Monday, February 13, 2012

Who is Cedar Valley Sustainable Farm? Part 3

Are origin stories always so drawn-out? I find that it’s taking more words to explain the “who” of our farm than I imagined when I embarked. Perhaps it’s too much of a navel-gazing exercise. Let me know if it is – comments are appreciated! As it stands, I’m going to need another installment to finish it off.

In 1998, things started to change dramatically for Jody and Beth. Their carefree DINK (double income no kids) lifestyle ended with the birth of their son, Richard in October. Beth continued working for the educational software company for a time; but she needed to make a change as she was being asked to travel more – not an option with an infant at home.

Jody, again, encouraged her to stretch by applying for a “technical liaison” position with the accounting firm Arthur Andersen. This in-house support role suited her well and with the El close by our suburban home with a stop a block from her office in the Chicago, it was an easy commute. Jody continued at Allstate. About a year into her work with Arthur Andersen, an internal position as a professional skills trainer opened up. This was the ideal position for Beth. It was a flex-time position working three days a week with the ability to work from home as well. After a two week training stint in Holland (Beth’s first European trip), Beth settled comfortably into her new role.

The new position completely suited Beth. She worked part- time, got full benefits, stayed in the professional world, and liked her co-workers, too. Also, she got to spend a lot of time with her son, Richard. Life was good. Also, the Osmund family was focusing more on domestic pursuits – securing a mortgage on a duplex and starting their own raised bed garden in the backyard. Life was very good.

Like so many others, we began reassessing priorities the fall of 2001. I haven’t blogged about the September 11th terrorist attacks before this. I’m not sure writing about it over a decade hence has a lot of value, but since it’s my blog and I’ll prattle if I want to, here goes.

As I’m sure so many others do, I remember exactly where I was that morning. It was a glorious fall day in the Chicago area. I was enjoying a precious time with Richard riding a hayrack, picking apples, and eating apple-cider donuts with his daycare class. This idyll fractured as parent’s cell phones started to chime and beep. Bits of disjointed bits of information started to leak in of a major tragedy in NY city. Riding back on the bus to the daycare, news of the “accident” kept coming. National Public Radio(NPR) gave a slightly clearer (albeit more horrifying) picture of what had happened as I drove Richard home.

I quickly switched the radio-off. Richard, almost three, preternaturally empathetic, and a veritable sponge to the world around did not need to hear the horrors of the day. So began our near total day-time media black-out. When we got home, Beth voice was on the answering machine letting us know that Uncle Arthur had closed the office and sent everyone home. She arrived at about two. Even though we were maintaining radio (and TV) silence for Richard’s sake, we needed to hear what was going on in the world. We’re still grateful to PBS (and Mr. Rogers) for remembering that kids can and should be sheltered from unfiltered information. We turned to the soporific oasis of PBS Kids programming -uninterrupted by the day’s news; plopped Richard in front of the TV, and went into the kitchen to listen to NPR. By the time the news looped full circle, Beth and I were ready to turn it off, too. We made supper, and played with our son.

Thursday, February 2, 2012

Who is Cedar Valley Sustainable Farm? Part 2

This is the second part in a series of posts giving a bit of history as to who we are. The next post will (finally) get to the founding. of Cedar Valley Sustainable Farm. I hope you're enjoying these bits if biography....

Jody and Beth spent four years in Utah. They loved being able to drive 40 minutes and be at a trailhead into the Wasatch mountain wilderness. Many weekends were spent hiking or rock climbing in the canyons east of the city. Still, Utah hadn’t become “home.” The lack of family nearby and the difference in culture ensured that it never would be.

By 1996, Beth was beginning to burn out from teaching. Many young teachers who take jobs in needy schools get ground down by the long hours, increasing demands from their schools, and the heavy workload’s uncompensated time. Beth was no exception. Also, she had eschewed the traditional summer breaks most teachers enjoy to start and run a summer enrichment program at her school. Getting the program off the ground included grant writing. This experience has helped in our farming enterprise, too. (Look for more on grant writing in upcoming posts!)

One of the Beth’s summer program projects was planting a vegetable garden at the school with her students. At the time, she had no idea she was pioneering something that would be prevalent nationwide in 15 years. Beth just knew that it was good for kids to dig in the dirt, plant seeds, watch them grow, and have the sense of accomplishment that comes from producing something good to eat.

When Jody saw an ad for a “curriculum and implementation” consultant position from an educational software company in the Salt Lake Tribune, he encouraged Beth to apply. She had been an early adopter of technology in the classroom. These included the Encarta encyclopedia on cd/rom. Jody remembers Beth’s excitement clicking on the article about Martin Luther King Jr. and hearing audio from his “I Have a Dream” speech or the file on zebras with audio of their braying. She saw how technology might open up the world for her students (remember that this was early-days for the world wide web and 56K dial-up was fast internet).

With some prodding, Beth followed up on the ad and scheduled an interview. She put together a computer presentation and borrowed a screen projector. It was big and weighed about 70 lbs; but for at the time it was cool technology. Beth wowed them and was offered the job. She took it (with a salary a third more than her teaching salary not including annual bonuses) and began travelling around the intermountain west.

At the about the same time, Jody was tiring of his job in sales. He wanted to do something more real and tangible. So, he took a job managing a temporary labor storefront. It got a little too real when he was nearly assaulted by one of the temps. Beth and Jody started talking about a move from Utah after he quit the temp labor job. It was between Seattle (a city they had fallen in love with on a weekend get-away) and Chicago. In the end, the pull of family won out. In the fall of 1997, the Osmunds moved to the northwest suburbs of Chicago. Beth stayed with the software company had need for her in the Midwest and being located fifteen minutes from O’Hare was ideal for her travels. After some training in mainframe programming, Jody went to work for Andersen Consulting (now Accenture) as a programmer and was placed on a long-term assignment at Allstate where he took a permanent position a couple of years later.