Ten years ago, when Bonnie Martin enrolled her sons Dylan and Tommy in 4-H, the mother of eight never would have guessed that she’d end up as a farmer. “We always kept a garden,” says Martin, “even when we lived in the city, but then we started expanding. First chickens, then a bigger garden, then bees, then an even bigger garden, then goats, then an even bigger garden. Suddenly, we were farmers.”
The Martin Family Farm uses organic and Biodynamic methods, but they aren’t “certified organic.” As with many small-scale farms, certification would prove unduly expensive, or, in Martin’s words, “It would be financial suicide.” Nevertheless, toxic chemicals are nowhere to be found on the farm. “We use Biodynamic preparations and compost. That’s it.” As a result, the natural life on the farm is burgeoning: bees and other insects forage through the flowers of the meadow, frogs and toads are always encountered in the garden, owls roost in the spruce woods and green herons and kingfishers frequent the small pond. “These methods encourage life,” says Martin’s husband Mike. “When I drive by one of the big farming operations nearby and see acres and acres turned brown from herbicides, all I can see is death. That can’t be a good environment for living beings, let alone for growing food.”
Martin sees her farm as not only a private concern, but as part of a bigger, natural foods underground. “My husband and I always supported the CSA [Community Supported Agriculture] movement and made friends with local organic farmers. Then we started doing it ourselves. People need real food, not chemically-enhanced pseudo-food. Small farms may not be able to compete financially with the mega-farms, but we can provide high-quality food in a microenvironment. You might even call it the ‘parish level.’”
As can be seen in the proliferation of farmer’s markets nationally over the last ten years, the local food movement is making an impact, however small, on the way Americans think about the way they eat.
Currently, Martin is trying to raise money through a Kickstarter projec
t in order to fund a “chicken tractor,” a movable chicken coop. “We like to free range our chickens—it’s healthier for the birds and adds wonderful flavors to the eggs and meat. Unfortunately, we deal with lots of predators—coyotes, raccoons, foxes—so we need to have the flock fenced-in. With a mobile coop and fence, we can let the birds free range and be protected at the same time.
Besides the chicken tractor, future plans for Martin Family Farm include expanding their flock of milk goats in order to offer cheese to their customers and building a pig sty. “It makes me feel good to contribute, even in this very small way, to making the world a friendlier, healthier place,” says Martin. “We’re really inspired by the words of Gospel of St John, ‘I came that you might have life and have it more abundantly.’ Our farm is just our own little way to live out those words.”
Spero News editor Martin Barillas is a former US diplomat, who also worked as a democracy advocate and election observer in Latin America. He is also a freelance translator.