From Cubicle to Cultivar: How to Leave the Office and Become a Farmer

Read how hands-on apprenticeships cultivate opportunities to leave the city and lead an agrarian lifestyle.


Lately, my life has been consumed by farming. I’ve been obsessively poring over seed catalogs to ensure I choose plant cultivars suited to my climate in southwest Louisiana; I need to spread my compost and build a processing shed; and I’m still trying to decide exactly how many hens I want.

My farm, Le Potager d’Acadiana (The Acadiana Kitchen Garden), sits on an acre of land that hugs Bayou Bourbeaux near Arnaudville, Louisiana, about an hour from where I grew up. It’s my first season, and, after two years of planning, it’s hard to believe the moment is finally here. Although both of my grandfathers were raised on farms, college was presented as my only option growing up. So even as my interest in sustainable food grew, my burgeoning career as a journalist kept me in an office.

Through my education, I discovered authors who revealed to me the flaws of America’s food systems: Wendell Berry, Michael Pollan, and Mark Sundeen. Their work introduced me to radically different ideas and helped shape what I wanted out of life. My aspirations included living a more sustainable life focused on local, homegrown food, but my career and location limited my ability to achieve this. At the time, I was living in an apartment outside Nashville, Tennessee, with only a balcony on which to grow a handful of plants. Most of my days were spent indoors, tied to a desk and a computer, supporting a system I increasingly didn’t align with.

Displaying watermelon from the summer harvest in Riceville, Tennessee.

Call to Action

After a suggestion from a friend, I looked into Workaway, an organization that connects people willing to exchange labor for free room and board with hosts who need help with everything from child care to farming. A quick online search uncovered a vast network of folks across North America who were looking for field hands, offering me the opportunity to experience farming firsthand. I wanted to make a fundamental change, and it seemed that Workaway was my ticket.

Sheila Carr
10/21/2019 9:10:07 AM

I am originally from Riceville, TN and still have our family farm there. Interesting, how did you end up here with these Mellons?

7/16/2019 9:35:33 PM

This was exactly the article I needed to read!! Thank you Jonathan!



Fall 2021!

Put your DIY skills to the test throughout November. We’re mixing full meal recipes in jars, crafting with flowers, backyard composting, cultivating mushrooms, and more!


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