By Molly Birnbaum
Published: Modern Farmer, March 27, 2014

Photography by Ben Stechschulte

Kristin was a freelance writer living in New York City. Mark was a sustainable farmer working in Pennsylvania. They met in 2001 when Kristin interviewed Mark for an article. What happened next is for the books. Literally.

Kristin documented their relationship in her popular memoir, “The Dirty Life,” published by Scribner in 2010. The book tells the tale of a couple falling love, moving upstate and founding their own diversified, sustainable, organic farm.

The thing with lives as portrayed in books, though: They keep going.

‘We want it to be West Point for farming. We want it to be attractive to the daughter of a Midwestern grain farmer and to the Brooklyn hipster urban-rooftop farmer.’
Today Kristin and Mark still run Essex Farm, but now they harvest alongside their two kids. When they started the farm in 2003, their CSA (as one of the only full-diet CSAs in the U.S., it includes meat, dairy and grain) had seven members. Today it has 225. The first year, they operated the farm alone, with one volunteer. Now they have up to 15 full-time employees in the summer. They have increased their acres from 14 to 78 (and will soon add another 273).

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