Persevering as an “Accidental Farmer”
Marlila Hickin describes herself as an “accidental farmer.” She grew up far from an agricultural community in the suburbs of east Texas. In 2002, Marlila and her husband moved to his family’s farm, which dates to the 1800s, in northwest Virginia. When Marlila and her husband first purchased the land, they rented the 90-acre farm to a tenant who grazed cows.
Four years after they moved back to the farm, Marlila’s husband passed away in a plane crash. With the support of her family, friends, and community, she continued to live on the farm with her five children rather than move back to Texas.
“From my very first learning circle to my last circle, my attitude changed,” she says. “I am able to confidently go into a room full of male farmers and feel as if I have earned permission to speak for my land. My point of view matters.”
In December 2017, she decided to give notice to her tenant that she was going to start farming the entirety of the land on her own. Since then, she enrolled in the USDA’s Conservation Reserve Enhancement Program and implemented best practices for streambank erosion and rotational grazing fencing.