November 24, 2015
The story of how I began farming isn’t typical. At the age of 39, I was diagnosed with Stage 3 breast cancer. Although I had a career as a nurse, I wasn’t taught about nutrition and the implications of what we put in our bodies. Throughout my cancer treatment, I became aware of all the contaminants we regularly consume and how they affect our health. So I focused on improving my diet, but the more educated I became, the harder I found it to source clean, ethically-raised food. Frustrated, I determined the best way to solve this problem was to create the farm I wanted to see. When I became a new farmer on the Upper Eastern Shore, I was still bald. Black Bottom Farms was born.
To me, fair farms means farming with ethics and integrity—finding the happy medium between doing right by animals, preserving land, and being transparent with consumers like you, so you can make an informed choice. That’s what this campaign is all about to me.
When I started out, I imagined a relaxed, bucolic life, and I was full of idealism. But farming is what I call “managed chaos,” and the reality of farming is different than what I dreamed it would be. It takes a village, and my family is a great help, as are neighbors. After six years, I’m proud to say that we have found a comfortable place—an operation that is good for animals, good for consumer health, and good for the environment. Could we make more money and sacrifice things that are important to us? Yes. Thankfully, we don’t have to.
Each farm manifests from the farmer’s history, and my health history informs how we farm. It was important to me that the animals we raise are happy and thrive. So I do things that are costly and simply not possible at larger-scale operations. I use probiotics and kombucha tea and apple cider vinegar to boost our animals’ immunity. We drive three hours just so we can use an animal-welfare approved butcher.
Everything we do is performed with the intention of maintaining the integrity of the land. I love the ponds and the birds that migrate here; the way the sun rises and sets. I love that there are spots in our woods with pine needles that still haven’t been touched in years. It’s beautiful. I’m blessed to have an area like this, and I’m careful about not destroying the forest around me. But that means instead of raising double the amount of animals on this land, we stick with our current capacity. We supplement where we can—like growing mushrooms, and selling eggs from pasture-raised hens.
The more farmers know that consumers want animals raised ethically, food produced without unnecessary chemicals, and farms that prioritize the land and environment, they will make it happen. We all need to ask questions and speak with our forks and our dollars. We need to be consistent in supporting farmers that are doing things right. Please join us.
For fair farms,
Black Bottom Farms