In the spring of 1898 my great-grandfather, Adam Fox, hopped a freight train bound for the Florida Keys. He came all the way from Jacksonville on the newly completed Florida East Coast Railway. According to my mother’s diary, he told her he’d been seeking a new start in a new land. According to his own journal, he owed money to a sugar baron in north Florida. He had accumulated some bad debts in Georgia. Barely eighteen, he was already in trouble with the law and searching for an escape.
On one of his stopovers, my great-grandpa overheard some fellow transients talking about a large contingent of Michigan farmers in a town called Linton. They were making a killing in the winter flower and vegetable business. With the newly finished railroad, farmers finally had a way to transport their produce to the financially prosperous northern states. The Yankees were always craving products they could not provide for themselves. Linton was a vast new frontier with immense possibilities, and there was no one to stop him from reaping his share of the profits. Instead of continuing on his path to the Keys, Adam took a detour.
The day he arrived in town, my great- grandfather met a rich heir to a railroad fortune. The man had lots of money and no working knowledge of farming. His name was Garrison Peterson, and from their very first meeting, Adam could tell he was not the brightest bulb in the box. Over the next forty years, the two of them worked together to build one of the largest winter vegetable empires in the United States.
I wake up almost every morning with the same two questions: How can I use the resources I have been given to make the world a better place and will I ever find someone to spend my life with who wants to do the same? After all, love is the answer to most of life’s important questions. It is the explanation for our existence, our raison d’etre. Without the promise of it, there is no reason to go on. I am not merely speaking of romantic love, though that is arguably the most compelling. I refer to love in all its forms; a mother’s love for her child, a painter’s love for his canvas, or a sister’s love for her sibling.