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When I Grow Up: Veggie Tales

Organic farmer Pete Johnson shares the dirt on his down-to-earth job.
 

Learning Benefits

Why my job is awesome: I get to be in charge of my own destiny. I am able to be creative, research new markets, create interesting products, and figure out fresh ways to grow things. I like growing baby greens, potatoes, and tomatoes — I'm really good at doing that.

 

An average day: Summer days are long. I typically get up at 5 a.m. and do something for four hours — like cut baby greens — then plant greens, pick tomatoes, feed chickens, and fertilize things. We get done around 7 p.m. if we're lucky. Things quiet down in the fall. We work a lot with root vegetables, and there's more deskwork, that kind of stuff. But there's always plenty of work. You try to get away from it when you can.

 

How I first became interested: I grew up in a family where we gardened and made a lot of our own food, and I happened to love it. My parents never had to make me go out and work in the garden; I was always out there. I had a pumpkin business when I was 9, so I was growing things for money pretty young. It's just something I was innately interested in, and I remember realizing when I was 14 I that I wanted to be a farmer.

 

How I got where I am today: I went to college, but not for this — for environmental studies. I never worked on another farm, either. I probably should have, but I did the farm thing kind of by learning on my own, experimenting and things like that.

 

What stinks about my job: The weather's constantly changing — conditions are constantly changing. You really have to be on the ball all the time if you want to excel. And we try to really excel here. You can never coast along, you have to immersed and mentally engaged, and sometimes that gets a little draining.

 

My advice: I encourage kids to do what they are most interested in, no matter what parents or societal pressures might indicate is okay or not okay. You have to try to be true to yourself. Try to find something that really inspires you, and then believe you can make something out of it. Don't say, "Oh, I'd like to do that, but I could never make a living doing it, I could never support myself."

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