CHARLOTTE – When Amy and Joe Rohrer started farming together in 2015 on rented land in Wesley Chapel, they weren’t sure what to call themselves. “We needed a name,” says Amy, “but most farms, if you’ve noticed, are either named by their street or last name. We started before we were married; we didn’t have a mutual last name or a street address!”
Amy threw out the idea of “Boy and Girl Farm” – a name Joe hated originally – and it stuck. Originally from Southern Illinois, Amy comes from a family of farmers, row croppers typical of the Midwestern countryside. She moved to North Carolina from Denver in 2013 wanting to get back into agriculture, but in a different way. While running the CSA program for a now-closed local organic farm, she met Joe, who had been working the farm since he was a teenager.
“We were friends first, for several years, and it just kind of grew naturally from that,” says Amy. “We got to the point where we were like, I think we could do this on our own. We always say I had enough faith for the both of us at the beginning because when he was like, no, we can’t, I was like, yes, we can!”
Amy and Joe married in 2016 and purchased the 28-acre property Boy and Girl Farm sits on at the close of the calendar year. Although they were both experienced farmers, they built the farm from, quite literally, nothing. “This place was just pasture land,” says Amy. “Everything you see we have done ourselves, including the house.”
Amy and Joe started from scratch in more ways than one. “Neither one of our families are in a position where they could help us financially, so it was it was very much a leap of faith,” she says. “I cashed out my 401k, and we got a farm loan for the property – a low-interest, didn’t-have-to -have-anything-down situation. Without that, we couldn’t have done it for sure, but that’s why those programs exist for small, beginning farmers.”
Full-time farmers, that first year continued to challenge Amy and Joe financially, but they made it through. “Every business has their upfront startup costs,” says Amy, “but farming is unique in that it’s not only the land. We have our initial upfront costs, and then we have yearly, massive upfront costs like seed, fertilizer, tractor repair, electricity – just different expenses people don’t even realize.”
Today, Amy and Joe pride themselves on their reputation for providing a quality, local product. “I like to tell people we grow basically every vegetable you can think of and probably a lot you can’t!” she says. Cabbage, cauliflower, broccoli, kale, lettuce, swiss chard, carrots, beets, onions, and radishes are just a few of the things going in the ground soon at Boy and Girl Farm.
Amy and Joe started out selling to restaurants, a business venture they have managed to grow mainly by word of mouth. You can also find Boy and Girl Farm at the Waxhaw Farmers Market, where they sell their vegetables virtually year round, taking a short break in the winter. They also sell to two small local distributors through a government assistance program, which helped tremendously last year when restaurants were forced to shut down temporarily.
Joe and Amy hope to inspire future generations of farmers. “It’s not a popular profession,” she admits. “It’s a lot of hard work. It does take a special person. You have to be an eternal optimist, and you have to learn to let go because we’ve had our fair share of crop failures. But we love our lives,” she continues. “I’ve had many, many jobs, and this is the best job I’ve had. It’s the hardest job I’ve had! But it’s the best one.
They also hope to do their part to provide nutritious food for the community. “I don’t think any nutritionists will argue vegetables are the most important thing to eat,” says Amy. “We’ve always been in the camp that you cannot have enough farmers. More babies are born every day, and people always need good quality vegetables without some of the harsh chemicals. You can feel good about our vegetables because we don’t use synthetic pesticides,” she continues. “We’re not certified organic, but that’s how we grow.”
Moreover, when you buy from Boy and Girl Farm, you’re supporting the local economy in more ways than one. “You’re helping a farm,” says Amy, “but we also put money back into our local economy. We’re not trying to keep Amazon in business; we’re trying to keep Mineral Springs Fertilizer in business. I don’t think any economist will argue it’s bad to support your local economy; it’s important and COVID has exposed some of the real harsh realities of food production, so I think it’s never been more important to buy from local farms.”
Ultimately, Amy and Joe hope they’re creating something their two boys, ages two and five months, can continue one day if they want to. “We want to leave a legacy,” says Amy. “We don’t want to just end with us but also help train the next generation of farmers. I would say that’s our biggest hope. We’re thrilled that we can actually provide something that we didn’t have. We hope these guys do it way better than us, and that they won’t have to worry about finding property and everything that we’ve had to do.”
Learn more about Boy and Girl Farm on their website: http://www.boyandgirlfarm.com/.