Farmer Reads: Peter Elmore of Star Bright Farm

Written by Grace Callahan, Fair Farms Intern 

This post is the fourth in a series of conversations with our Farmer Advisory Council members to learn what books inspire them and inform their farming practices.

Fair Farms sat down with Peter Elmore of Star Bright Farm to talk about his background and the books that have shaped his farming and life philosophies.

Peter first discovered a passion for the production side of the food system while working with his uncle, owner of One Straw Farm in White Hall, MD. 12-year-old Peter woke up at 4:30am every Saturday morning, jumped in a van to Baltimore, and helped his uncle sell produce at farmers’ markets. Peter loved connecting to where our food comes from and followed this love to the University of Vermont to pursue a degree in ecological agriculture. He eventually returned to Maryland and worked with his parents to turn their family property into a profitable farm. They started with lavender plants and an acre of blueberries in 2017 and have since expanded to include a whole host of aromatic medicinal herbs, some vegetables, and small fruit trees.

Peter Elmore in a lavender field.

After growing up on One Straw Farm, it’s not surprising that the eponymous One Straw Revolution shaped Peter’s ethos on farming and life. Japanese philosopher and scientist Masanobu Fukuoka rejected technology-driven cultivation methods and spent decades studying the natural ecosystems of his farm. He developed a farming approach that is now called “natural farming” or “do-nothing farming.” This approach resists the urge to “control” the landscape and instead guides the farmer to trust, observe, and work with the ecological systems around them. This method can result in a healthier environment, comparable food yields, and more leisure time for the farmer. Peter quotes Fukuoka in one of his blog posts on the farm website: “The ultimate goal of farming is not the growing of crops but the cultivation and perfection of human beings.”

Outside of farming, Peter turns to Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance by Robert M. Pirsig. This fictionalized, autobiographical account of a man’s motorcycle trip across the country with his son helps Peter think about how to cultivate quality in life. He said, “There’s the creative, expressive side of the world that brings something to life, and then there’s the mathematical, organizational side that makes it work, and when those two blend well you have a quality product. That’s how I want to approach whatever I’m building.”

If you are new to gardening and need some book recommendations to inspire and guide you, Peter has a few suggestions: 

  • Restoration Agriculture: Real-World Permaculture for Farmers by Mark Shepard is all about developing permaculture systems. The knowledge and techniques in this book apply to both large-scale commercial farms and small backyard gardens. 
  • The Market Gardener: A Successful Grower’s Handbook for Small-Scale Organic Farming by Jean-Martin Fortier and Marie Bilodeau is a great resource for low-tech, high-yield organic growing methods for small farms. 
  • The Weedless Garden: The Hassle-Free All-Organic System by Lee Reich focuses on no-dig gardening methods that are great for backyard gardening. 

We are so grateful for this opportunity to talk with Peter. Be sure to keep an eye out for Star Bright Farm in our newsletter and blog posts to stay up to date on the work of Peter and his family. You can learn more about the farm on their website and their beautiful Instagram page.