The motherwort in full bloom called for grey goose and tinctures. The lemon balm called for hot water immediately, and more for drying. The nettles made great omelettes and jars of tea. Kale came in abundance, spring yard salads decorated the table, the march of the flowers steadily brought the warm breezes out of the chilly frog-voiced nights, starting from the yellows of daffodils and forsythia into the blues of iris, violets and bachelor buttons. Now the roses crawl the fences and barn sides, and I am glad to know my home soil. The asparagus sprouted, potatoes are peeping up, tomatoes and blue berries setting, blackberries forming, and raspberries setting their canes further into the overgrown yard. I am of here. I belong. This is home.
My efforts to add to the pool of work to produce local food were called into question a year after beginning, when someone else started offering the same gift, for a fee. I tried to contact them to find out if their effort had been a success. If so, I would not compete, offering free financial workshops, when they might need to make a living and farmers were willing to pay. I backed off. I waited to see if anyone contacted me. Months have gone by and no one has stepped up or reached out. I do not feel the offering was focused enough. The goal was collaborative supportive community. What I found was a lot of wanting to do the work but not a lot of deciding to track the numbers. The numbers are just a hurdle. They’d be better off if I choe a few I could just do the books for, or if i found accountants willing to donate their time. That would be helpful!
We use our land like a bank. We whore out our own mother. I am angry. These systems – the banking system, the economic engine of housing, the tax breaks for clearing all the land and planting monoculture trees.
Do we not know quality? Do we have no sense of value? If we fancy ourselves aware of a quality life, then why do we allow this use-job? Why do we sell out? We use the land, and once we put a house there, we use it again. We borrow on the house to pay for other immediate needs, or because colleges demand the ‘equity’, and in so doing we tie the place deeper to a hopeless future.
Every time we cash out our land, we make it less and less possible that the bit of soil we know can remain free to breathe. There’s no way to maintain a home place if it’s in hock to the bank. In the end, the land will have to be put up on the block and sold to the highest bidder because, like the giving tree, it is asked to give every last bit of itself for our greed and need.
We buy and sell the land. Chief Seattle was right. (Actually, apparently he never said those words, but the phrase is still right.) That’s where we went wrong, the buying and selling.
Private property? Private is nice. But property? We all know what’s happened to women and others who have been property. The story of the soil is a story of rape, abuse, use, entitled privilege and a mystic veil of cultural heritage. I am not so sure this legacy is anything but shameful, just as our other stories of property.
This land is not yours to use as you wish. Pimps! Take your profits and go, go away from here, away from the land I love, honor, cherish and respect. You have no relationship to this land, you objectify and see cash.
Go make an honest living.
A dozen small farmers gathered in the warmth of Dawn Breaker Farms’ living room, as late winter rain poured down outside. Carol Hewitt shared stories of requesting and gathering funds, from hundreds to a few thousand, for that tractor or roll of row cover. “The last check you write should bounce”, she quipped. Carol has a philosophy about money and it’s not about accumulation and the next generation; her legacy advice has more to do with using money like seeds and soil: regeneratively, creatively, to grow more resources.
I drove away thinking of others in the community whom I might call upon, and the thought emerged that I need to bring in our mentors, our ‘elders’ who have put in a few decades at the small farm game. Maybe Alex or Cathy will come next time. I will ask them.
What a privilege to spend time with people of substance: people who have chosen a path and walk it well. I am sinking into this community. The roots that bind me here have held strong, and as the wrinkles begin to line my face, I feel my core softening. As my wood turns dowdy, I will gladly fall in place with the hope that somehow my being here brought a bit of fresh air to those with whom I’ve had the gift of growing alongside.
Be well, beloveds.
Come on up to Ben’s place: “Good food. Raised right.” Bring a folding chair. You have time to go to church/meeting/zendo/synagogue/the woods in the morning. We’ve moved these to afternoons. Ben can only seat 30, and we already have 15 after only posting this once, a week ago. Carol Hewitt is one popular woman! She’s also lovely and brilliant, so, go figure.
Since 2010, Carol has helped farmers and local food businesses find affordable peer-to-peer loans, and now is launching SOIL, a revolving loan fund funded by charitable donations. See her website: SlowMoney NC about the SOIL fund!
Carol was raised by a New England vet who packed her about with him from farm to farm, much in the way of James Herriot. As the landscape of her home gave way to development, and farms disappeared, Carol’s current purpose took root. For years, she supported her spouse Mark Hewitt, who is a renowned NC potter, and she raised two lovely daughters into young, empowered women. And, by the way, she also wrote a book, helped launch a food co-op and a local musical. No big deal.
Now she is showing up in a new way for small farmers, with her usual brilliance and her whole heart. You do not want to miss getting some time with her.
And, by the way, you don’t want to miss Ben either. Why is it that men named Ben tend to live up to their gentle-heart name? This one is no exception – except that he is a rather exceptional example! Come see Ben at Dawnbreaker Farms. And spend time with your peers. It’s time to fill up our spirits before the season gets underway.
