While Majal Perry filled her days romanticizing about the old-fashioned farm life, David Hosey was busy living it.
After an internship at the Museum of Modern Art in New York, Perry was “recuperating” with her grandmother in 2010 in eastern Kentucky where they baked from scratch, made jam, talked about the past and watched Hallmark movies at night.
Three hours west, Hosey, now 25, who learned beekeeping from his father of Hosey Honey fame, had his hands deep in the dirt at Foxhollow Farm near Louisville. He was growing vegetables for sale using organic and biodynamic gardening methods.
Perry, now26, had been a gallery manager, makeup artist and newspaper reporter and had studied art history and been accepted to law school, but she was disenchanted with it all. At the foothills of Appalachia, she was falling in love with its music, culture and folklore and longing for an old way of life.
Late one night in 2010, Perry was having a “what-am-I-going-to-do-with-my-life” moment, which ultimately launched her on a whole new path. Today, that path includes a booth at the Franklin County Farmers Market.
“I was thinking, ‘I want to live in a farmhouse, and I want to can vegetables, and I want to create a life for myself,’ but I didn’t know where to begin.”
At 3 in the morning, Perry went online for answers and typed “sustainable agriculture” in the Facebook search bar.
Hosey’s profile was the first thing to pop up. Perry clicked and liked what she saw. A rugged gardener and beekeeper her age was living the life she wanted. Perry’s message to Hosey started, “Please, don’t think I’m strange, but …” She then asked for advice about how someone with no experience could step into sustainable farming.
“I was giddy for some reason,” Hosey remembers of that first message. “It was very platonic, and I was just offering advice, but I felt a connection.”
That connection led to phone calls then to a meeting, after which they became immediate best friends. Hosey’s first gift was honey and a big box of organic produce he had grown, including a pumpkin that Perry and her grandma transformed into a cake with black walnut icing. She also used the honey to make caramels.
The cake and caramels were her thank-you gift to Hosey, who says he and another bachelor farmer ate them for breakfast, lunch and dinner.
Soon, Hosey and Perry were a couple, looking for a farm of their own.
At first, the best they could do was a one-room cabin on the Kentucky River – everything fit in a 250-square-foot space. Perry was finally experiencing the pioneer life alongside Hosey, and, “It was hard.”
After more searching and a little luck, they found a 60-acre farm for rent on Sawdridge Creek Road in Monterey. For $500 a month, the little yellow farmhouse, greenhouse, natural spring, lots of land and life they envisioned was theirs.
They installed a wooden stove in the heatless farmhouse and wintered there, huddling under blankets as they leafed through seed catalogues and planned out their first garden.
When Hosey farmed at Foxhollow, he was using space and equipment that had been acquired over 65 years. The average farmer today is 57 with a farming heritage and a father who handed him everything he needed to continue the family business.
“It’s so difficult starting from scratch,” said Hosey, adding that earth-friendly farming practices are even tougher because you can’t take modern shortcuts.
And unfortunately, the couple broke ground right before the second worst drought of the century.
However, Bean Blossom Farm is blooming, especially with the recent rain, and Hosey and Perry proudly sell the fruits of their labor at the Farmers Market. Today, it’s squash, zucchini, onions, basil, garlic and baby tomatoes. Rows of tomatoes are coming soon along with other summer produce, including unique varieties market-goers may never have seen.
“People have been so fun at the market,” Perry said. “Customers love to try these things that we have that look unfamiliar, and we tell them the stories behind them.”
Another big seller at their booth is Perry’s home-dyed, handspun yarns. Some of her dyes come from things on the farm, like black walnuts, goldenrod, pokeberries and onionskins.
Other than the drought, the hardest part about running the farm is the time it takes on top of their other jobs. Hosey works full-time at Earth Tools, the largest distributor of walk-behind tractors in the U.S., and Perry is a part-time children’s librarian at Paul Sawyier Public Library.
Then there are the little things that come with living in the past. They can see their breath when they get home in the winter, and they’re sweating it out with no AC this summer. Even their dog, Biena (German for honeybee), is slower in the heat.
Perry, who won’t give up her dresses and skirts, has hundreds of mosquito bites, and she hides the dirt under her nails with bright polish.
But it’s so worth it. Perry cooks their meals from scratch, which often include vegetables and herbs from the garden or honey from Hosey’s hive. And they both feel at home on their farm.
“Living like this just makes my heart soar,” Perry said, reflecting on her first year as a farmer. “I don’t think it’s like we are trying to play a role; we’ve taken up the things that we really love about the past and rejected the ones that we aren’t so keen on, and I think that’s part of the wonderful privilege of standing in the present and looking back over the shoulders of our Mamaws and Papaws.”