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Today is May 23, 2022

City to Farm Jake Keiser’s healing journey of self-reliance

Jake Keiser doesn’t use alarms anymore to wake up in the morning. Before day’s light, roosters on her farm crow as they sense dawn approaching.

By Steven Ward

City to Farm Jake Keiser’s healing journey of self-reliance

Not long after that, Keiser is out of bed and already at work taking care of her 50 animals — an array of chickens, turkeys, goats, and geese.

Keiser’s life wasn’t always so rural.

Before 2013, Keiser was a city girl. She ran her own high-powered public relations firm in Tampa, Florida. Her life back then was filled with drink dates, shopping sprees, and charity galas.

Then, after struggling with anxiety for years following a
divorce and several miscarriages, Keiser packed up and moved to Mississippi where she bought a five-acre farm just outside
of Oxford.

“This has been the most intense, life changing experience of my life,” Keiser, 48, said recently in the front yard of her farm, Daffodil Hill.

Keiser has penned a memoir about the experience — “Daffodil Hill: Uprooting My Life, Buying a Farm, and Learning to Bloom” (The Dial Press) that will be out June 7.

“I think small town America is fantastic,” Keiser said.

Sometimes it’s just the little things.

In her book, Keiser — a member of North East Mississippi Electric Power Association — wrote about the ease in which
she had her power turned on at the farm after arriving on the first night.

“Dealing with utilities was always a time-consuming task, trying to get service online, fighting to speak with someone on the phone, and then enduring lengthy holds, animated prompts, and payments,” she wrote.

“Expecting the worst, I dialed the number for North East Mississippi Electric Power. One ring, two rings, and then…a real human being’s voice.

‘Hello?’ I said, startled. “Is this, um, the electric company?’

‘It sure is, honey,’ said a thickly accented woman on the other end. ‘How can I help you?’

I explained that I just moved from Tampa, and, as I rifled through my wallet for my debit card, I asked what form of
payment they needed in terms of a deposit. Her response stopped me in my tracks.

‘Oh honey, we’ll get your electric on right away. You just come on into our office when you’re available, and you can pay then, no rush. Don’t you worry about it.’”

Although Keiser has some roots in Mississippi — she lived there some as a child and graduated from the University of
Mississippi — she never dreamed after moving to Florida that she would have moved back to buy a farm in the middle of nowhere.

“Never. Not once. Which is probably one reason why I was so unnerved when I had been living in the city for well over a decade and started having strange desires to be more self-reliant. I didn’t have one single friend who was similarly minded and none who had a farm background. And I had never even touched a chicken,” Keiser said.

Buying a farm on a whim and running it solo meant learning how to take care of animals and the land on the fly. This was no episode of the 1960s Eva Gabor sitcom, “Green Acres.”

“I do a lot of dumb things and have had to learn just about everything the hard way. What most people see about my life is me smiling, interacting with animals but what they don’t see is how devastatingly difficult this lifestyle can be when doing it solo. Animal births, injuries, and deaths are far more common than I expected and just, wow, do those things take their toll emotionally and physically,” Keiser said.

“Cradling your beloved dying animal with no one else around for support is brutal. I can’t count how many times I’ve felt like a failure after trying desperately to save an animal. People don’t see that part.”

But learning how to take care of the animals and the land on her own is part of the big take away from Keiser’s experience.

“This whole thing is about empowerment through self-reliance. It’s about making something yourself. Figure out what you can learn. For me, it’s about not just sitting there stuck in your anxiety,” she said.

Keiser’s journey to self-reliance didn’t begin at the farm.

Before she left Tampa, she started writing a blog, “Gucci to Goats.” Keiser said she wrote the blog to start learning self-reliance skills from a city girl perspective. 

“I had no idea I’d actually be moving to a farm so soon. Back then, I made videos and blogs about learning to do simple things in your kitchen — like make your own almond milk (I make pecan milk now since I have the trees) or my own, healthy, lotions and lip balms.”

The blog and her eventual move to Mississippi brought her national attention after Cosmopolitan and People wrote stories about Keiser’s life.  

“My blog was never about me, it was about communicating what I was learning, hoping to save others from the heart breaks my lack of experience had caused me. I committed to writing one blog a day about anything I could think of — recipes, animal health, general farm happenings,” she said.

The blog and press attention led to agents reaching out to her about a memoir.

The book is filled with Keiser’s adventures of finding her farm legs — shooting a gun for the first time, hauling wood, tangling with a possum trying to kill her cat, and fixing a water well. 

Keiser said she loves her farm life in Mississippi, and she’s learned that the people of the state are what makes it special.

“Moving back, I’ve certainly paid more attention to our state and its people. We have incredibly kind, helpful people here. And that really stood out from any city I’d ever been to. City people can overlook homeless people as if they’re not even there. Here, if someone is stranded on the side of the road it only takes a few minutes before someone pulls over to see if you need help, and we wave at strangers on back country roads. I love that,” Keiser said.

“What mattered to me changed over time and I’m grateful for the sense of community. Here, even two people who can’t stand each other will drop everything in a time of need to help. I’ve seen many examples of this since moving here, and that’s powerful to me.”

Working on the book was enjoyable, Keiser said, but she’s looking to the future with plans to open a rescue for senior animals.

“I love my rural community. I still don’t exactly fit in, but no one cares now that I have a little farm credibility. They help me; I help them.” 

Visit GuccitoGoats.com for more information about Keiser, Daffodil Hill, and her book.

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