Woman on the farm: Love in the country
Elizabeth Carey finds happiness on the farm
By CAROL CHROUST
Elizabeth Carey grew up on a small farm nestled among wooded hills near Athens, Ohio. She loved farm life and, when searching for her soul mate, she chose a young Clinton County farmer. Elizabeth and her husband Reed are each involved in work that improves the life and health of others.
“On the small farm, we raised pigs and had a horse, cow, chickens, rabbits, guineas, dogs and cats,” said Elizabeth. “Most of them were pets. We made yogurt and chocolate pudding from goat’s milk. I helped in the garden and with food preparation. I took care of the animals. That was my job.”
Elizabeth’s father is assistant dean in the College of Business at Ohio University. He is also a sculptor and artist. Her mother was a stay-at-home mom who held a variety of jobs such as writing a newspaper column and working at the recreation center. Elizabeth has two younger brothers.
When choosing a career, Elizabeth entered OU for a degree in biological sciences.
“I dated some people at college but they were mostly interested in playing video games,” said Elizabeth. “It just didn’t click. I love animals and I hoped to live on a farm. You can be outside doing things. A friend told me I should go online to find a farmer. I knew some farmers and they were just nice people. So I went online to www.farmersonly.com, a dating website, and found Reed’s profile and interests. We both knew there was a stigma about dating online and were cautious. We spent a month talking through instant messenger and emails and exchanged photographs. In 2007, he came down to meet me. What attracted me to Reed was the way he talked about his family. He had a lot of respect for them.”
Elizabeth and Reed dated for several years, mostly on weekends. Elizabeth finished school at OU and got a job.
“When I graduated, people where I worked lived in the city,” she said. “They complained about their neighborhood rules that required them to keep their lawns mowed at a certain height. I don’t like the city at all. I love animals and living in the country where you have a lot more freedom to do whatever you want.”
When Reed suggested Elizabeth find a job near him, she got a job at Rogosin Institute, a cancer research center, in Xenia. In December, 2011, Elizabeth, 27, and Reed, 30, started their married life together in the nine-room farm house that was on Reed’s property. Like most farm wives, since most of the profit from farming must go back into the business, Elizabeth’s work helps cover expenses and provides health care benefits.
“I work in a sterile environment where all that shows is my eyes,” she said. “I can’t wear any make-up or nail polish.”
Elizabeth said an excerpt from the January 25, 2011 Wall Street Journal story, “Novel Effect to Fight Cancer With Cancer Cells”, describes what the Institute does very well.
“Researchers from Rogosin Institute are harvesting tumor cells from mice and encapsulating them in beads made of a seaweed-derived sugar called agarose. The beads are then implanted into the abdomens of cancer patients. There, cells in the beads secrete proteins researchers believe could signal a patient’s cancer cells to stop growing, shrink or even die….
Supporting this research is neither a big drug company nor a biotechnology startup. In a highly unusual set-up, Metromedia Co., the privately held broadcast and Telecommunications Company run by John Kluge until his death in September, is financially backing it.
The company’s Metromedia Biosciences unit has put 50 million dollars into the cancer project and intends to funnel the bulk of any revenue from the treatment should it reach the market into Mr. Kluge’s charitable foundation.”
“It costs so little with so few side effects,” said Elizabeth. “My major role is to harvest the cancer cells that are put into the beads. We are in stage 2B in FDA clinical trials. I don’t mind going to work because I think I’m making a difference. It gives you a sense of accomplishment.”
As an outlet, Elizabeth likes to work outside. She planted a vegetable garden, blackberry and raspberry bushes, apple and cherry trees.
“My grandmother had a cherry tree,” remembered Elizabeth. “She made cherries jubilee, pies and jams. I picked five or six quarts of strawberries last year. I made jelly. I also froze corn from Reed’s grandparent’s garden.”
Elizabeth also paints and works in stained glass.
“It does serve as a creative outlet for me,” she said. “I think Mom and Dad both had a role in my art. My Dad taught me some things about painting and my Mom let me destroy the house. In the stained glass, I mostly make up my own patterns. My Mom and I are working on one right now.”
Elizabeth and Reed share an interest in the environment, sustainability and being self-sufficient. She helps split and stack wood for the GARN wood gasification boiler Reed installed. It dramatically reduced their yearly $5,000-$7,000 heating bill and, in three years, will pay for itself. It also heats the garage and part of the barn.
“After Hurricane Ike went through and blew down trees, I had a Eureka moment just as I was pushing up a pile of wood and burning it,” said Reed. “Why not heat this big old house? But, if I’m going to burn wood, I wanted it to be as efficient as possible. I didn’t want to pollute the environment with a smoke dragon out there.”
As most farm wives do, Elizabeth fully supports Reed’s farming and his quest to find a special niche. Reed has a solid background. He was on the high school FFA agronomy team that won the state and went to the nationals. He attended Ohio State University. Backed by education, experience and knowledge passed on from several generations of farmers, Reed bought a farm through the young farmer’s USDA loan system nine years ago. USDA officials said Reed had the most organized financial statement they had ever seen.
“As land prices rise, it’s harder to increase and to try to expand,” said Reed. “You have to have courage and truly be an individual. My niche is to vertically integrate, finding things to do to generate more income. We decided to install our own grain bins and dry our own corn rather than hire it done. I specialized in raising non-genetically modified organisms (non-GMO). I bought a semi truck to haul corn to Cincinnati. It is directly loaded onto a barge where it goes to New Orleans. It is loaded onto a ship and ends up in Japan. The beans also go to the Asian market. I bought a sprayer to utilize new technologies to reduce chemical usage. There were things I put on the sprayer to make it more efficient.”
Reed studied, did research, and found another niche.
“Certain fertilizers we’ve used in the past were not good for the soil,” said Reed. “With people’s health, there are a lot of things that’s going on. I think the root cause is we’re not raising good enough quality of food. It’s been quantity over quality. Food is the building blocks for everybody. If you don’t get proper nutrients in food, it’s impossible to stay healthy. It’s simpler to cure sick soils than sick people.”
Reed invested in a used spreader designed to apply a specialty fertilizer he imports from a different state. He does custom spreading of this fertilizer as well as custom spraying for other farmers.
“It’s a different school of thought from conventional agriculture and the industrial complex,” explained Reed. “It’s more efficient, less toxic to the land, has reduced chemical usage, and is better for the soil. It has a direct influence on the environment and quality of product. But, it’s difficult to handle and apply. My ultimate goal is to expand the farm operation by owning more land and experimenting and finding new ways to innovate.”
“I admire how Reed is always trying to improve his operation,” said Elizabeth. “There is a great deal of risk involved in being innovative, but that doesn’t faze him. He has been fortunate to have good role models when it comes to farming. I’m sure, like me, they are very proud of him.”
Elizabeth and Reed are among those fine, hard-working young people on the cutting edge who are creative, visionary and looking for ways to improve their world. Elizabeth sees a correlation between her work and Reed’s.
“He harvests crops and I harvest cells,” she said. “We take care of them, nurture them, harvest them and, hopefully, help others. I also enjoy being a farm wife. It’s interesting and rewarding.”
(Carol Chroust is a contributor to Acres of Southwest Ohio.)