About The Farm
What would the world look like if agriculture and conservation were united as a single act? For centuries we have been told that forests must be cleared and wetlands must be drained to make room for agriculture. The land begs to differ.
This is the story of a very unusual farm. The story begins like many others, with a passionate gardener who has run out of room. I convinced my husband to move to the country with me, so I could dive into a full-blown permaculture lifestyle and grow acres and acres of plants. After a lengthy search, we were finally able to purchase ten acres, and we made our home there. The land wasn’t exactly what we had been looking for, but something about it drew us in like a magnet. It was full of life in ways we had never experienced. It was absolutely bursting with berries and nuts and tree frogs and birds. The source of all this magic turned out to be water.
Now I’m a wetland farmer, and I can’t imagine my life any other way. Like most people, I used to think flooding was a sign of a big problem, and soil had to be well drained to be fruitful. This land has taught me otherwise. A wetland is a special gift, teeming with life and bounty and potential. It doesn’t speak the language of conformity, and it won’t shine if you try to dress it up like a corn field. Given the right care, the right plants, and a little patience, it can become something beautiful and amazing. More than 85% of Indiana’s wetlands have already been drained to make room for agriculture, but I am here to show you that wetlands are perfect for agriculture just as they are. It’s our agriculture that needs to change, not the land.
I’m now seven years into what will likely be a forty year project. I’ve lived some ups and downs along the way, but I’ve planted over 3,000 native fruit and nut trees so far and the count is ever increasing. I’m learning how to eat the fruits of the land, to work with its medicines, and to ride the waves of the seasons. I share what I learn here on this blog.
The land I farm is of mixed topography, including a riparian floodplain, a steep wooded slope, and some boggy higher ground that is mostly flat and does not flood. At the time my husband and I found it, about 6.5 acres (including the floodplain) were leased out for large scale corn and soybean farming, and about 3.5 acres were wooded. The land is surrounded by a wooded riparian zone on one side, by a corn/soy farm on two sides, and the other side borders a former corn field that has recently been reforested as a part of a wetland remediation project.
When my husband Andrew and I purchased the farm together, we didn’t fully understand the wetland. The seller had disclosed that 2.4 acres of the land floods, but FEMA categorized it as a once in 100 year floodplain. We didn’t expect that water would shape our lives so completely. The land was flooded on our moving day, and two more times that first year. On average, we see 3 to 4 floods every year.
While this was disappointing at first, we soon learned to embrace it. I teamed up with the local NRCS branch, and together we developed a project plan to reforest the floodplain with native fruit and nut trees. I received an Environmental Quality Incentives Program grant to help me implement the project, which I successfully completed in 2020.
This project changed my life and my world view. I watched in amazement as the land become even more alive. Trees grew strong and tall through feet of standing water. Fireflies lit up the night sky. Herons and Bald Eagles soared overhead. I have watched it all in reverent amazement.
Although the industry term for what I’ve done to this field is “taking the land out of production”, the fruit and nut trees I planted are likely to produce more food than the industrial corn crop that preceded them. The wait is long, as tree crops may take 10-40 years to reach maturity. I’m okay with that. These crops are significantly better for the Earth, the land, for wildlife, and for people than the industrial commodity that grew here before. Once this planting matures, it will be a majestic food forest. It will outlive me.
The land has 3.5 acres of already established woodlands. A few of the trees there are quite old, but most of them appear to be young (in their fabulous 50’s). I wish I knew their history. Little by little, I’ve been learning to identify the trees. I used to think the woods were separate from my agriculture, but I now know that they are very much a part of it. The native trees in the woods provide just as many food, medicine, and ornamental benefits as the Eurasian trees we have been taught to revere. The woods are also a place of reflection, of study, and of growth.
I am currently working on another grant project with NRCS, this time the goal is to clean up the woods. The woods have become overgrown with an invasive plant called Asian Bush Honeysuckle, and it’s currently threatening the native plants on the forest floor. I’m attempting to remove it, or at least reduce its presence here. I am very committed to organic land management practices, so I’m removing the honeysuckle bushes by hand rather than resorting to chemical herbicides. Once the way is made clear, I plan to re-establish native medicinal herbs in the woodland understory.
Many native medicinal herbs are threatened or endangered due to over harvesting and habitat loss. When old growth forests are cleared, these plants are often lost completely. By the time new trees are planted and grow to fill the canopy, these precious shade-loving herbs have often been completely erased from the landscape. They need our help to find their way home.
Influences & Traditions
I am very passionate about organic agriculture, local food, reducing carbon emissions and pollution, animal welfare, and healthy ecosystems. I never intended to continue farming this land for industrialized commodity crops, but my original vision for the land has changed significantly over the years as I’ve grown to understand the land and its needs more intimately. The project has become a collaboration between farmer and land and water. Butterflies, toads, and squirrels have all participated. I no longer know exactly what to call this style of growing, as it has evolved into something that is influenced by many distinct traditions including permaculture, regenerative agriculture, organic farming, restoration agriculture, traditional ecological knowledge, native plant agriculture, agrarianism, biodynamics, and ecological conservation.
Meet The Team
All you see here is mostly a one-woman-project, but I do have some amazing helpers.
A friendly flock of chickens helps fertilize the crops, reduce insect pressure, and increase general amusement and delight. I have three coops here: one for hens, two for roosters. All my roosters get to stay and live out their lives, even though they require special accommodations and they do not contribute to egg production. My hens have a home here until the end of their natural lives, even when they grow too old to lay eggs. I’ve been a vegetarian and animal lover for most of my adult life, and in recent years I’ve transitioned to a mostly vegan/plant based diet. I do eat eggs from my chickens when they lay, but I don’t treat my chickens as a crop. All my chickens receive love, respect, and full medical benefits. My chickens and I all share a love of fiddle music, sunny days, dandelions, and long walks through the fields.
Two hives of honeybees contribute their work as pollination specialists. They also share some of the wax from old combs they’re no longer using (it’s much healthier for the bees if the old combs are removed periodically). I haven’t taken any honey from them yet, because it’s really important to me that they always have enough honey for themselves. I do hope there will eventually be a honey surplus, but even if not, the bees add plenty of value just by bee-ing themselves!
Visits and Tours
I am frequently asked about visits and tours, but I can’t offer that at this time. This is my family’s home and safe space, and there are no employees or visitor facilities available on site. I am beyond thrilled at all the interest and enthusiasm for the unconventional farm I am building. I can’t wait to meet you in the blog comments, on social media, and at my in-person events!
Love & Support
The full repository of information on this blog is freely shared without ads, subscription fees, or sponsored content. I wholeheartedly believe in unbiased open-source information, and I want to help fill the world with more gardeners, land stewards, and sustainable farmers. I mostly fund all of this out of my own pocket. If you feel moved to support this work and if you have the resources to do so, please consider contributing to the tip jar (located in the footer) or making a purchase from the farm shop! You can also contribute in a non-financial way by sharing this website with your friends, engaging with our social media accounts, and signing up for the newsletter. Thank you for showing up, for reading, and just for being you!