Enter... The Rescue Farm!
Hey... We're Rescuing a Farm!
Actually, let's get this straight. It's not really us. All you who support our Family Cow farm, you are helping us rescue another farm. We couldn't do it alone. So it's a tribe effort! :)
Isn't this exciting?!
You've heard of deserted cats and dogs rescued. In this case we're rescuing a deserted farm. This 117 acre farm is in Fayetteville, about 6 miles from our home farm in Scotland PA. It was bought in 2005 by some New Jersey based housing developers with grand plans to build the whole farm full of houses. But the 2008 housing crisis changed all of that. Just a few weeks ago, through a tip from another organic farmer friend, we learned that the developers needed to liquidate the farm by year end 2017. I'm not sure what pressure forced them to sell, but whatever it was, we were thankful to be able to buy it at a fraction of the cost that the developers paid in 2005.
The Farm is in Sad Shape.
Since the farm was on the site development plan for the last 12 years to be tore up for houses... no one really cared for it. And it wasn't just the land that was forsaken for bigger, better things. The buildings were totally abandoned too. Some of the roofs are missing tin; the wind and rain has been working their way in. The big bank barn built in the 1800's with its hand hewn timbers and stone foundation has its gable end and roof 3/4 blown off... you get the picture.
The house is in better shape than the barns but... believe me... it's going to take a lot of love, time and elbow grease too! Some water damage to ceilings and walls and windows... a snake skin falling through a gaping hole in the ceiling above the bath tub! The yard is overrun with pokeberry, sumac and brambles of all kinds.
But in spite of the rundown buildings and the work that's ahead of us, our family is super excited. The location is ideal for what Rodrick and Jeanette have been looking for... our boys are all strong and in the prime of youth... our team is energetic and bursting with ideas... we know our tribe will be supportive... Together we're ready to take on the rescue challenge.
It Feels like an Answer to Prayer.
Even though it's in bad shape, the farm has us in awe because it's surrounded on three sides by state forest and includes 20 acres of woodland. Not only that... There's another 20 acres of rough, scruff-brush, over-grown areas.
If you are a conventional, chemical, mono-crop farmer, I can see you doing a double-take to re-read that last paragraph. You're like... why in the world does Edwin think 40 acres of useless brushland and woodland is an answer to prayer? He's for sure gone off the deep end this time.
Yep... I'm hopelessly off the deep end. I'm so fully immersed in sustainable, regenerative farm management and symbiotic farming optimism that even brushy woodland is gratefully received as a blessing from God. But it's a regenerative farming thing. You might not understand.
But don't feel too bad... A dozen years ago I wouldn't have understood either. If you'll stick around a bit, I'll explain.
The farm's woodland contains a sprinkling of pine and a plethora of hardwood oaks and other nut trees. Pigs love acorns and nuts, and nuts and acorns make great tasting pork. This is not waste land for us! This is prime woodland pork growing habitat! A pig is a woodland animal. It is the way God made them. They can't sweat, so they absolutely need shade and coolness under the trees. This is God created symbiosis at its best!
Pigs are especially in hog heaven when they are free to use the plow on the end of their nose to dig up roots, nuts, grubs, and mushrooms. Ever hear of truffle sniffing pigs? No confinement and concrete and steel bars for Family Cow woodland pork! (See our photo gallery pictures here.)
And the acres of brushy, semi wooded areas are perfect as a goat paradise. Goats aren't really happy to eat only grass and clover pasture like some ruminants. They are much closer related to deer and actually prefer to browse on tree leaves, briers, brambles, small saplings and even poison ivy. A silvopasture (mixture of trees and pasture) is a goat's preferred habitat. So imagine that! This over-grown rescued farm has the totally perfect mix for them! Even the goats get in on the rescue effort!
Hey... Maybe we should Build a Goat Tower!
Nick has a real skill at masonry and stone work so we could put him in charge of building a Tower of Baaa. If Nick doesn't get it built just perfect and it leans a little... no problem at all. We'd just call it "The LEANING Tower of Baaa" and start directing traffic. :)
Can you tell we are going to have fun? Who says farming has to be humdrum and monotonous? HA!
We might learn Shepherding
On some of the more open but still slightly brushy areas and around the farm's two ponds we hope to try out our 'rod and staff' with a flock of organic sheep. These open grassy areas combined with quiet, shady, silvopasture will be perfect for shepherding. With the green grasslands and the farm ponds, can't you just imagine a peaceful summer evening as the sun goes down... Rodrick and Jeanette and André making the sheep lie down in green pastures and leading them beside the still waters? Maybe they'll even read a psalm or two. :)
So you see why we're excited about this old run down farm?
See why it's such a perfect fit for what God has called our family to do? Do you understand how we can feel this is an answer to prayer?
If I had any doubts about the prayer part, they were dispelled the first day Dawn and I did an exploratory visit to the farm. As I pushed my way through the waist high, sapling filled pasture to get a better look at one of the forsaken barns... there it was. Nailed to the barn wall was a wooden plaque engraved with two words. I squinted to read the weathered inscription. When the words became clear... then I knew.
The message read "AMEN ACRES."
We put an offer on the farm.
Your family farmers ~ Edwin & Dawn Shank & Family