California couple settle in Valley Forge to start organic farm

Published 10:12 am Monday, April 13, 2015

Following a dream to start their own small organic farm led Emily Cronk and Rob Schoch from California to settle in the Valley Forge community with the hope of getting started toward their goals.

The couple settled into their new home at the end of January and started work planning for their future farm.

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“We had been working on two larger farms, and we wanted to get started and do our own thing,” Cronk said. “We want to do everything. We want to offer many different crops, bring them to a farmers market and start a CSA (community-supported agriculture). We can make our own decisions and grow what we want.”

In organic farming, no chemical pesticides are used during the growing process. Natural forms of pesticides, such as insects that eat harmful bugs, are used instead. For Cronk and Schoch, the natural lifestyle has always been a part of who they are.

“We came for the reason of starting our own farm,” Schoch said. “Emily wanted to be her own boss. She wanted to grow the vegetables for herself and for the community. We hope we can share this within the community too and teach others about what it means to be organic.”

The couple left their jobs on organic farms in California in the summer of 2014 to start working toward the goal of starting their own. The cost of living and real estate in California was too high which made it difficult for the couple to establish a new farm there, they said.

“You can’t buy a home with land out there, “ Cronk said.

Before settling in Elizabethton, they traveled around California hiking and then drove across the country, living in a van and exploring their options.

Then in January, Schoch’s sister offered them the option of renting to own a house she owns in Valley Forge. They soon decided that the house, which comes with eight acres, was the perfect spot for their future farming endeavors.

“We chose this location because we love the mountains, and there are four seasons,” Cronk said. “It’s a small town but it is near bigger cities. It is the right mix of everything.”

Elizabethton’s location near other areas that have a heavy focus on organic and natural food choices was another plus, Schoch said.

“It seems the time is right to have this type of thing here,” he said. “There are not a lot of organic options around here. There are some in Asheville and in Boone. There are more people like us coming into the area looking for affordable options.”

For now, the couple has lots of ideas for what to do to their farm, but they need help getting started.

Currently, the land they are planning to use needs to be cleared and tilled to allow for farming, but they do not have a tractor or the necessary equipment to get that task completed.

To achieve that, they have established a Kickstarter campaign to help raise money for their new-to-them tractor and for land clearing. The campaign can be found at

They have raised around a quarter of their $4,000 goal to purchase the tractor and get the land cleared.

“We hate to ask for money but if this can help us get started, then we will,” Cronk said. “This land has a lot of potential and we would love to see it realized.”

Once the land is cleared, the couple plan to start a farm with a variety of organic vegetables including those traditionally grown in gardens as well as more unique offerings, like red and blue corn and purple potatoes. They also plan to raise chickens and ducks, along with pigs, goats and cows in the long-term. The plans for the farm also include orchards.

“We’re just settling in here and we are excited to get going, but we need to get the ground broken up,” Cronk said.

The couple will first start with a small garden and expand as they can. They have been collecting seeds and have started growing them in smaller pots to get them started before transferring them into the ground.

As for their day jobs, Schoch is a 7th and 8th-grade science teacher at Cloudland High School; Cronk is looking for a teaching job as an English as a second language teacher. He is currently working as a substitute teacher.

Once their farm is established, the couple plan to open it to school groups for learning sessions, to help with farmer’s markets and establish a CSA. Through a CSA, individuals sign up for a weekly food box containing vegetables that have been grown locally and are in season.

“Until we have the ground tilled, we can’t really get started and we can’t really fully envision what we are going to do,” Cronk said. “We have these ideas but we need to have that done so we can start on them.”

Cronk can be contacted at with any suggestions or donations.