Dancers retire and do all sorts of interesting things. Sometimes the new job isn’t far from the studio–such as a teacher or a choreographer. Sometimes they go back to school and study something totally different.
Today we share one of those stories with you. Meet Paris Wilcox, formerly of Kansas City Ballet. Paris decided to return to his family roots and become a farmer when he stopped dancing full time. We hope you enjoy the story of how he decided on this direction, and what it has been like to switch careers…
1. When did you start thinking about a post-dance career?
I was born and raised on a Dairy in upstate NY, and learned all about responsibility, initiative, risk, and reward at a very early age. My father is a 4th-generation farmer, so I always knew that the “Farm life” was a chromosomal part of who I was, but didn’t think much about it…everything about my upbringing was normal to me, from drinking raw milk for twenty years to taking ballet class. I spent every summer at home, from kindergarten through my retirement from Kansas City Ballet, so I always knew that I wanted to return.
Even though my father sold the dairy herd and young stock in 1992…farmers call it “selling out”…my summers after 1998 were spent rebuilding the by-then-dissolved physical farm infrastructure, many miles of perimeter fence for cattle and sheep…by hand, managing the flock, making hay, and doing field work.
2. What drew you to organic farming?
Technically, we are “non-certified Organic,” which means that we are Organic, but don’t want to spend the money for constant Organic certifications. The farm had always been organic; my father never used chemical fertilizers or insect sprays. If he had a cow sick with mastitis or pneumonia, he gave her antibiotics, but those cases were few.
My father always managed the land in a way to maximize the growing seasons, and used natural fertilizers to great advantage. I remember a neighbor scoffing at my father’s talking about considering Organic milk production back in the late 80’s, the neighbor assured him that the Organic movement wouldn’t amount to anything, but it turns out Dad was right.
The way we are set up now, with beef cattle and sheep, makes chemicals irrelevant. The sheep especially like weeds and shrubs, and get fat on good grass. Ironically, they are the best weed killer out there; they eat so close to the ground that they kill broadleaf weeds. I have seen them literally turn a rough pasture of weeds and native grass into a pure stand of clover the following year. Our organic approach simply works well for us, and we don’t need to alter it. Besides, I don’t like chemicals around my food.
3. What do you enjoy most about farming? [Read more…]