When my peers and I were told that we would spent Thursday’s class at a local farm, I can safely assure that many of my peers were rather perplexed by this idea. I, on the other hand, was very eager to go on a field trip to a farm- in college! When Thursday arrived, I jumped into my Honda Civic and picked up a few of my peers from Morris Library, and we proceeded to caravan our way down to Fair Weather Farm. The drive was only about ten minutes long, just about four miles from campus, down Route 273 in Cecil County, Maryland.
I signaled with my right blinker and turned down the narrow gravel, and seemingly unstable driveway, I began to look at the beauty of what I was entering. One of the first things you see as you are coming down the driveway is the classic farm house, surrounded by fields of crops like tomatoes and hops, flowers, chickens, goats, a horse, sunshine and fresh air; and full of love. After I parked my car, my peers and I ventured over to join the rest of our class standing amongst a patch of Milkweed plants, sunflowers, and other pollinators. Our professor discussed the critical benefits of Milkweed, detailing how without it, the Monarch butterfly population would completely die off. He pointed out how humans, and predators of the Monarch caterpillar, can distinguish where a Monarch caterpillar is, based on the small holes created by caterpillars munching on the leaves. Our professor flipped one of the leaves over, and evidentially, a large striped Monarch caterpillar was slowly inching its way down the vine. While I was listening, I scanned my eyes through this meadow, admiring the beauty of the chaos of weeds and the variety of plants grown here. I found it refreshing to see a meadow like this one, without perfectly aligned rows of flowers, or entirely void of weeds. It was not perfect, it was natural.
Our class essentially walked the entire perimeter of the farm. We began with the native pollinator meadow, and a discussion on the necessity of meadows like these. By physically standing in a meadow, as the late summer sun beats down on the Earth, and watching Monarch butterflies, and a variety of others, zig zag their way through the breeze- one can literally see the rewards that these environments provide for human beings. The entirety of the Fair Weather Farm provides for human beings. The chickens provide eggs, the goats provide wool, the horse can be used for labor assistance, and of course: the crops provide local, healthy, fresh sustainable food, and the income necessary for the farmers to continue operations.
Nancy Bentley is the owner and operator of Fair Weather Farm. Her husband Randy, and their two sons Cameron and Christian help to maintain the farm, together as a family. Anyone who visits their farm can instantly recognize their efforts to maintain responsibility of safeguarding the integrity of the land and its natural resources. Even the Fair Weather Farm’s new barn is being constructed with high regard for the resources used. The entire structure was built with no nails or power tools. A group of Amish carpenters assembled the frame and structure of the barn in a single day. By consciously choosing to build the barn with sustainable materials, it ensures that there will be minimal wear and tear to the land over the years- guaranteeing longevity of the barn. The Bentley family is a noble one for sure; their desire is to be good stewards of the land for future generations, and to educate the local community on growing, harvesting, and preserving sustainable grown foods. Fair Weather Farm is a small, family owned and operated, sustainable, organic farm on a mere five acre plot. “A little over a hundred years ago, there were 38 million people living in the United States, and 50 percent of them worked on a farm. Today, we have 300 million people. How many work on farms? Two percent” (Jenkins 49).
As I read this statement from McKay Jenkins novel, Food Fight, I could not help but think about Nancy and the Fair Weather Farm. The United States industrial food industry has ruined the concept of small, local, organic, sustainable farms. Not only do farmers like Nancy struggle to compete with the industrial agriculture industry in terms of profit, but they also struggle to share the benefits of their products outside of their small local communities. Why do so many people choice to be blinded by the truth? Why do so many people continue to support the industrial agriculture industry when they know the harm it causes the environment? Why are we not doing anything about it? Unfortunately, these questions are not easy to answer.
One of my best friends from home, her mother, Erin, owns and operates an organic farm very similar to Nancy’s. I have spent a handful of hours working with Erin, pulling weeds, planting seeds, and helping out with whatever I can. It has always been very rewarding and therapeutic to spend time on New Harmony Farm, with my best friend and her mother. I feel blessed to have known someone with such knowledge on sustainable agriculture, and I truly find it a shame that very few people have knowledge or exposure to this type of knowledge. The work that Nancy and Erin do to educate their local communities is a valiant effort, however, it is not enough. Imagine if industrial agriculture companies did as much to inform the public about their operations as organic farmers do; they may not end up as successful as they currently think they are.