UD’s Andrew Bell starts backyard farm to help pay for school

November 14, 2011 under CANR News

In these tough economic times, people are looking for creative ways to make money. For University of Delaware student Andrew Bell, he had to look no further than his own backyard in Seaford.

Bell, a sophomore in the College of Agriculture and Natural Resources (CANR), started a backyard farm during his junior year of high school, and said that he decided to undertake the project after making a list of ways to make money and deciding that starting a farm was the “option I hated least.”

Bell has been farming there ever since, and though he now enjoys the long hours and hard work, his love of farming grew out of an initial loathing. “I actually never wanted to be a farmer, but after a rough summer I grew to love it.”

Now Bell finds the work “surprisingly soothing, especially in the early spring when everything looks so new. The calmness you get from spending time out there, and the happy exhaustion you feel afterward, is something people are losing as more jobs move indoors.”

Being completely financially independent, Bell works on his quarter-acre farm, which will expand to half an acre next summer, to help pay for college.

On the farm he grows tomatoes, yellow squash, cucumbers, zucchini, string beans and bell peppers but hopes to expand to more obscure crops, like shallots, in the future. “I believe there is an untapped market for items like that, and it would make the upscale restaurants I sell to very happy,” he said.

To make money from his crops, Bell wholesales to restaurants and to markets in the beach towns in southern Delaware.

He said he hopes to expand to farmers markets because he feels that “something missing in my operation is interaction with the people who actually eat the things I grow.”

Bell said he is happy for the direction in life farming has provided, forcing him to develop qualities like “self-discipline.” However, Bell said that he finds the work can sometimes become too “insular” and wants to do something more humanitarian-based in the future.

For this, Bell looks to the Middle East and said that farming has helped him realize that the best way he can help those in need would be to help them with their nutritional security. “I’ve always had a lot of empathy for struggling people in other countries, particularly Middle Eastern nations,” said Bell. “One important way to help them is to increase their nutritional security, since you can’t work toward goals like land reform until you are confident in your food supply. So while there are several careers that would allow me to help Middle Easterners, the farm sort of pushed me towards a career focused on improving their nutritional security.”

As for those interested in starting their own farm, Bell stressed that it is important to “do your research. Read books to get information about farming techniques and speak to Extension agents to get information about marketing strategies, and condense this information into a very comprehensive strategy. Plan absolutely everything, because recovering from even minor mistakes is very difficult given the strict deadlines you need to make during the growing season.”

With winter bearing down, Bell will now have to wait until spring to begin farming. Then, he can get back to his farm, working outdoors in the calm early mornings, everything looking brand new, sweating in the soil and relishing his exhaustion.

Article by Adam Thomas

Photo by Danielle Quigley

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