056: Shannon Varley’s Quest to Own a Farm – Part 1

This is the story of Shannon Varley’s journey to raise healthy children, grow sustainable, organic food, and nourish the community. I am astounded by Shannon’s persistence and determination that led to her success in creating a wholesome, sustainable lifestyle. In our discussion, she opens up about all aspects of her heartwarming and heartbreaking journey.

Her farming story begins in Ohio and moves through Maryland, West Virginia, and Vermont where she and her family are now settled. After many years of working towards owning her dream farm, Shannon seems to have finally achieved it.

I’ve always thought of farmers as having been born into the business. I imagine families working farms over multiple generations. But Shannon grew up in Suburban Pittsburgh, the daughter of teachers. Her first venture into farming came after she graduated from Denison University, about 20 years ago. She didn’t have a firm plan for her next step after college so she and a friend decided to lease some land and leap into farming.

After that adventure ran its course, Shannon decided to pursue a job where she could wear a suit rather than overalls and earned her Master’s Degree in Environmental Law. As she was considering job possibilities, she came across an opportunity at Red Wiggler Community Farm, and has been farming ever since!

Shannon’s tale is chock-full of determination, setbacks and rewards – and she’s got a lot to share. So, I’m bringing you our conversation in two episodes. In this first episode, you’ll hear how Shannon got started in farming and how and why she kept getting pulled back in. Shannon’s had plenty of support from family and friends, but she and her family have also experienced the heartbreak of seeing two years of intense work destroyed in a fire.

In the second episode, you’ll hear how the Varley family endured following the fire, and how they finally landed what seems to be their dream farm. Shannon also shares what’s kept her going, and other inspiring thoughts about her journey.

*The second part of Shannon’s journey will be released in Episode 57 , on Feb. 23.

Key Takeaways:

[3:10] Shannon shares her journey from loving being outside to becoming a 21-year-old vegetable farmer.

[21:25] Shannon was on her way into the corporate world, when a neighbor suggested she start a farm employing young adults with developmental disabilities.

[25:00] Community Supported Agriculture (CSA) and small agriculture are not subsidized by the U.S. Government.

[28:46] Shannon and her new husband created their first homestead in Vermont but were still in search of their perfect farm.

[37:07] After two years of work remodeling their 1800’s home, it was featured in This Old House Magazine, and then ended up as a pile of ashes.