Lucy Owsley (Class of 1992)

  • photo of Lucy Owsleyowner of Boulder Belt Eco-Farm, a small sustainable farm based in Eaton, Ohio
  • Anthropology major (BA Miami, 1992)
  • grows a variety of food for numerous markets throughout southwest Ohio and eastern Indiana, including several Oxford restaurants and the MOON Co-op
  • credits her anthropology courses at Miami for getting her involved in community-supported and sustainable agriculture

My Profession

"I am a small sustainable farmer who grows for direct market sales in southwest Ohio and eastern Indiana. I have been a small diversified sustainable farmer for 23 years, have a 21-year-old community-supported agriculture (CSA), and have sold produce at many farmers markets in southwest Ohio, including in Oxford.

"My job is running a small farm, Boulder Belt Eco-Farm, with my husband. In addition to planting, harvesting, doing maintenance, and handling poultry, I also do most of our marketing, bookkeeping, website, and social media. In addition to that, I also run our farm store and CSA.

"I started farming by accident. I was working as a chef and part-time horse trainer when I moved to Preble County and bought property with access to over 30 acres. Although we had no intentions of becoming an organic CSA farmer at the time, a bountiful pear tree and a bunch of green beans got us to the farmers market in Richmond, Indiana. From there, over 13 years, we went from a tiny home garden to 10 acres of certified organic crops. As we went from one farmer's market to another, we got better at growing and selling and eventually ended up on the team that created the Oxford Uptown farmer's market, where we sold produce to several Oxford restaurants and the MOON Co-op!

"In 2005, we bought a farm of our own north of Eaton, Ohio and eventually joined the Eaton Farmer's Market. We now sell to various markets throughout the region, and in 2012 we were named Farm Heroes by Edible magazine. Our farm has also been featured in publications such as Acres USA, Edible Ohio Valley, and Farm World."

Best Miami Experiences

"I am from Oxford, and my father, William G. Owsley, was an architecture professor at Miami for over 30 years. I can honestly say I have been a Miami student since I was a small child, as I literally grew up on campus and have a lot of great memories.

"After dropping out of a Wisconsin art school in the early 1980s, I was spinning my wheels when I met someone who introduced me to Dr. Ronald Spielbauer, who was an associate professor of archaeology at Miami. He encouraged me to get back into school, so I officially enrolled in Miami, declared my major in anthropology, and ended up doing archaeology for a living — that is, until I discovered organic farming!

"The game changer at Miami that helped lead me to sustainable farming was an environmental anthropology class taught by Dolph Greenberg in Miami's Institute for Environmental Sciences, later renamed to the Institute for the Environment and Sustainability (IES). If I had not taken that class, I seriously doubt I would have discovered my rewarding career!"

Miami and the Liberal Arts

"The liberal arts teaches one to think critically, which is a skill that seems to be a rare commodity these days. Anthropology majors utilize critical thinking to a high degree, and I believe that that alone will prepare a person for most things in life.

Being in my 50s, I am getting closer and closer to retirement, but I would like to get more into education and start teaching more workshops and farm tours to show people how to grow food and introduce them to farming. 95% of the U.S. population has no idea how food is grown, and that leads to bad food choices and poor health."

Advice to Students

"Having gone off on my own and created my own business, I feel that I use many of the skills I learned at Miami all the time. Market farming requires you to have a nimble and creative mind — and critical thinking is an absolute must.

"Although the government and lots of big companies like Apple and Google are seeking out anthropology majors these days for their critical thinking skills, it's important for you to not be afraid to look for work outside of your major. Like me, you could very easily discover a path you'd never considered!"

[June 2017]