Small Farmer, New Office

Join author Keith Stewart as he adds a new office to his 125 year-old farmhouse.

| September 2013

  • The second edition of β€œIt’s a Long Road to a Tomato,” by Keith Stewart, has been updated with five new essays about life on the farm.
    Cover Courtesy The Experiment
  • For the flooring of the office, both walnut and cedar were taken from old boards found in the barn.
    Photo By Fotolia/Ibtn

Keith Stewart, already in his early forties and discontent with New York’s corporate grind, moved upstate and started a one-man organic farm in 1986. Today, having surmounted the seemingly endless challenges to succeeding as an organic farmer, Keith employs seven to eight seasonal interns and provides 100 varieties of fresh produce to the shoppers and chefs who flock twice weekly, May to December, to his stand at Union Square Greenmarket in Manhattan — he only place where his produce is sold. It’s a Long Road to a Tomato (The Experiment, 2010), opens a window into the world of Keith’s Farm, with essays on Keith’s development as a farmer, the nuts and bolts of organic farming for an urban market, farm animals domestic and wild, and the political, social, and environmental issues relevant to agriculture today — and their impact on all of us. The excerpt below comes from the section, “Inner Sanctum — An Office with a View.”

You can purchase this book from the GRIT store: It’s a Long Road to a Tomato.

I have just moved into my new office, an ample and sparkling 275 square feet of finely crafted space. With windows on three sides, a handsome oak floor, a high cedar-wood ceiling, two large closets, a built-in work station, and a window seat complete with bookshelves, here is an office fit for a prince, or at least a gentleman farmer, though I have yet to attain either status.

“Why does a farmer need such an office?” some might ask. Are not the open fields his place of work? Is not the sky overhead his rightful canopy? Surely a corner of the tractor shed or barn would suffice for the few seed catalogs and papers needed?

To such naïveté, I would answer that a small farmer who wishes to survive as such must wear many hats — and some of these hats can only be worn indoors. A farmer cannot afford to hire a cast of professional bookkeepers, accountants, secretaries, retailers. He or she must perform these functions him- or herself. There are myriad records to be kept, forms to be filed, applications to be filled out, and bills to be paid.

Federal and state governments do not discriminate on the basis of size. Most of the rules and requirements that pertain to large corporations are equally applicable to the small entrepreneur who employs workers beyond his immediate family. For these reasons, I feel entirely justified in having a substantial and well-endowed office. The eight-by-nine-foot room in which I have struggled to maintain order for these past eighteen years is no longer adequate.

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