Finding Your Why

There was a time that all I wanted in the world was a little farm where I could raise my family and grow our food. Now, that is exactly what exists outside my door.

– Jessica Sowards

An idylic summer day on the homestead.

If you had asked either of us what we wanted ten years ago, our own homestead and small farm would likely not have been at the top of our list of answers. It is funny how things can change.

We both come from families that always had a little something growing out back. Maybe it was just a few tomatoes or peppers in a container. Maybe it was a small tended plot. But there was always something growing. A little something to add a bit of zest in the kitchen at some point throughout the year. But certainly nothing as large or as ambitious as the plans we have for our homestead today.

A small garden at the old house in Barberton.

So what changed? What catalyst that put us on the course we now follow?

I guess you could say we found our Why.

But before we get to that, finding our Why really started with finding a Who.

A few years back we stumbled upon a YouTuber named Jessica Sowards. It happened quite by accident. Her YouTube channel, Roots & Refuge Farm, just popped up in the list of videos we might like. We started watching and were quickly hooked on her small Arkansas farm.

Why? Because she was compelling. Here she was, simply sitting in her garden, talking about the satisfaction that her homesteading life brought her. Talking of the power of her connection to the plants and soil she tended. And sharing the awesome sense of gratitude, peace, and love manifested in growing a garden. She was honest. She was genuine. She was plainly spoken. She was authentic. And she was right. She spoke directly to a void in both our lives.

We’ve continued to follow her homestead over the years. They’ve since moved to a much larger farm in South Carolina, realizing a dream. She’s found success in not one, but two books published on gardening and homesteading. And while she continues to produce YouTube content for her followers, she’s also been the subject of a documentary series on the Abundance Plus network. She also, most recently, appeared as a featured speaker at The Homestead Festival, where she delivered an outstanding talk on Finding Your Why.

Meeting Jess at The Homestead Festival in Columbia, Tennessee.

In part, what Jess has done over the years is give us a language to discuss a life we could envision together. A language that developed into the outline of a plan. Suddenly, a small lot in the city no longer made sense. A home in the suburbs, governed by a HOA, equally seemed absurd. If we really wanted to be free to do what we felt called to do, a house with at least a little land became necessary. Our focus shifted. And luckily, if not unexpectedly, we found a place nearly perfect to build our dream.

Jessica Sowards, alone, is not responsible for us finding our Why. She’s one of many influential people who has spoken to our souls over the years. Christine can cite an ethics class where she first viewed Food, Inc., featuring Joel Salatin, as something that shaped her views on where our food comes from. Likewise for her with Michael Pollan and his seminal book, The Omnivore’s Dilema. For me, I can think of the many works of John Muir, or Aldo Leopold, John R. Stilgoe, or even Richard Louv’s Last Child in the Woods, as sources for my land ethic and views. All of these influences, and many more, have shaped our beliefs. They’re the basis for finding our Why.

So when we get right down to it, what is our Why?

We want to do something meaningful and beautiful with the opportunity we’ve been given. We feel it is something we’ve been called to do. It is not just by chance that influencers and mentors have been placed in our path, but rather that we’ve been led to where we are in our lives and to the opportunity before us. There’s a satisfaction in growing your own food and being able to supplement, if not sustain, your family in times of shortage. There’s satisfaction and security in knowing where your food comes from and knowing that it was humanely raised. There’s an amazing sense of fulfillment in raising our kids to appreciate a way of life that has been all but erased from present day context. There’s magic in what the stewarded and tended earth can provide. We want to share the bounty we’ve been blessed with here on our homestead. We want to inspire others, as we have been inspired, into a better, more self-sufficient, and fulfilling way of life.

And, as Christine is often fond of saying, “Because… why not?” Why not grow our own food? Why not raise our own animals? Why not support ourselves more fully. Why not be free to chase our dreams? Why not pursue the life we want on our own terms?

That’s our Why.

Now it’s your turn. Go forth and find your why.

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