Thursday, March 24, 2011

Hello, Holly!

Hello fellow Local Food Hub enthusiasts! My name is Holly, and I am one of the apprentices here at Maple Hill Farm. This is the first of many of my cameo appearances here on the blog, providing you with updates on what we’re up to out here, and to share my experiences as I learn the challenges and triumphs of growing food.

A little about me: Originally from southwest Virginia, I graduated from Clemson University last year with a degree in International Public Health and Spanish, and a minor in Anthropology. If you’re anything like my friends and family, you’re probably thinking, “Well, Holly, what the heck are you doing on a farm?!”

Throughout college I became increasingly fascinated with food – the culture, community, and tastes that it generated – and I buried myself in books ranging from farmer memoirs to food anthropology textbooks. It soon became obvious that the maxim “think globally, act locally” had more meaning than I realized, and that if I was going to learn much more about my local food system I needed to put down the books and put my hands in the soil. I needed to grow that stuff that I am, literally, made from. So here I am, three weeks into my apprenticeship. First lesson: turns out you don’t have to give up the books to get the dirty fingernails.

Here at Maple Hill, we have been hustling, shifting the farm from winter hibernation to spring awakening. Our greenhouse is bursting to life; we have sowed thousands and thousands of seeds over the past few weeks. Watching germination in the “seedling halfway house” is a thrill, another step in the miracle that is food production! My fellow apprentices and I have worked a great deal in the fields cleaning up the perennial beds that gathered dead leaves and weeds over their winter holiday. We weeded and prepped over a ¼ acre plot of asparagus, and expect their delicious heads to be peering out of the soil any day now. The raspberry and blackberry patch puzzle has been solved, and what was once a dark, thick muddle of limbs and thorns is now thinned, pruned, and ready to begin its work toward summer fruiting in earnest.

Our work on the farm has not been all cleaning and weeding – we have also harvested hundreds of pounds of lettuce mix and spinach that were “overwintered,” meaning they were grown in the field under high and low tunnels. These tunnels are “season extenders” and made of plastic, which allow farmers to cultivate food when the outdoor growing season is over because of cold. I am amazed that fresh, stunningly green nutrient-filled veggies are able to grow in the dead of winter.

As you know, we have a huge flock of chickens here on the farm. We have just increased their number by 75 more Long Island Reds, bringing our chicken grand total to two hundred. Those hens are a handful – they are rather young, the equivalent of wily chicken teenagers, and have provided me with a crash course in chicken wrangling and a sincere test of patience. They have recently begun laying eggs for our Local Food Hub customers, so you all will soon be able to buy their protein-packed marvels in your markets.

Working on Maple Hill Farm has been a grand new experience for me – although I have helped my family grow our vegetable garden for years, I have never been as immersed in farming quite like this. At times I get a bit overwhelmed at the scale of the task – four acres is a handful for five people to manage.  

But as I work elbow-to-elbow with my coworkers and farm managers, it becomes obvious that we can prevail over the challenges and achieve our food growing mission, one day at a time. I am lucky to have the support of the Local Food Hub team, and for the guidance and wisdom from Steve and Adri, our fearless farm leaders. And we are all fortunate to have you -- our supportive local food community.

Welcome to the season, readers! It is surely going to be delectable.


  1. It will be most enjoyable to follow you and the chicks and the seedlings as you grow together. Thank you for your fresh insights and the enthusiasm to learn from ground up.

  2. Great smile! I am sure the farm will be lucky to have you~

  3. great ideas, and authentic perspective!!