Before Alex and Chloe got married they made a plan.
The two knew they wanted to work together, more specifically, they wanted to run a sustainable farm. But they wanted to do more than just dream about their future, they wanted to make it happen. So, they wrote up a 3-page, single-spaced manifesto of sorts that outlined their hopes and dreams.
Their plan included everything from a loose timeline of when they’d start their work to the kinds of crops and livestock they wanted to raise. It mapped out when they hoped to start a family, buy land and expand production. Alex and Chloe even sketched up a small picture of what they wanted their farm to look like. Then, they sent their plan to a handful of close friends and family.
That was almost nine years ago.
Now, Alex and Chloe are the proud owners of Robinette Farms in Martell, Nebraska. They’ve lived and worked on the farm since 2010 and can’t imagine their lives anywhere else. The house, the land and even their community has been a big part of their story over the past six years, and it’s shown them how their plans are ultimately out of their control.
Their twin daughters, Fiona and Roisin, twirled around the kitchen in their tights and ballet skirts, flitting back and forth in the morning light of the kitchen as Alex and Chloe watched them from the living room. The girls giggled between singing songs and eating snacks and then went back to playing their make-believe game.
Alex said starting a family was always a part of their plan. Sure, they had big dreams for their farm but a family was also a major priority. Alex and Chloe had their first daughter, Nina, shortly after moving to the farm in 2010 and the twins followed three years later.
While their family grew, the farm expanded as well. Alex described Chloe as the “brains” behind the farm because of her years of experience working on small farms in Colorado and Vermont.
So when Chloe needed to take a break and stay home with their three daughters, it was time for Alex to step in and make more of the decisions about the farm. Up until then, Chloe’s years of experience and intuition about farming had led their efforts, and Alex was more calculated in his methods. He loved getting his hands dirty and working in the fields, but lacked the years of experience that Chloe possessed.
And yet, they made it work. Chloe took some time off and Alex worked to expand the farm in 2013. They added more vegetable varieties and livestock to their operation, working to find ways to keep growing the farm. It was a lot of work, but also a beautiful season of growth for their family and the farm.
In January 2014, just as Alex and Chloe were finalizing their budget and planning for the new year, their plans suddenly changed.
Alex’s car was rear-ended while at a stoplight near their home. A vehicle going 60 mph slammed into the back of his Subaru, crushing his car and spine. Alex was rushed to the hospital and diagnosed with a critical spinal cord injury.
In that moment, Alex said, nothing else mattered to him other than his family. His priority became taking care of himself so that he could care for Chloe and the girls. While his injury was critical, he wasn’t permanently paralyzed. Alex spent the next two years doing rehabilitation in Lincoln while Chloe ran the operation at the farm.
They quickly re-evaluated their plan for 2014 and made changes to accommodate Alex’s injury. They knew they couldn’t do as much as they had, but they weren’t about to throw up their hands and give up.
Alex and Chloe said that while the accident was a horrible experience it also showed them what an amazing community they had around them. Friends, family and customers raised money to help pay for medical bills and showed up to help with the daily farm chores. Alex’s friends from the volunteer firefighter department showed up at their house to build a ramp for Alex’s wheelchair. There were so many big and small moments that pushed their family forward and gave them the ability to keep moving even in the midst of pain and unmet expectations.
Their plans changed, but so did their perspective.
Between the farm, parenthood and the accident, Alex and Chloe said they’ve learned to let go of some of their plans. They’ve realized so much of life is out of their control, which can either be a freeing or crippling feeling.
They’ve chosen to lean in to their lack of control rather than resist it. In farming itself, there’s so much that’s out of your control – the weather, the growth patterns and even the customers – and yet, Alex said the relational part of their work is what’s made them keep going.
Knowing the stories of families and chefs who use and eat their foods makes the long days in the field or doing office work worthwhile. Alex and Chloe said their relationship has also grown stronger as a result of their work together.
“When you say ‘In sickness and in health,’ you don’t necessarily know what that means,” Alex said. “But we’ve lived that and seen people step up to help us.”
Not every day on the farm is easy – it’s their dream and their livelihood. But when Alex and Chloe think back to that manifesto they wrote all those years ago, they smile because so much of what they wrote has come to life. They own a farm. They have a family. They have each other, and so much more.
They set goals and achieved lots of them, but their story is what happened along the way.