he would care for Romeo on the weekdays. The girls and I could not wait until the weekends to pack the jeep with food and go to the cabin in the woods and see Romeo.
Since I loved to cook, the cabin was loaded with food. We prepared meals, planned walks and enjoyed adventures. We had so much fun just cooking and being together in the cabin and playing with our pet, Romeo. We were always disappointed to leave and return to the hustle of the big city.
During the next three years, we lived for the weekends to go to the cabin and see Romeo. With an ancient auger that hardly worked, we planted a small orchard. The 20 acre orchard had 300 peach and 300 apple trees, a small garden, three hens, an abandoned mixed-bred dog whom we named Max and a real barn for Romeo. During the week, our lives were consumed with making plans for the weekend.
One day, after working 17 years in the health care sector, I wanted to retire and take the girls to Waurika and get out of the big city hustle. I always loathed my job and career. So, at the age of 37, I decided it was time to change. I did not want to be one of those people who, in their old age, say they should have done this or that. The move went smoothly even though the hospital thought I was crazy for leaving a great job to farm and live in the “woods,” as they called it.
I jumped into farming and people from all around were buying fruits from the orchard and produce from the garden. There were so many customers I had to plant more and more to have plenty for everyone. I also built a small greenhouse to grow produce in the winter.
The high demand prompted the purchase of a plasticulture machine to allow more crop production. As a vendor for the Oklahoma Department of Agriculture, I laid plasticulture for underserved farmers and taught them how to plant.
In 2012, I wanted to learn more about agriculture and water systems, I traveled to Tel Aviv, Israel. Israel exports food to 30 countries and have less than one inch of rainfall per year. In the United States, I visited many schools and universities to teach about Israel’s system and how I made it as a small, vegetable farmer.
Today, I have moved to a larger farm with 160 acres which is the only USDA Certified Organic farm in southwest Oklahoma. The farm has five greenhouses (one of them is the largest in Oklahoma), 1500 peach and the original 300 apple trees. I grow produce for stores and one of those stores is the largest natural food chain in the United States. Since our food system is so important to me, I speak at various functions and schools to educate the public.
In-progress plans include a country store with an organic certified commercial kitchen. The 12,000 sq ft greenhouse is complete and allows indoor growing.
We also want to benefit the community by hiring local, so, we are excited to have local residents help package our food for selling at the YMCA in Lawton and Brooks Meat Market in Duncan. Hiring local supports our mom and pop businesses and is good for the economy. And, they are great customers!
Yes, Romeo is still at the farm, now 11 years old and we still have the ancient auger that we used to plant our first orchard.