While in Rabbit Hash, KY, as my previous post mentions (I think…) I met some new friends. Amongst those friends were a group of farmers that came down for a beer on the General Store porch. I overheard them (nosey gypsy) talking about their farms and by their appearance, gathered that they’d been working. As I normally do when I find someone or something interesting, I investigated. I introduced myself with a “sorry to interrupt but did I hear you mention farmers markets? I’ve been really thinking of going to local farmers markets for my produce.” I chatted with my new friends, Annie and Barry, and told them I’d love to come out to their farms sometime, ask some questions, learn some stuff and take some pictures. They both gave me a card and later in the week I emailed them both. Annie responded and I was glad to hear she was as excited as me about sharing her farm and her story. She also offered me the opportunity for fair trade, which is basically where you volunteer your time at a farm in exchange for an agreed upon amount of produce. So I’m pretty pumped about doing that in the upcoming weeks and throughout the summer. Not only will I get some awesome fresh, locally grown produce, but I have the opportunity to learn from someone who I found out is very passionate at what she does.
We arranged for me to visit the farm to snap some photos of the baby plants, before they are ready for harvest and to chat with Annie about how she reached this awesome and exciting place in her life. So on Thursday April 24th, after running some errands, I headed down to Burlington Kentucky to Dark Wood Farm. Annie was out in the field working, as she spends most of her days. From a glance the first thing i noticed is this young woman with a hat and ponytail, who’s jeans and hands are covered in earth. She dons a pair of muck boots and sunkissed cheeks. She looks whole and joyful in her fields and touches each task lovingly.
I joined her and sat in the grass along side the rows of tiny plants that she was caring for. Annie shared with me what each type of plant was, what she was doing and why. She verbally walked me through each step, and I snapped photos as she tenderly saw to each new little growing life. I asked her how she got into farming, and then sat back and listened gratefully as she told me her story. Annie grew up in the Northern Kentucky area and was first exposed to growing food in her father’s garden as a child. She grew up snapping beans and helping with the other produce. In high school she worked at McGlasson’s farmstand on River Rd outside of Hebron KY, furthering her experience with farming and gaining farming community. Annie went on to study biology at the University of Kentucky and upon graduating she worked for The Nature Conservancy. She furthered her education in New York at the State University of New York College of Environmental Science & Forestry (what a mouthful lol) studying ecology.
When she graduated from the school who shall not be named (Harry Potter reference) she actually worked for the university at a research facility in the Adirondack Mountains. From New York she then received a job opportunity in Trout Lake Washington with Americorps doing trail work. She fell in love with the Pacific Northwest, as did I when I visited Portland in December. She later got a job with the University of Washington at a citizen science organization called COASST (Coastal Observation and Seabird Survey Team) teaching citizens how to find and record dead sea birds. I know, I know, you’re thinking the same thing I was thinking, that’s an awesome job! (Or maybe you aren’t lol) but she went on to explain the reason why these citizens were taught to look for dead seabirds along their beaches. It’s to track the population of different seabirds over a period of time so that if something like an oil spill happens they can measure the impact it has on the seabirds they’ve been tracking. They know what seabirds die when, for what reasons (ie. during their mating season, not all baby birds make it so the birds are identified, measured and recorded). It gives the citizens a sense of purpose as well as a hand in protecting their environment. They are directly involved and come to care more about the planet and the animals they study through this process. Which I think is really awesome! Who knew identifying dead sea birds could be so purposeful?
By this time Annie had been a lot of places and worked quite a few interesting jobs. But farming was always in the back of her mind. She had tried to have a garden everywhere she lived and now in her 30s, she began to think more about self sustainability and following her dream of farming. Since her job was part time, she volunteered at a student run farm at the University of Washington and began thinking more seriously about when she would take the leap of faith to do what she really felt would give her purpose. She always enjoyed jobs that involved physical labor, but unsure of whether or not she could actually farm for a living, she tested it out by going to live and work on a farm called Local Roots outside of Seattle. During the cold months when there was no work at the farm, she wintered at the year round Green String Farm in California. After finding in her heart that farming was where she belonged she returned back to her hometown and leased acreage and a house. So was born Dark Wood Farm. As she finished up her story, she looked out over her fields, crouched down, crumbling clods of dirt between her fingers.
I thought to myself, this is what beauty and love is about. A person is most beautiful and radiant when they can passionately put their heart and soul into what they do each day. She loves what she does, she loves the dirt, the plants, the air, the rain, and that love is clearly expressed in her voice and on her smiling face.
This is Annie’s first year as a full time farmer, and it feels great to be supporting her by sharing her farm and her story with all of you. She will be participating in several local farmers markets in the NKY area so support local farming and my new friend! You can find Dark Wood Farm on Facebook or visit www.darkwoodfarmstead.com. If you are interested in fair trade opportunities, contact Annie through her website, or contact a local farmer near you.