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A Beginning

I consider myself lucky to have found my calling in life. Many of you who know me are aware of my genuine love, commitment, and obsession with farming. The reasons why I farm and how I got started are things I haven't been forthcoming about until now. This feels edgy for me; it's both vulnerable and indulgent to narrate the arc of my journey. Despite there being literally a thousand reasons to eat and buy local, it has been easy for me to hide behind an avalanche of positive outcomes without sharing my story. So why am I, Becky Hume, currently living on 11 acres in Bastrop, TX, determined to create a living out of growing your vegetables? I want you, as my customers and community, to understand who I am and the values and perspective I bring to growing your food. Do you have time for a story? This is mine:


My understanding of life underwent a complete transformation at the age of 8. My family relocated from Fayetteville, NC, where I was born and raised, to Shenyang, China. For those unfamiliar, Shenyang is a city with 8.2 million people (almost the size of NYC!) situated in the far Northeast of China, merely a 3-4 hour drive from the North Korean border. If you're wondering why I was in Communist China, just a few hours away from the North Korean border, it’s a valid question. For the purpose of this narrative, I'll simply say that my parents are medical missionaries. They moved our family of 5 to Shenyang while my father helped build a clinic for orphaned children.



Becky Hume farmer as a child in China
Here I am at around age 10, just on a normal day.



American family living in china, 1998.
Above Left: Hume Family before moving to China. Above: Hume family in China, circa 1998.

For as long as I can remember, my family had been preparing for this move. Intellectually, I understood there were people in the world who needed help, hence why we were moving. However, the reality of the world I entered was one I could have never imagined until I was thrust into it. There was an inevitable deluge of new tastes, smells, words, and customs. None of the changes really fazed me, except for the poverty. I had never seen slums, I had never witnessed a warehouse full of emaciated refugees, I had never imagined babies abandoned simply because they were girls. I had never seen kids my age literally starving. The sudden realization of this wrongness and suffering felt unbearable. My life before we moved existed exclusively within our religious community in NC. I didn't have a reference point for the suffering I was witnessing. I remember feeling like the entire world needed to stop whatever it was doing until we could figure this out. How intensely evil it seemed to me that human misery existed in this absolute way. Did the president know? Could my dad get a message to him? If this wasn't important, what was?! Why did these questions seem silly to adults?


The revelation of suffering in this manner metastasized as both fear and yearning. It was the initial piece of grit that has now become the pearl of hope I carry with me. I’ve revolved around this paradox ever since. I’m still attempting to understand what it means to be a person with such immense privilege by comparison. What it means to live in a society that not only overlooks this suffering but also derives some tangential benefit from it. Why doesn't everyone have enough to eat? Is there anything I can do to help?

Of course, when I was 8, my thoughts weren't this coherent. It was simply an icky feeling that lingered, a question that nagged, begging to be answered.


The direct connection to food and agriculture came a little later when, as a teenager, my family moved to Chiang Mai, Thailand. There, my dad primarily worked with the Karen Tribal peoples in the mountains of Northern Thailand. He offered free mobile clinics in these rural communities that had few other viable options for medical care. I accompanied him on most of his clinics and saw clearly that the villages with more diverse access to food (much of which they grew themselves) had better health outcomes.


By the time I was thinking about college, my sights were set on agriculture and development as my future career path. My parents thought it would be wise for me to gain real-life agricultural experience before studying it. At the age of 16, I was sent to live with a community of Filipino missionaries who were evangelizing rural communities on the island of Mindanao through agricultural outreach and extension programs. The outreach was radical; it was permaculture under a different name. It involved providing step-by-step instructions and support for terracing the bare hills with nitrogen-fixing perennials, integrating livestock, and breaking the cycle of debt and oppression perpetuated by chemical agriculture.




Mature intercroppings in rural villages.
Mature intercroppings in rural villages.

Becky Hume in the summer of 2008
Summer 2006


Daily life in this community involved tasks like butchering rabbits, tending to pig pens, milking goats, and harvesting bamboo for construction using machetes. If I hadn't witnessed the tangible evidence—the land flourishing, and the communities thriving—the work might have discouraged me. However, gaining a glimmer of hope was sufficient for me. By the time I departed from the Philippines, I firmly believed in agriculture as a force for good.


I returned to the USA for college, initially studying Agronomy at Iowa State University and eventually transferring to and graduating with a degree in International Ag and Rural Development from Cornell University. My college years provided me with a rigorous scientific framework, which I still deeply cherish and use to navigate the world. However, my time in university shattered my naive belief in alleviating hunger solely through knowledge and education. I began to understand that most instances of hunger in the world stem not from a lack of understanding of how to grow food, but from issues of marginalization.


I vividly recall discussing with my major professor that development work could be perceived from certain perspectives as an extension of imperialism. His response was a dismissive laugh, followed by, 'Yes, that's why you have to ensure they think it's their idea.' I was angry to my core that this was the advice coming from the head of the department at the foremost university in development studies. So much arrogance, so little substance. If not the elite universities of the world, then who would be capable of solving these problems?


Convinced that the capitalist system must be the fundamental root of the problem, I moved to an ecovillage/intentional community in Northern Scotland and lived and farmed there for several years, mostly without money. This was an interesting experiment; one that was ultimately unsustainable, but fruitful nonetheless in making me feel like I had exhausted my search for a solution to the world's problems. 


Mixing biodynamic preperations in Scotland.
Mixing biodynamic preperations in Scotland.


It was as hippie as you can fathom ecovillage in Scottland
It was as hippie as you can fathom.

