Mar 14, 2017Farmer Education, Meet My Farmer

Rarely is human fulfillment portrayed as an embrace of dirty hands and bug bites. But that’s the form in which happiness came to Jami Bova at Happy Wife Farm.

When asked, this kind-hearted, retired Army veteran breezes through an impressive resume of past professions: systems engineer for the federal government; commercial interior designer for retail stores and office buildings. “But all I could show at the end of the day was a paycheck,” she explains. “None of that work ever quite fulfilled me … Then, I started doing this (farming) and I looked at my husband one day and said, ‘I’m happy.’” You can hear it in her grin. Even over the phone.

Her husband, Shawn, first tossed around the name “Happy Wife Farm,” as a sweet poke of fun at her surprise self-discovery. After a while, “it just stuck.”

Jami and Shawn bought their 40 acres in Modoc, SC, just a couple years ago. They relocated from Tucson, AZ, when he retired from the Army. He currently works at Fort Gordon’s Cyber School. She’s the full-time farmer. They do the really hard farm stuff together, on weekends. Since arriving, the couple has been in serious investment mode: new fences, new sheds, a tractor. They’ve also expanded their garden to several thousand square feet.

Shawn was raised in dairy farm country, in upstate NY, but for Jami, sustainable living and growing food is brand new territory. “I grew up on macaroni and cheese and Diet Coke,” she explains. “Not the healthiest of lifestyles.” Then, about five years ago, she started training for distance running. Better eating was part of her transition. When they knew they were moving to the Augusta area, they started looking for land and found the proverbial 40 acres, including 15 acres of mature pecans, pasture, flowering trees and a large pond stocked with bass and brim. All of it had been established by a former Air Force chaplain and his wife.

“We were walking the property and we hadn’t even seen the house when my husband asked ‘What do you think?.’” “I said, ‘I think we’re home.’”

Jami’s story of self-reinvention is a beautiful testimony to the CSRA’s blossoming local food community. “I started reaching out through Facebook and the community boards, and I was floored by how many people were willing to help me get started.”

Mary Jane, down the road at The Old Five Notch Farm, helped her start her chicken flock. Pam, at Hard Earth Farm, introduced her to goats. “I got my first two baby goats from Pam. In fact, I helped deliver them,” she says with delight. Melissa, down in Swainsboro at Family Tree Farm, sold her their livestock guardian dogs, two Great Pyrenees who were born and raised alongside chicks to learn to protect them from hawks. Jami says she herself has learned the value of investing in animals with work traits and training. “Every animal here has a job. They all contribute,” she explains.

As a start-up farmer, the hardest part is learning to let go. “I tend to be a researcher and a planner. I want to know all the facts before I jump in. And sometimes that doesn’t work with farming. Sometimes you have to just dig the hole, put in the seed and learn the hard way,” she says. Farming requires a whole lot of faith too.

In addition to selling through ALG’s on-line market, Happy Wife Farm products are available at the Woods Market in Aiken. Eggs can also be bought directly from their farm. Long term, she’d like to expand their flocks and build wind tunnels for year-round growing. She also loves the whole notion of seed saving and swapping, so selling plant starts is an eventual goal. This year she is working toward organic certification and would enjoy the opportunity to teach others these practices as well.

During her entry-level year into the CSRA’s markets, Jami made a splash with her “cucamelons.” Her what? “I like the different stuff,” she explains. “Heirlooms and heritage varieties.’ Many of us were perfectly charmed by her harvest of Mexican Sour Gherkins, otherwise known as “cucamelons,” otherwise known as “mouse melons.” Of course, Jami couldn’t leave it there. “I canned them and made Mouse Pickles too.”

Contentment doesn’t get any cuter than that.