The 175th recipient is Aimee Gaines of Fruitdale Farm @fruitdalefarm in Bainbridge, OH. Aimee writes, “My childhood in southern Ohio consisted of running barefoot, swimming in the creek and sticking my hands in the dirt of my family’s vegetable garden. Growing and preserving food was just a way of life in our simple country town and it was a chore that I took delight in for the most part. 15 years later, I found myself back in southern Ohio with 15 acres of my own. I brought with me 15 years of inspiration and experience learning from and farming/gardening with various communities in Haiti, Hawaii, Costa Rica, South Korea, Thailand and northern California. During that journey, it became clear to me that my calling is to steward some land in a responsible way and to create a life that works for me and fills me up, to provide for myself and to teach by example. I knew I wanted to be a regenerative homesteader but also have a place to share with the community.
My little farm started out in 2016 as raw land with a mix of forest and overgrown ag land. I first built a tiny home in the woods and next dug a pond for enjoyment, irrigation and wildlife habitat. Since then I have been salvaging and repurposing old barns, working on woodlands restoration and planting a wide diversity of plants, particularly natives, that provide for food, wildcrafting, natural medicine and pollinator habitat. I have also established a primitive campground where I rent my sites on Hipcamp. In 2020, when the pandemic hit, I started hosting farm volunteers through WWOOF and ramped up food production. I sold the excess produce at a local farmer’s market and also a little roadside stand. I aim to be a source of empowerment, inspiration, encouragement and support for other aspiring solo homesteaders.
I have found so much support throughout my local community, which includes other homesteaders of all ages but also folks from all walks of life. They show up for me in many ways, including giving words of encouragement, offering advice, helping out on the farm, buying my farm goods, gifting me plants, including me in local events, attending my farm events, sharing downtime and fun time, etc. I love to support my community in the same ways.
Self care for me is following my heart and living out my dream. What that looks like on a smaller scale is: staying hydrated, providing my body with yummy homegrown food, taking time to admire the natural surroundings and to celebrate my accomplishments, taking a well-deserved shower, resting easy at night, spending time with good folks, getting enough alone time, sharing love and laughing a lot. This includes making every task as enjoyable as possible with music, with delicious snacks and drinks, and pond-swim breaks, etc. And the sauna I built over the winter was purely out of self care. Self care, which I find synonymous with mental care, is definitely easier said than done. I will never complete my ever-growing task list, so I have to remind myself that it’s ok to slow down and take some time off once in a while or just take some time to call or visit a good friend. I find this life to be so very rewarding.”