From that point on, the questions began to change internally for me. I started asking myself how I could live in a way that would multiply the blessings bestowed upon me. How to leverage my perspective and passion to create peace and abundance. How to live authentically in a culture that is disconnected and apathetic to the consequences it leaves in its wake.


The more I delved into these questions, the more I discovered peace and clarity in the actual act of growing food. Understanding that raw materials plus my energy, multiplied by time and sunshine, equaled something that nourished people! It felt so wholesome that I could simply let my whole being rest on that. While most other aspects of my life remained a simmering crisis of identity and belonging, farming was the one thing that made sense.


I moved to Central Texas in 2014, unaware that I was returning home. Now, after (almost) a decade here, I can honestly say that I’m undeniably in love with Texas—faults, infernal summers, and all. Settling here has laid the foundation for the best years of my life.


I worked managing several area farms until 2019 when I had the opportunity to purchase land and begin what is now VRDNT Farm. The first two years were a journey of trusting myself—learning from both the successes and mistakes of starting and scaling a farm business solo.



mixed vegetable production farming central texas
I had amazing opportunities to learn production farming before starting VRDNT.


Getting to know the Central Texas seasons.


Very first crop I planted at VRDNT Farm - Sweet Potatoes.
Very first crop I planted at VRDNT Farm in June 2019 - Sweet Potatoes.

In February 2021, my world was turned upside down in the wake of the 'snowpocalypse' when, in one fell swoop, severe temperatures destroyed my field crops, transplants, and storage crops due to ensuing days without power. All my eggs were in one basket, and that basket froze. My initial instinct was to feel shame, as if I had somehow failed by becoming one of the many victims of the weather. Amidst all that loss and fear, there was an unexpected silver lining: the incredible support from many of you—my CSA members, community, and friends—who purchased CSA shares and supported me to continue growing vegetables.


It meant more than just the financial resources to reinvest in the farm. It was life-affirming to feel valued and trusted in your support.


Today, I find joy in relationships rather than agendas. I know the names of the winter birds and the spring flowers, and I cherish the opportunity to live on this beautiful piece of Texas alongside them. My management of the land is attuned to my relationship the life on this land; not contrived goals involving carbon accounting, certifications or follower numbers…

 

Likewise, the more I grow into being a business owner, the more it matters to me to focus on being an effective leader and employer. Instead of enforcing a top-down approach to management, I strive to create clear goals and roles while nurturing an environment that is safe for trying, failing, troubleshooting, and bringing out our best. (There's a whole lot more on that in a future blog on farming and the feminine.) But I promise there's actually a point at the end of this very long sentimental ramble…


I often hear the phrase 'food is a weapon.' I couldn't disagree more wholeheartedly. Food is power, indeed. But it is entirely life-giving. Food can only be weaponized when it is withheld, when scarcity is created, or when a population is marginalized. Therefore, communities that are self-sufficient are, in a way, inoculated against this oppression. THINK ABOUT IT. Being able to actually PROVIDE for the needs of your community rather than just defend it. That's real power as far as I’m concerned. This power is also fundamentally rooted in our relationships with each other and the health of our natural resources.


If we merely pursue the most 'efficient' supply chain, we inevitably end up with a system much like the one we currently have—far-flung and disconnected, obscured in its operations. It's efficient to the point of fragility but lacks resilience, accountability, and ethics. I don't think I'll ever comprehend how we've plundered the vitality of our soils to foster a glut of resources that we lack the conscience to distribute justly.


If food production cannot be replicated on a community scale, I struggle to perceive how it can constitute a holistic or genuinely sustainable system. Accountability and resilience are best achieved through relationships.


So, in conclusion: Yes to being a girl boss, yes to fresher and tastier veggies, yes to fewer pesticides, yes to just being cool. But I reserve my biggest 'yeses' for resilience and community-level self-sufficiency. These are values I can't embody alone, so I hope that sharing just a little of my journey and why I do what I do will invite us all to engage more consciously in the world we are living in and the future we are creating together.


VRDNT Farm’s mission is to nourish our land and community by growing super fresh, local veggies <3


Thank you for being here.

Farmer Becky 


Farmer Becky Hume on her kabota central texas farming.
December 2023 at VRDNT Farm.




5 Comments


Thank you for sharing such an intense life journey story. I've always appreciated the hard work you have done on farms before your own farm. Your calm but powerful voice in the community care movement of feeding, teaching and caring for others through the life force real food brings is inspiring. I'm proud to have you as my farmer!

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Andy Smith
Andy Smith
Dec 20, 2023

This was a joy to read, Becky. You've been on a profound journey and it is easy to see how the world has left its mark on you and how you've left yours on the world. I especially appreciate how your articulate the beauty of growing food and caring for land being important work in and of itself while also pointing to the bigger rebellious act that you are doing by going against capitalist systems of consumption and exploitation. Thanks for taking the time to write this!

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This is a moving and hopeful testament to how a person sincerely thinks through her place, value, and purpose in the world. I derived benefit from your story, feeling that your eleven acres promote well-being for so many that I had not realized before. Thank you for all that you do!

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Thank you for sharing this story, Becky. So lucky to call you a friend, and Central Texas is so lucky you found your way here. Cheers to decades more of fresh vegetables. Also, just loving seeing these little-kid Becky photos. You look exactly like yourself :)

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lsabbey
lsabbey
Dec 20, 2023

Becky, thank you for sharing your story-it takes a certain kind of person to have the passion you possess to nurture and grow your farm…and your CSA. It’s really apparent in what you’ve accomplished in such a short time with VRDNT, and I am so happy to be part of this community! I’m so looking forward to another great year as you continue to provide such beautiful and fresh food, so thank you, again.

-Lin

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