BEYOND HOME GROWN: WOMEN ON THE FARM – Mary Walker & Jo McProud
by Gail Parle
Jo McProud has farmed for 8 years, since marrying a farmer and after spending 35 years as a landscape architect. Their 20-acre Riverhill Farm, 3 miles from Nevada City, has 12 acres in production, “from arugula to zucchini.” They sell at BriarPatch, the Nevada City Farmers Market and at a Wednesday afternoon stand at their farm.
Mary Walker is co-owner with John Drew of Bakbraker Acres. Mary learned early about farming, and she loves growing food. In the last two years she has branched out into making music about food and farming — she sings and writes songs and has recorded a CD, “On the Road.”
Program host Sandra Rockman asked what is easiest about their work, and what is hardest. Jo’s most rewarding activity is interacting with customers, selling them something they can eat, and hosting field trips with students. She least loves the constant work and often she can’t even get to town to relax. Mary likes communicating with Mother Nature and being out in the dirt with seeds and plants. She doesn’t like the business aspect of running a farm.
Jo McProud described farming as a tricky business that requires staying fluid and balancing your decisions. Their farm developed slowly and equipment was purchased slowly. She uses Excel spreadsheets and has learned to get creative with working capital. Jo has found that her years running a landscape design business has helped tremendously in keeping the farm afloat financially.
Mary said she developed her work ethic when she was 20, working in a hair salon. She loves working hard, digging in the dirt and being able to say, “I grow food!”
Both speakers, in response to an audience question, said they used to keep farm animals in addition to growing their crops, but had to give them up because the additional work was too much. When asked where they see themselves in five years, Mary said, “Still breathing, growing food, working on my music, and sustaining her quality of life.” Jo hopes that their farm will still be operating and making a profit.
Jo and Mary both said that their employees actually make more than they do. Water is an issue for both women, and they use as many water-conservation techniques as they can.
Mary ended the program on a high note by singing four songs she had written: Farmer Needs a Pharmacy, Love Compost Style, I’m Gonna Grow Some Food for the Neighborhood, and Give Thanks to Mother Earth. Both speakers with thanked with rousing applause for their most enjoyable program.