Have you ever had your curiosity peaked about something and you couldn’t, for the life of you, figure out why?
That happened to me, this past Spring, when I bumped into a local farmer at one of our town’s Farmer’s Markets. There are lots of local farmers around here. And lots of them grow and sell similar crops. I don’t know why I was drawn to this farmer’s tent, that day, when my littlest and I were enjoying all the arts and crafts, and the smell of fresh baked goods and newly roasted coffee. I just remember that we found ourselves staring at these vegetables like they were gold. After that visit, I decided to go back another time and see if I could actually meet the farmer(s) who grew those vegetables. And I did.
What I noticed was that the farmer and his wife were young. And they had young children. Something about that struck me. I remember thinking – they’re going after something big here. Because you don’t just strike out and farm all on your own, not even being under a family business, just on a whim. There had to be a story. So I struck up conversation with the farmer, Kyle Stenerson, and asked him what the story was. And it’s a good one. But I want you to meet him and hear it from his mouth. Because, from mine, the anointing and depth of it is lost. At the heart of it all is a man and his wife who have a deep desire and dream to have a full-working farm and to make an impact on their community. And both of them humbly serve Jesus. Through prayer, and what seemed impossible, they were able to secure a large (LARGE) piece of land that had equipment and shelter enough for them to begin the beginnings of something they call Humble Roots Farm.
These aren’t your backyard farmers who figured out how to grow vegetables and decided they wanted to make money along the way. Kyle went to school to learn about farming – this is a farmer with a four-year degree – and so much knowledge and understanding about growing crops, raising animals, and feeding a community. He would probably shake his head at such a broad bragging statement, but if you hang out with him for any length of time you’ll find yourself feeling really dumb. Example: name a weed. Got one? Ok, now go talk to Kyle. That guy is like a weed expert. Silly? Maybe. But when he explains to you what weed is what and why it’s growing, what season it grows in and what it means, you’ll realize that it’s important to know all of the vegetation on your land. Those weeds are giving farmers understanding of what nutrients the soil is lacking and where to and not to plant for the next season.
When you grow food, you have to know what’s on and in the soil. And when you get it right, it looks something so glorious as a barn filled with onions.
I felt like a hot mess, this past June, when I worked out at Humble Roots Farms a few days. But I couldn’t help but feel right at home, too. I love gardening and getting my hands dirty. I come from a family of farmers and from a dad who probably should have been one. But what I loved most about working along side Kyle and Katelyn (his wife) was that they were such peaceful people, excited about living out their dreams, and truly doing it in such a hidden way. All you see if the final product. What you don’t see is all that happens behind the scenes.
Humble Roots doesn’t see the same day twice. Every day there are tons of chores to be done. Chickens need feed and water. Their eggs need to be gathered, nests checked on, and cleaned out. Fences moved for the cows to graze. Dogs to feeds, kitties to feed, children to care for, equipment and machinery that needs maintaining, grounds that need tilling and weeding, grass that needs mowing, fruit that needs picking, vegetables that need to be gathered and distributed for their CSA (community supported agriculture), and the list goes on. I’m certain that I’m telling you about 1/8 of a list that happens on the daily. All I know is that they sure better have a good washing machine, because you don’t stay clean on a farm.
You don’t clean up after animals and not walk away with a little bit of animal remnant on you. Isn’t she a beauty (above)? Those are probably the happiest hens around. They have free roaming rights on the farm, so you can only imagine how bright and orange the yolks are in those pretty eggs.
Look, they even have a portable home so that when one area of the farm is picked over by them, they can move along leaving their own personal fertilizer behind.
I love seeing people do the thing they were created to do. And watching these two run a farm the size of theirs, was pretty remarkable. So I decided to take a few minutes, one morning, and snap some photos for them. This is just a few images that I grabbed one steamy June morning. If I’m being totally honest, though, while I walked the farm (side-stepping cow patties) I was reciting one of my girls’ books in my head: in the big red barn, in the great green field, there was a pink pig who was learning to squeal…
Farming is something that every person relates to and, somehow, identifies with. To some degree, we all grow something in this life. We all take time to tend to a plant, or an animal, and sometimes a whole lot of both. So it’s no surprise that so many children’s books teach about life by using farming as a way to do it. So much of God’s design is staring back at you when you participate in farm life.
These pictures make farm life almost look romantic. The colors are rich, the animals are beautiful. But farming is hard work. And doing it right, organically, and caring for animals, takes so much intention and time and even extra finances. I commend Kyle and Katelyn for being so diligent to provide their community with vegetables, (fruits to come), eggs and meat that are free of chemicals, pesticides, hormones and antibiotics.
And these tomatoes, no lie, hands down, not kidding, can’t prove it, you’ll just have to believe me, were THE most delicious tomatoes I have ever put in my mouth. I picked several baskets of these babies and it took a good deal of self-control to not eat too many right off the vine.
If you’re in Eastern North Carolina, I want you to look into Humble Roots Farm. Drop by the Poplar Grove or Downtown Wilmington Farmer’s Markets and meet them. Or email them. They’re real people bringing real food to your table. Local farmers are important and vital to our communities. The more we support them, the lower prices become. (that should be incentive to support) But even more, knowing your farmer means knowing that your food wasn’t shipped across the country, that you can help pick your own (because they won’t turn down helping hands), that your children can learn and appreciate the hard work that it takes to grown even one plant, and because life should be about championing with people in your area.
I’m going to leave you with these last few images.
Humble Roots Farm – these people get it. Pray for them to be even more successful this year than they were last year. I have a feeling we’re going to learn a lot from these folks, and eat really well along the way.
every farm needs a barn cat…
and every girl needs to be wounded by a prickly eggplant, at least once, to appreciate the price you pay for them at the market…
check out Humble Roots Farm and look into their CSA program. You won’t be disappointed.