What do a hobby farm and life insurance have in common?

New Petals Farm
Ferndale, WA
Visited in the late afternoon of Wednesday, October 14, 2015

When I messaged Corey a month ago about visiting the farm where he’s been working as a farmhand, he kindly obliged and then, as a side note, said “we’re more of a small hobby farm now, but with high hopes.” A hobby farm, for those who are unsure, is definied by the Oxford Dictionary as “a small farm operated for pleasure or supplemental income rather than for primary income.” However, after my visit last Wednesday to New Petals Farm, I was reminded that while a place such as this involves it’s extra-curriculuar feel now and again, it can be, at the end of the day, much more than a hobby.

Corey and I worked together at our university’s recycling center over 5 years ago. Since then he served with the Washington Conservation Core and most recently moved into a warm, tiny cabin adjacent to the home of Taryn and Calvin, the owners of this farm.

Calvin and his young son met me as I parked my car in their driveway. Corey ran behind and greeted me with a big hug. “So, show me around this place!” I requested, eager to enjoy the slowly waning autumn afternoon light.


Adding to the compost

Their plot of land is bordered by ponds to the east and west, marshland to the north and a country road to the south. Roaming between the small pastures are goats and alpacas, chickens, ducks and turkeys. The fat barn cats that run around aren’t doing their job and rats have gotten the better part of some produce. The vegetable garden is currently overlowing with weeds. “I had no idea how much work maintaining a plot would be,” laughed Corey, looking down at the knee-high grasses growing between the pumpkins and chard at his feet. They’ve built a small green-house and filled it with tomato plants. I asked if they had plans to ferment the tobacco leaves from the plant growing near the green-house. “No, the tobacco is good against worms in the goats and chickens,” explained Calvin. There’s a boat out back which he has uncertain plans for. To the east, Corey has been experiementing with bee hives and having trouble keeping ”intruders” (wasps) out from his sugar water. The goats get into the compost. A baby goat this year died from bloating after eating buttercups in their land.


“I had no idea how much work maintaining a plot would be.”

Tobacco leaves

Tobacco leaves (not for smoking) sit outside the new greenhouse.

The challenges they’ve faced to keep ahead of the work presented by the garden and animals have not detered the enthusiasm with which Corey, Calvin and the others approach the future growth of their farm. “It’s fun,” says Corey. It’s also experimental and a source for constant learning. Back in the house, Taryn was just coming home from work. Shelves above the couch are filled with various fermenting wines and kombuchas. Above the fire-place hang racks of drying beans and calendulas.


Dried pink beans

I told the couple that they had a great set-up. “You’re ahead of a lot of people. You have your own land, you have a vegetable garden, you have handy skills…” Calvin nodded his head and responded with a story. While fishing in Alaska a few years ago, he met an older man. “Get yourself some life insurance,” the older man had said. Calvin and the few young guys in the boat had rolled their eyes, thinking Yea, yea. Just another old bloke with some wise advice for us young folks.

As a surprise, however, the older man’s advice was this: “Get yourself a piece of land and learn how to grow your own food.”

Now that’s life insurance.

Click here for New Petals Farm’s Facebook page.

Visit the Farm and Project Profiles page for more people and programs dedicated to keeping our food systems sustainable, healthy and just.


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