Why I Farm: Paul Kempf


I come from a long line of Irish farmers…

It’s really my maternal grandparents fault. My grandfather was born in Ireland in 1900. He came from a wealthy family of tobacco/potato dealers. When he immigrated here in the early teens, Ireland was still an English colony. My maternal grandmother’s people came during the Great Famine of the 1850’s. They settled initially in Long Island, New York – were they grew – potatoes. It was there she met my grandfather – he drove a potato truck for the family business. Sometime during the Depression they moved to the Catskill Mountains – they found the bony, mountain land not conducive to potatoes. So, they switched to livestock – sheep and dairy cattle. I was born on their farm, in Cornwallville, NY, on Windham Mountain.

Eventually, my parents would buy their own farm, in the Town of Greenvile, about 20 miles east of my grandparents. It was a big, old farmhouse (13 rooms), good for raising kids. The farm was 60 acres, with an old timber frame barn. I would spend my teenage years there (the first few years without running water). We were surrounded by old (70 and 80 year old) farmers. Their children had all left for good paying jobs in the cities (Albany and New York). These were the last vestiges of the family farms that dotted eastern New York. These were honest, hard working men, and like my grandfather they put in a good days work well into their 80s. Many died in the homes they were born in, doing what they did and loved their whole life – farming. They were my mentors in my teenage years. These men taught me a love of the land, the livestock and the crops that fed them. They taught me that honest is always the best way to do business.

They left a lasting impression me – that farming was hard, but rewarding work. But even more then that, they left me with a love for the land and the men (and women) who work that land.  I am one lucky man – I am grateful for the lessons they taught me. I carry on that tradition. That is why I farm.


Great post, you were lucky to have those grandparents!

You are truly fortunate, Paul, and also cursed. You know what it’s like to make an honest living and to live authentically. You learned at the feet of good men and women. The blessing in that is obvious. The curse is that most of the people that you (we) deal with today have not been steeped in this goodness and are students of the current business ethics (?), skim off all the cream, deplete the resource, kill the goose, get big. Some days this country of mine feels like a foreign land. Your post was refreshing.

Thank you for this Paul. You have so much to pass down to teens and young adults today, hungry for mentors willing to demonstrate your strength of character and love of the land.

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