When the Teacher Met the Farmer

True love grew among rows of veg­eta­bles.

Farm & Ranch Living - - CONTENTS - BY SE­LENA DONALDSON HACKETTSTOWN, NEW JERSEY

It was a fleet­ing thought as I ar­rived at a friend’s 1,100-acre farm to baby-sit her chil­dren: Maybe I will meet a farmer. Lit­tle did I know that was about to be­come a re­al­ity. I had grown close to the fam­ily of one of my kin­der­garten stu­dents the pre­vi­ous school year, be­com­ing good friends with Katie Donaldson, whose son Matthew was in my class. So I didn’t think any­thing of it when Katie texted me and asked if I could come over to watch the kids so she could go out to cel­e­brate her July birth­day with her hus­band. I was happy to do it. Shortly af­ter I ar­rived, Matthew’s 10-year-old brother, Ai­dan, of­fered me a speedy ATV ride to the fam­ily farm’s mar­ket. As we drove to grab straw­ber­ries and milk for that night, I was amazed to see the tall rows of sweet corn al­most ready for har­vest, as­para­gus in over­growth, plen­ti­ful let­tuce and more. At one point, we passed a man and a dog. I asked Ai­dan about the dog. “Oh, that’s Jill,” he said. “That’s my cousin Justin’s dog.”

Once we got back to Katie’s farm­house, I ate pop­corn and pizza with the boys. I also took in the gor­geous view through the win­dows. Nearby, horses grazed on the sum­mer pas­ture. Sud­denly, I heard a door open, and in walked Justin. I later found out that Katie, ever the match­maker, had told him to stop by and say hello. I of­fered him a slice of pizza, and we chat­ted. We even­tu­ally, again with Katie’s help, ex­changed our phone num­bers. Once Justin and I started dat­ing, I wit­nessed first­hand how work­ing on a farm is worth ev­ery late night and early morn­ing—we take care of the land and one an­other. I saw the ded­i­ca­tion it takes to grow good crops, in­clud­ing how to plant and har­vest at just the right times. I sat next to Justin as he drove a com­bine. I watched the Donaldson fam­ily work to­gether to keep things run­ning. Katie’s hus­band, Greg, runs the farm’s mar­ket­place and small-crops op­er­a­tion; Justin’s Un­cle David runs the green­house; and Justin and his dad, Gary, run the whole­sale di­vi­sion of the large crops, such as corn and pump­kins. I was fall­ing more and more in love with the farm life­style—and with Justin. Two years from the day we met, he planned a sur­prise. Katie had in­vited me over to baby-sit again for her birth­day din­ner. When I ar­rived, she asked if I could first walk with her to the green­house to pick up some items. There, I saw Justin stand­ing next to a red 1988 Jeep, com­plete with a gi­ant red bow on top. As I ran to him, all I could think was, Wow, a Jeep for the an­niver­sary of the day we met! All I got him was a card and a slice of cake. I ex­cit­edly be­gan to tell Justin how much I loved Jeeps and how fun it would be to drive around the farm. Af­ter hop­ping in, I sud­denly no­ticed a sparkling en­gage­ment ring in the cup holder! Justin took the ring from my hands, asked me to step out of the Jeep, got down on one knee and pro­posed. I couldn’t be­lieve it! Mo­ments later, my par­ents came out from hid­ing, along with Justin’s dad, aunt, un­cle and cousins. They had been watch­ing the en­tire time.

One year later, on the third an­niver­sary of the day we met, we mar­ried. The cel­e­bra­tion, on July 1, 2017, took place at the Donaldson fam­ily farm. It was such a spe­cial day, partly be­cause of all the lit­tle details. I drove to the wed­ding in the same Jeep that Justin used to pro­pose; we had fully re­stored it be­fore the wed­ding. Jill, Justin’s faith­ful Stafford­shire ter­rier I saw that first day, walked down the aisle with him. And my en­tire kin­der­garten class from the pre­vi­ous school year was in­vited to at­tend. As Justin and I look to the fu­ture, we can’t wait to build our for­ever home on the Donaldson farm. We hope to raise chil­dren on the land his fam­ily has owned since 1906. I’m so proud to be a farmer’s wife.

En­gaged two years af­ter the day they met, Justin and Se­lena (be­low) hosted a dual July Fourth/ en­gage­ment party sev­eral days later.

Se­lena and Justin Donaldson were mar­ried on the same farm where they had their first meet­ing.

All the fes­tiv­i­ties took place on the Donaldson fam­ily farm, where the fam­ily set out straw bales (above) for their guests to sit on dur­ing the cer­e­mony. The wed­ding party (mid­dle and bot­tom) had fun work­ing the farm theme into the photos.

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