What frustrates or challenges Clif about the work he does? He finds it frustrating that people do not get or understand what he does as “The Nurse Farmer”. However, he’s working hard to change that perception, because to him, it’s a natural combination. In fact, being able to convey that message to his audience is paramount, so he created his own Youtube channel–”The Nurse Farmer.”
How long have you been a member of ASAN?
Since about 2016 while we were still living in California.
Why did you become a member of ASAN?
My partner and I are originally from the Mobile area. After living in California for several years, we decided we wanted to move back to The Gulf Coast to start a small family farm. Joining ASAN was a way for us to ‘watch’ from afar and keep up with other farmers and gardeners in Alabama.
I am also The Nurse Farmer. My mission is teaching how and why gardening activities can help us live healthier lives. I define ‘gardening activities’ broadly. From growing our own veggies to painting terra cotta clay pots, all are gardening activities that promote health from a holistic standpoint. Now that we are settled in Alabama, I am able to focus more time and energy on developing my business and concept as The Nurse Farmer. Being a registered nurse, I offer a holistic health perspective on growing our own foods to ASAN.
What is your favorite ASAN event, and why?
We just moved back to north Mobile County in July of this year. Still getting settled in and planning our farm. Have not had a chance to attend any ASAN events.
What do you love about being part of ASAN / part of the food movement in Alabama?
Of all the agricultural organizations we could join or affiliate with, ASAN seemed perfect. We are starting our farm to grow our own foods for our family and then slowly expand to grow and sell locally. We do not use chemical herbicides or pesticides. ASAN fosters and supports organic & sustainable practices which is essentially what we are doing with our farm.
What frustrates or challenges you about the work you do, and/or the broader context in which you do it? What keeps you up at night?
On a personal level, I find it frustrating that people do not ‘get’ or understand what I do as The Nurse Farmer. The public sometimes has a rigid perception of who nurses are, how nurses are supposed to act, as well as what nurses do. I sometimes get a very perplexed reaction from people when I introduce myself as The Nurse Farmer.
The reality is, it is our role as nurses to promote health and prevent disease. In fact, the definition of nursing is the promotion of health, the prevention of disease, and the alleviation of suffering. As The Nurse Farmer, I teach people how gardening activities, including growing our own fruits and veggies, and being outdoors, can promote our mental, physical, and spiritual health. While I advocate growing fruits and veggies, I emphasize ‘how’ we grow our fruits and veggies is just as important. By eliminating the use of chemical herbicides and pesticides, we can reduce our exposure to actual or probable carcinogens, and consequently reduce our risk for getting diseases such as cancer, dementia, and Parkinson’s.
What excites you about the future of ASAN?
Networking with and supporting other farmers and growers who want to grow whether for themselves or the public, particularly those who want to grow organically or sustainably.
Describe your farm – where is it, how big is it, what do you raise, who helps manage it with you? How long have you had your farm?
We have a ten acre property which we have partially cleared. We moved here in July and are just getting our farm started. We have an existing barn. We have built one raised bed from pine trees cleared from the front where we are growing collards for the fall and winter. We also have a few small containers and wine barrels where we’re growing lettuce, carrots, and a few other fall and winter vegetables. I mention the small containers because I advocate for people who live in small apartments or homes that it is possible to grow in small containers on balconies, patios, etc.
What made you want to be a farmer?
I became a nurse because my Mom said so! I became a farmer because I said so! LOL! I enjoy gardening and growing my own fruits and veggies. Growing our own fruits, veggies, herbs, and even flowers comes with so many health benefits! I will save that for another time because I could talk all about that and the evidence that supports what I advocate and teach. However, put the health benefits aside and thing about the fringe benefits!
I get fringe benefits such as spending less time and energy going to the market to buy food, which means I save money not only on purchases, but also less gas money! I also can choose colors, flavors, and varieties that may otherwise not be available, hard to find, even obscure selections. I can also create an environment that promotes environmental health by supporting pollinators that will pollinate not only flowers but also the foods. Some studies show that foods pollinated naturally by animal pollinators are nutritionally superior compared to those that are self-pollinated.
Is it what you thought it would be like? If not, why?
Farming is above and beyond what I expected in the context of health promotion and disease prevention. I just had no idea how the farming and gardening is so interconnected with our health until I started ‘digging in’ so to speak, literally and figuratively!
What’s your favorite crop to grow? Where do you really shine / what is your specialty?
Pretty much everything. We had a small back-yard farm in California prior to relocating to Mobile County. We grew everything in our back-yard from tomatoes to cucumbers to obscure herbs such as catnip (Our cat loved catnip!). We even had a few laying hens. Next spring, we will have a hen house. We will definitely grow tomatoes, cucumbers, …and pumpkins! The nursing side of me knows that pumpkins are more than just ornamental Jack O’Lanterns. Pumpkins are actually a very diverse super-food loaded with Vitamin A, as well as phytonutrients that may help prevent cancer!
How do you reach your customers, and grow your business?
Our goal is to grow for ourselves through the next year as we get our farm established, though we are receptive to ‘maybe’ selling some produce locally at a local farmer’s market if we ‘have enough to sell’. Not sure what I mean by ‘have enough to sell’. My point is, right now our goal is growing for ourselves. In the meantime, we are working on networking and learning from others. I am also including guests to interview and chat with on my YouTube Show, The Nurse Farmer as a means of promoting other growers, markets, and even performers in our region (Yes! Performers! I recently chatted and videoed with a banjo player in Mississippi about the mental health benefits of attending festivals).
What’s the best piece of advice you’ve ever been given re farming?
Not so much about farming per se’, but in anything that we do…when we fail, make mistakes, or things don’t go or turn out the way we anticipated, correct the problem or the mistake, but don’t stop following your dream. Learn from the mistakes and let the mistakes make you more determined. Keep on!! Be fearless and relentless!!
What tool, piece of equipment, etc., could you not live without?
My partner and my sons! Ibuprofen and Naproxen Sodium are two of my best friends!
What keeps you up at night / what challenges or frustrates you the most / what makes you want to quit?
I have my moments when I may want to quit as The Nurse Farmer. As I said before, some people do not ‘get’ or perceive nurses as clinical experts in health promotion or disease prevention. I feel frustrated by that perception. I have two choices. I can either stand by as a spectator to my profession and enable a stereo-type that nurses are self-sacrificing women who work in healthcare facilities, limited to performing tasks such as emptying bedpans while be directed by a physician to do so…or…I can take ownership of my profession, step out of that comfort zone, and change those perceptions of nurses all while helping people live healthier lives! What better way to do that than gardening??? I mean, think about that! Do people really think that nursing and gardening are connected? No, probably not. I know that both are interconnected on many levels! I am showing everyone how!