Organic Farmer & Cookbook Author
By Gale Straub, in partnership with Subaru.
Photos by Jules Davies.
Last month, I had the opportunity to meet Andrea Bemis in Marfa, TX. The context was a gathering of twelve adventurous, creative women in partnership with Subaru. The conversations centered around a theme, which is also a question: “Are You Allowed to Change Your Dream?”
Andrea is an organic farmer. She and her husband founded Tumbleweed Farm on the northeast flank of Mount Hood in Oregon. She’s also behind the food blog, Dishing Up the Dirt, and the author of a recently released cookbook of the same name. Both are filled with colorful, whole food recipes and lots of tips for incorporating seasonal freshness into every meal you eat. (I’m particularly fond of the sauces.) At the event, Andrea spoke humbly of her skills in the kitchen, in the fields, and behind the camera. That’s all right: her skills speak for themselves.
I interviewed every woman in Marfa for a She Explores podcast episode (coming out on Wednesday this week). I wanted to share Andrea’s here because it both stands alone and serves as a wonderful preview for the full-length episode. You can either read it below (abridged for brevity) or listen.
Music by Lee Rosevere and Uncanny
Gale (G) : What was your reaction to the theme/question: are you allowed to change your dream?
Andrea (A): My reaction was, I’m totally into this theme because my life course was not on course to become a farmer. It can be scary and exciting to change your dream and maybe get off course, but it’s something I’ve never talked about before or explored, so I was excited by the theme and to be able to chat with other women, specifically women, about it.
G: Why specifically women?
A: Working in farming, I’ve worked with a lot of men. I don’t remember the last time I was surrounded by just women and that is pretty powerful. I didn’t realize that until I got here. It’s refreshing and comfortable. I’ve found at least in the conversations I’ve had it’s been a little bit easier to open up. And that feels pretty good.
G: I know last night when we were [defining and describing] dreams, immediately when I came over to the ‘dreams’ paper, the first thing that jumped out at me was the world lonely. I would love to hear more about why you tied that to dreams.
A: I am sort of living this dream that I set out to do, but it’s been lonely to get here. I work with my husband and it’s not lonely in a marriage but it can be lonely to not have other people that understand what you’re doing. A lot of the work is alone. There can be days where the only people that I talk to are my dog and my husband, and not that that’s super lonely but it’s a little isolating. I wouldn’t change it but it can feel like you’re on island where no one speaks the language.
G: You were in your early 20’s when you moved to your husband’s family’s farm. Did you expect to continue doing work like that, I guess, would you expect your life to look the way it looks now based on that experience then?
A: No and we didn’t know that we were going to set out and farm on our own. I didn’t grow up farming, I went into it completely blind. It was a wakeup call – it was not this romantic vision. It is hard, physical work. It didn’t agree with me at first. I was so exhausted because I wasn’t that physically fit. But once we started harvesting food and cooking, something kind of clicked. But I did not envision becoming a recipe developer with vegetables. I didn’t envision that we would have our own farm. But we started to dream about what it would be like to have a farm of our own on the west coast, being our own bosses.
When there’s self-doubt, it’s going back to that core value of even if I’m struggling right now, do I still want to work through this?
G: What do you do in points where you’re doubting the work? What keeps you working? (If you have doubts.)
A: I’ve got a lot of doubts, on a day to day basis. I think going back to the core values of why I do what I do. If there ever is a day where it just doesn’t feel right, I don’t want to keep going necessarily. So, yeah, when there’s self-doubt, it’s going back to that core value of even if I’m struggling right now, do I still want to work through this, just because I believe in what I’m doing.
G: Core values are important.
A: Yeah, they are!
G: What are your core values?
A: They have shifted over the years but I really believe in farming organically and sustainably. So my core values are: how do I get people to support their own local farmers and learn how to prepare and eat and store ingredients so we don’t have to outsource.
We have [Community Supported Agriculture] (CSA) members that will text us photos of our dinner plates. That’s the most fulfilling thing: we didn’t know them two years ago and now they’re eating our food. The community of people supporting us keeps us going.
G: Is there anything you’ve heard from the women here that stood out for you?
A: I don’t remember who said this yesterday but we put dreams on a pedestal – like they’re a big, unattainable thing. But [a dream] can be simple. Maybe my dream is to wake up every morning, have my cup of coffee, work out in the field, come home and crack open a beer with my husband, go to bed, and do it all over again. And that sounds so boring, but I’ve felt conflicted, like, should I aspire to something greater or does that make me the most happy? I think something so simple can be just wonderful as something absolutely far out there.
Andrea Bemis is an organic farmer living and working near Portland, OR. Discover farm fresh recipes on her food blog, Dishing Up the Dirt.
Editor’s note: While this piece was published in partnership with Subaru, the opinions of the author are all her own. Meet other Subaru owners at Meetanowner.com and follow along on Subaru’s Instagram.