Editor's Note: For many, the hip thing to do on the weekends is to hit up your local farmers market for fresh organic produce. Now, a surprising number of young and smart people are going a step further. They're ditching the city life to pick up organic farming, and with a lot of hard work, some of them are making a pretty good living. Our Carol Costello introduces us to one such farmer. Watch
By Carol Costello, CNN
(CNN) – Every week, at the University Farmers Market in Baltimore, Maryland, 28-year old Roy Skeen sells greens, squash and other vegetables. All of his produce came from his small, urban farm. He planted the vegetables, picked them, and hauled them on his bike to University Market.
It’s not the kind of life he had in mind for himself when he graduated from Yale University in 2004. He majored in History and thought he’d land a job in a minute. He didn’t.
“The story that’s told about Yale,” he says, “is you’re an intelligent person if you go to Yale. But I graduated and I didn’t know how to do anything useful. I could go make green pieces of paper with dead presidents on them, but I couldn’t do anything practical.”
Skeen tried to “do something practical.” He headed to New York to work in investment banking, but he found that life stifling. After a trip to the Caribbean, he found his calling: farming.
“It exposed me to culture that grows food and lives in one place. It was pretty simple, but it was nice and I liked it.”
Skeen moved back to his hometown, Baltimore and is now working the land on an urban farm. He finds the work hard, but satisfying, in an almost spiritual way.
“To me, the magic of seeing a cucumber on the vine, it was like a circle, and my psyche was connected. Here’s something that was in front of me every day of my life and I never knew where it came from.”
Skeen is not the only young person yearning for a simple, more spiritual life. The National Future Farmers of America – an organization kids join in junior high and high school – has seen its membership soar. It now boasts 520,000 members – the most in its long history.
Officials say many young people are rejecting a life in corporate America and choosing to live off the land. They yearn, like Skeen, for a simpler life, a small farm – ten acres or less.
Jack Gurley has lived that kind of life for the past 15 years. He and his wife have a small farm in Sparks, Maryland. They say they make a “nice, middle class living” farming ten acres of land.
“People often say you must work ridiculous hours,” Gurley says. “I don’t even work 40 hours a week. It just so happens that I work 12 hours a day for three or four months a year. But we’re potentially finished at the end of October. So, I have four months off.”
Gurley now mentors young people, like Skeen, on how to make a living from farming. Skeen is grateful. His goal this year is to make $30,000 a year. But, the money is only part of it.
“This was something 80% of the population did 100 years ago. So, it feels like it’s coming home, at least for me.”