Digging into Hart’s Mill Community Farming Initiative

By Margret Muller

Jeffry and Margret of Seeing Stars Farm (SSF), with support and assistance from the rest of the Land Stewardship Circle, held a Last Saturday event on January 26 at Hart’s Nest.  Sixteen people gathered to launch what we are calling the Community Farming Initiative (a.k.a. “Farm-Aid”, minus the famous musicians, sadly). 

Our presentation began with a brief visit to the farm to help folks picture the area we will be farming.  Back at Hart’s Nest, Anthony spoke about our agrarian mission and Paul gave us a brief history of the milestones in HM’s farm development. Jeffry then showed us Bobby Tucker’s Master Farm Plan, indicating the area currently under development for vegetable farming. He explained that Seeing Stars Farm’s existing  arrangement with HM is to farm for ourselves for now with the understanding that this will transition to community farming as soon as appropriate.
Margret explained the reasons and goals for our workshop:
  • Part of Hart’s Mill’s mission is to learn to feed ourselves from the land as best we can, using best practices, as spelled out in both our Mission and Aims document and Principles and Intentions document, especially P&I #3. This  will require education, practice, trial-and-error, and so on. Though doing this is challenging without a physical community in place, it seems like a good idea to make a small start on this now. SSF has been farming on our land for two years. We’ve learned a lot and can assist with this new project almost immediately. 
  • A second big motivator is that HM was given a substantial farm loan a while back, repayment of which will need to start next year. The investor would very much like this loan to be repaid BY THE FARM, to the extent feasible.
  •  To understand the difference between farming for profit and farming to feed oneself. 
  •  To emphasize that earning money farming is NOT Hart’s Mill’s long-term goal—it is a short-term goal with the benefits of loan-repayment, gaining experience, increasing activity on the land, building the soil, learning to work together, etc.
  •  To learn about annual crops that are best-suited for this purpose, including considerations of seasonality, uniqueness, sale-ability, income-vs-labor ratios, ease of production, storage needs, and more.
  • To form break-out groups to brainstorm about ideal crops and considerations, returning to the group for discussion.
  • To have one or more teams, with thoughtful choices of crops, commit to inaugurating the project this year. Jeffry laid out what SSF would and would not do to support the members, the idea being to help and advise but not actually grow the crops(!). Sales will be through The Chapel Hill Farmers Market, and possibly also internally to HM folks.
Our last activity involved using “commitment cards” to get specific information about members’ interest in participating. We were so gratified and excited to find that every single attendee signed on for either a growing team or as backup support! We now have in place two teams, interested in such crops as specialty potatoes, Asian greens, cut flowers, beets, and herbs.
 These first groups are already underway; if there is growing interest (?) we will extend the project in the coming seasons. A huge “Thank You” to the Nest for hosting us, the members of LSC for supporting participation, and the rest of you for your enthusiasm!  Contact Jeffry, seeingstarsfarm@gmail.com, if you’d like to get on board.
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