To visit SOIL: https://slowmoneync.org/soil
See you on the 4th!
Her goats were producing so much milk that Katherine started making cheese, and then she had so much cheese that she started calling friends to come get it. This is the slippery slope of farming. Fleming told a similar tale back when I apprenticed at Celebrity Dairy. That was 1993. 25 years since I landed in Chatham. 25 years of friendship and community and Farmschool programs. Katherine and I go back farther, to Chapel Hill in the late 80s, and she goes way back, because she’s from here.
How is it that I get a friend who gives away chevre? That’s like having a money tree. And a soul tree. I guess that’s what it means to take root in a place. Katherine has roots, deep ones. Though mine are more shallow, they still hold me hard to the bedrock of home. I can’t seem to leave, now. I think about it, dream of blue ridge rocking chair views, fold upon fold of mothering bosoms fading into the mist, but the inexorable draw of community and culture will likely see me scratching at white clay, watching pink and baby blue sunsets at Screech Owl.
Season extension and fall gardens are in the works, and several of you are into home projects that need to be finished before winter. Tony preferred an earlier date for his workshop, so we will have to wait and see if his offering is a part of the picture.
In November, we will gather and have guest speakers at a farm near Saxapahaw, and will update you over email regarding the finalized date. Currently November 12 is coming up (Veteran’s Day Weekend) as a good option for some of you. Lunch is BYO, with share food optional.
That day we will also offer an after-training social: Farm Financials Journal making workshop (1 – 4 pm) following the financials session (11a – 1p), to help you really want to keep your books! 🙂 There will be a fee for materials ($20)
Here’s to a sweet transition into Fall,
The folks at Farmschool
I’ve been walking around my childhood farm with my inner child, helping her say goodbye to all her favorite places, and get used to the idea that we would never live there again. Decades later, the loss is as palpable as the day I realized they meant it – we were really moving, selling the farm. It hit me like a truck. I never recovered. I never mothered that girl through the mourning, until now.
Under the maple trees out front is where I met her, crying, saying goodbye to each blade of grass under the row of stately ancients, who have stood with this house for over 100 years.
We walked. First, into the harvest room, with it’s cool brick floors, where we processed chickens and canned beans in the big double sink; out here is where we ground wheat for bread that Mom made every week. These are the big windows we opened from the inside to reach into the raised beds, cold frames that kept tomatoes safe and that we could get to from inside; there is the well under the kitchen floor; and out in the barn, climb the stairs and climb the ladder up into the huge bin of oats in the loft, the one they come and pour hundreds of pounds of feed into each year, where we swim in the hulls; over there is the straw and hay we bale each summer and put up. We are careful not to break them and we make forts all through them; down there is where we make the igloos in huge piles of snow Dad would make with the tractor bucket, with rooms so big we could make fires in there and sleep. Across the orchard is our huge in-ground pool where I have my pool party at the end of the school year.
We are farmers. My home is a big white 1850s farmhouse on a hill, with the biggest swing set anyone has ever seen because Dad made it out of telephone poles. This s my pony who is so naughty, but she is mine, and one day I will have a horse of my own, who I will ride with my beloved riding teacher. This is where I am from; this is who I am.
To be away from my farm is to not be myself. How could I ever leave? How could I ever live without this which is my essence, my self, my core, my identity. I am Celia from Flowering Rod Farm. What do you mean we are leaving? What will happen to me? You are ripping me out of my soil. I will be lost, forever.
Woods, fields, farm, flowers
You are my home forever
I’ll never forget.
We now have three farms with land seeking farmers. I, who always wanted a farm, seem to be collecting them beyond capacity to hold! I didn’t know it would turn out like this; how ironic. I do not own them fiscally. Their titles remain someone else’s, so if you choose to pursue, please know this is going to be a walk that might or might not end up in your name. Some of the landowners are open to that conversation.
If you choose to farm someone else’s property, I support long-term leases, and lease-to-own, in general. Each situation is thoroughly unique and every single relationship as tender and tenuous as farming.
Contact us at the address which appears, if you are a farmer interested in a long-term lease in Orange or Chatham counties. One farm is just north of Hillsborough, a large multi-acre lot with garden in disrepair, fenced, with access to water and a garden shed. Micro-housing could be an option, but is not provided. Another is closer to Chapel Hill, just over five acres with a liveable microhouse/shed. The third is a bit over an acre and a half south of Siler City.
Farmers, we honor that your investment of sweat and time cannot be replaced, that your youth and energy, passion and purpose all add value. We know you tend to be independent sorts, and are not to be taken lightly. Our goal is to keep farms on the landscape. We will nurture this relationship as you go forward, and support legal and long-term wise business structures for sustainable relationships with humans and the land.
We are so grateful for your good food.
The Ideal Soil: Handbook
Supposedly this book is the bees knees for soil…