February 4th, Hurdle Mills, Dawnbreaker Farms SOIL with Carol Hewitt

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!


Katherine’s Cheese

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.

Fall Farm Financials: Making and Keeping the Books. Save 11/12

Hi folks,

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.

Finding Farms

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.

Not farming, farms and farmers

Something snipped my zinnias at 12″.   Who does that?

You know what?  I’m not sure it matters.

Having zinnias makes me happy, but having farms on the landscape makes me happier.   I can lose my zinnias; I can’t lose my farm culture.  If the system of small farms fail, we’ve lost our local culture.   How can I help?  Right now, I’m working on the financial piece because that seems like a leg in the stool. That’s what showed up first.

Recently, a local farmer tried a new financial model for gifting her farm while paying off the mortgage. So many people found their dreams taking root, yet the funds did not roll in.  There’s a week left to apply (August 1 deadline).  I wonder what the farmer will do.  People are watching. I hoped this would start a trend, a new way to turn over the farm, a new farm transition model.  It may have.  The next one to try, the “first follower” might find it easy, and then a watershed may follow. But for Norma, who went first, it was all rock-moving, no tilling.

Hat’s off to her for hard work.

Ocean Water

According to my latest guru, sea minerals are the best biostimulant for your garden.  That is, sea water.   Makes sense, since all our runoff (including nutrients) ends in the sea.  1 cup of sea water per square foot of soil is the annual suggestion.  Many of you already know the benefits of using clean sea salt on your food. You can buy sea solids, or a concentrated liquid such as Sea Crop.  This product is diluted significantly, so you only use teaspoons at a time.

There are over 80 trace minerals in the ocean.  Compared to rock dust, sea water has significantly more minerals.

As for pollution in the ocean, yes, that is a valid concern.  Pristine, deep ocean water and living microbes make the packaged product possibly higher quality than you can gather on your own from your local coast.  But, I would support trying ocean water first if you can get some away from an impaired river mouth.  Those chickens we have grazing will benefit, too.

Original research done by Maynard Murray: Sea Energy Agriculture.  Additional research published by Dr Charles Water: Fertility from the Ocean Deep.

What a Group!

Sorry to tell you this, but if you didn’t come, you missed a great talk at a spectacular farm!  Or maybe it’s the other way around: spectacular talk at a great farm. …

In the comfort of an air conditioned barn classroom at the Newlin’s Peaceful River Farm, ten farmers gathered to get an overview of the work ahead.   In one hour, Tony Kleese summarized the entire structure and reason for a solid crop budgeting system that will keep your farm “in the green”.   Tony’s course will be held at Breeze Farm in Orange County over three evenings.  The course is $75  for nine hours of training.  All evidence and testimony from today point to the incredible value this will add to your work over the years to come. Thank you Tony!   For more about Tony,  visit Earthwise Organics. 

The dedication and depth of thought present in this group of small farmers left me in Silence.  Quakers practice Silence, and the Newlins come from a long line of local Quakers. Peace is a core value of Quakerism; Lee shared when we arrived how she’d just been sitting on the porch this morning and was once again struck by the peacefulness of her farm, saying that the farm is well-named.

When Larry shared that the river otters play in the Haw at the bottom of their farm, everyone smiled.  Such is the promise among us: to care for the land and leave it better for our having been part of the community of all beings sharing the space.  Add to that the minor miracle we heard when someone asked Larry if that fence was in any way deer proof:  “Oddly enough, the deer don’t tend to bother the garden.”  Now that’s a blessed farm!

They blessed us with their gift of time, space to gather, a beautiful setting to inspire, and delicious mint-lime-apple cider vinegar iced drinks.  Thank you Lee and Larry for such an enriching day.

July 9th Farm Financials Gathering

We have 8 people signed up so far to gather and discuss Crop Planning and Farm Budgeting.  Tony Kleese has generously offered his expertise for the meeting, and we are still nailing down a location near Saxapahaw.  The time is 11 – 2.   If you have room at your farm where we can sit for a powerpoint and chat, and maybe it’s in the shade (!) please get in touch.  Thanks and see you then!  Our email is farm@ this URL.

For other resources, try:   Small Farm Central