the gray girl farms: kylie gray
Kylie remembers the day like it was yesterday. It was when her father sold everything and retired from farming. She can still feel the emotional impact of knowing that he had lost his livelihood even though she didn’t understand the reasons.
After high school she attended the local community college to become a nurse, but when she became a single mom at 19 she quit school and found work with a seed sales company. Then one day, out of the blue – she decided she was done selling seed, she wanted to farm. She pursued one of her seed accounts for a growing contract for potatoes -- surprising everyone, they gave her a shot and awarded her a contract. In fact, so surprising and unexpected that she didn’t have anything ready, not even a farm. She scrambled, found land, and got started.
Looking back she shakes her head at how crazy it was, jumping in with both feet like that, especially as a single mom. But she had made the choice and was willing to do the work to make it happen.
Kylie is creative, and persistent. She scours public records looking for just the right land, ones that have lied fallow, have water rights, and power. Land that may have been passed down in family estates and just sit empty. She pays cash leases and grows mostly by contract. She also grows some cattle feed that she direct markets to the local beef producers, all while she builds a marketplace for her private label potatoes.
We jumped in her truck – the back seat filled with car seats, empty juice boxes and kids toys – we drove around to her different leased lots – one growing silage, the other home to butternut squash for a baby food company. She has plans to grow blueberries on her latest leased land. We visited her pinto bean field to check the beans to see if they were dry enough to combine. She was really proud of her bean crop. But after I left, the weather turned – the area received record rainfall and her crop was ruined.
Weather isn’t her only challenge; she struggles with things like the mechanics of her circles, and pumps. The pumps run a lot of high volt electricity to get the water into the circles. It is dangerous if you don't fully understand it. She doesn't. Being used to doing everything on her own, she says it was a hard lesson to learn to ask for help.
She recently married and is now mother to three boys under the age of 5 with a baby girl on the way. We talked a lot about the balancing motherhood with entrepreneurship – how she struggles to find her groove while tempering her ambition. She says it’s a full time job to just maintain the farms she has, but she really wants to do more and more.
Thank you, Kylie for sharing your farm, your work, your family and the struggle in the balance. Gray Girl Farms