Would You Become a Farmer for Love?

Find out how it turned out for one Harvard-educated New York City journalist with a new memoir.

I dunno about you kids, but perhaps ever since reading The Catcher in the Rye — in which our hero Holden Caufield dreams of moving with his beloved crush Jane Gallagher to Vermont — I've had a recurring dream about co-habitating with a hot farmer-gentleman just about anywhere in New England. (He'd be the type who, while taking a break to wipe his brow during an afternoon out hoeing the fields, might whip out a pocket-copy of Mary Oliver poems along with his handkerchief, and take a moment to read a poem like this one. He'd also look really great in Wrangler jeans and cowboy boots.)

As I've gotten older, this dream has started to seem both less and more realistic: On one hand, I may love New York City more than I could ever love any man and it's hard to imagine leaving ... except that I've gotten increasingly neurotic about the levels of pollution and bad chemicals I'm exposed to here — not to mention the noise pollution and the crazy expense and the grim job market.

More significantly, being an organic farmer doesn't seem like such an impossible thing for someone of my generation. Plenty of peeps my age (and younger) are doing it — like these guys. And like a Harvard-educated former journalist named Kristin Kimball — the author of a new memoir called The Dirty Life: On Farming, Food, and Love. After interviewing a handsome young farmer for a story she was doing about organic locally grown food, she gave up her life in Manhattan — along with her skimpy outfits and high heels — and moved upstate to help him tend cows, grow tomatoes, and make cheese.

Marie Claire wrote her up in the October issue, and I decided to ask her a few questions, too. Particularly, if her life transformation was worth it. Is it something any one of us should consider, given the opportunity?


Tell me about the first time you met your husband Mark.

I was supposed to be interviewing him about his farm, but instead of an interview, he put me to work — first in the vegetable field, and later, helping him slaughter a pig. He says he knew the first time he laid eyes on me that he would marry me. For me, it was more a case of deep fascination with him and with farming. The love came later.

How quickly did you move up to the farm?

I met Mark in July. We started dating in September. I left the city in January. I was 32.

Should every chick jump at the chance to co-habitat on an organic farm with a hottie?

If you love hard work and good food, it might be something to consider. But if you're squeamish about mud and sweat and blood ... probably not. It's unending dirty hard work, with no guarantees that you'll make a decent living. (As it happens, though, I happen to love the physical work.)


Were you ready to get the hell out of New York City, and leave behind the dating scene here?

Actually, through my twenties, I loved dating. The idea of making a romantic commitment kind of freaked me out. But after I turned thirty, I started getting the sense that something was missing, and that if I didn't make different choices, I'd miss out on something more satisfying. The hardest part was giving up my affordable East Village apartment.

Are you guys pretty isolated up there? Do you only have each other?

I find that living in a small community can actually be less isolating than living in a city. Everyone knows each other in our town, and people make an effort to be social. We're never short on company.


You work more or less side by side every day, taking care of the farm. Does that bring you together — or threaten, at times, to tear the relationship apart?

The farm is a thing beyond ourselves and our kids that we both love and are passionate about — so it absolutely brings us together.