Farmer John (Snowden)

Tending data by day, crops by night

John Snowden
On campus, systems analyst John Snowden tackles perplexing computer-programming challenges. Off campus, “Farmer John” relishes his other passion. He raises vegetables in the same rich, dark soil that his grandfather farmed in rural Currituck, North Carolina, and regularly shares his wide-ranging knowledge of food, nature, astronomy, publishing, business and life with visitors.

Why did you get into farming?

I was the publisher and editor of a weekly newspaper in Currituck at the time, and I decided I needed a hobby. I wanted something to get me away from the computer and get me outside where I could walk around.

What do you like about farming?

My late sister and I got into farming to do what I’m doing now: to teach people and to feed people. I want to teach people to be self-sufficient. I’m diabetic, so that’s another reason I got into farming. I was concerned about what I was eating, especially the chemicals often used in farming. I’m also drawn to wildlife on the farm. We often see bald eagles, great heron, ospreys — even the occasional bear. A lot of times, I leave here, get home, eat dinner, go out at night and sometimes work until 1 a.m. It’s not tiring at all, and my blood sugar is lower. It’s therapy.

Do you see any connection between programming and farming?

The projects I see here can appear overwhelming. Running a farm can be overwhelming. I break things down into steps. That’s what a systems analyst does. I like planting a seed and seeing the end product. That can be a vegetable. Or it can be planting a seed of knowledge in a co-worker and stimulating it to grow, or nurturing a strong work ethic in kids who come to work on the farm.

What do you like about your job at EVMS?

If I won the lottery tomorrow, I’d still show up to work here. I love working at EVMS. I love the people. I love what we do. I tell people, “I’m not a doctor, but I help make them.” We don’t interact with the students a lot, but if they have problems, I go out of my way to help them because they’re the reason we’re here.