I was introduced to small-scale sustainable agriculture in high school, when my parents joined a Community Supported Agriculture (CSA) program through a vegetable farm in Chatham County. We started receiving a CSA box every week, receiving vegetables like fennel and bok choy, making seasonal eating an exotic adventure. I became interested in this type of farming after we visited the homestead and farm that we were supporting; their way of life was logical to me as a young environmentalist and attractive to me as a person with a love for natural beauty and simplicity. Moving to Chapel Hill to attend UNC soon after threw me into the heart of North Carolina’s strong local food movement, and the summer after my freshman year, I worked on a local vegetable farm and spent my Saturdays selling their produce at the Carrboro Farmer’s Market. That farm was Maple Spring Gardens, owned by Ken Dawson, one of the visionaries and pioneers for the local and organic movement in North Carolina, among many others who sold at that market.
Fast forward six years, to the day after my twenty-fifth birthday, as I crunched through the snow at the Farm Incubator and Grower (FIG) Farm in Valle Crucis, NC, where I would begin my journey as an independent grower in the 2014 season. I will be renting ½ acre on this site in the picturesque valley of crosses, so named because of the convergence of three streams in the shape of the cross. I am currently doing soil tests, ordering seeds, applying to Farmer’s Markets, and planning my season, while also wrapping up at the Small Farm in Goldsboro, where I’ve been apprenticing with the Center for Environmental Farming Systems this winter. In one week (February 1) I will be launching a campaign on Indiegogo to help fund my expenses for the season. In two weeks (February 8), I will be caravanning with my parents from Raleigh to move my belongings to my new home on the Maverick Farms homestead in Banner Elk.
As I worked my way through college, graduating with an Environmental Studies degree, I considered many career paths, but my love of and fascination with sustainable farming both as a career and a lifestyle has remained constant. I have worked for three organic vegetable farms since graduating from college in 2011. My experiences have not always been fun; in fact, when I am thinking about farm tasks I have to remind myself to think of certain jobs as “challenging” rather than “jobs I don’t like to do.” There is a lot of hard work involved in vegetable farming, and quite a bit of creativity is required when faced with obstacles. There is very cold weather and very hot weather, and farm work continues in both of these. There are extreme weather events like the deluge of last summer in North Carolina that cost many farmers crop losses. There are hours of hand weeding and harvesting and more time spent on your knees or squatting than in any other profession I know of. But there is also the quiet moment at 7 AM when it is just you, the sun rising, your field, and the whole blessed world waking up. There is the reward of eating produce grown from your own hands, sometimes in quantities far beyond what you had hoped. There is the pride that comes with sharing this gift with others in your community, knowing that you are nurturing their bodies with healthy food, and safeguarding the health of our water and air, to which we are all inextricably linked.
I am so excited to be stepping into this moment in my life, and sharing it with the local food community of Watauga County! Over the past few months, I have made several trips to the area and also attended several large farming conferences around North Carolina. The people that I have met from the High Country have made me feel energized to be involved with the food movement in this area, and so privileged to be a part of this community. As I embark on this journey, I will share my story on this blog, and on Facebook and twitter. It’s important to me to share what I am learning and experiencing with everyone that I can, in hopes you can glean from it some knowledge, entertainment, and inspiration.
Thank you to those who are making this opportunity possible for me: Maverick Farms for starting this incubator project, and Matt Cooper, the farming mentor for this project. Stay tuned for more!