Farmer Anna Littman stands beside the north fork of Ivy Creek in Barnardsville, North Carolina. Her 10-month-old baby Abe squirms in a carrier on her back. Abe is on the move, eager to get his hands in the soil. Anna sets him down beside a row of swiss chard. He grabs a leaf with his tiny fingers and puts it in his mouth.
“This is why farming is great because that vegetable is the best toy,” she says. “I’m looking at my 10 month old crawling through the swiss chard, checking out the bugs, checking out the leaves, pulling on them, and that’s the best toy that I can imagine. That’s the kind of mom I want to be.”
Anna farms alongside her husband, Paul. They have a four-year-old daughter named Leah who’s at school today. She’s grown up at Ivy Creek Family Farm, digging in the dirt and eating vegetables out in the field.
“It’s just the best way in the world to get your kids to love vegetables is to grow them out in your field or your garden or just have it be a part of your life. Leah will eat anything if she can pick it, and starting at this age, not being afraid for him to get a big ol handful of whatever and stick it in his mouth and knowing that it’ll all be ok.”
Leah has learned a lot during her four years on the farm. “She’s a little farmer,” Anna says about her daughter. “This is her world. This is where she plays, this is where she dreams and this is where she learns. She learns counting by going and getting the eggs from the chickens. She learns about pounds and food safety. She learns about plant growth. She knows that swiss chard is part of the goosefoot family.”
The lessons go on and on. Anna spends more time with her kids in the fields now that she works full-time on the farm. “In so many professions you’re doing it somewhere else and they’re going to school and your lives are all separated, but when Leah comes home from school we go out and we get snack in the field and she learns while she’s eating.”
When Anna and Paul first started the farm, Anna had other jobs and spent her off hours doing farm work, often late into the night. Her off-farm income helped supplement their farmers market and CSA income. But their business model changed when they partnered with the Omni Grove Park Inn and started working with executive chef Jake Schmidt.
“That’s what really makes us be able to have this business and have this farm is that they’re buying from us every week. We really can say, alright, this row of lettuce is yours. This acre is yours, Jake. We know we can rely on you to buy it and that means we’ll grow anything he wants,” she says.
Building a strong relationship with this buyer diversified their farm income and gave them the stability for both Anna and Paul to work full-time on the farm. Being able to count on the Omni Grove Park Inn each week helps Anna and Paul gauge how much to grow and allows them to invest in their farm and family.
“Because Omni has the volume that they do, when they started buying from us and they started being loyal to us, we started making money farming. The Grove Park Inn made it so I could stop working off farm and that was a really huge thing for our family because what you need, as everyone knows, more than anything else in life is time,” she says.
Time almost stands still as baby Abe takes another bite of swiss chard. “The reason that we grow the way we do is so I can open my front door and my kids can go out and they can eat anything they want. And we live here, you know. I think that’s the other thing about a small farm is that small farmers live where they’re growing and we’re going to be here. We want to pass this land onto kids and this is our life.”
Hear about the lives of more local farmers at www.soundcloud.com/growinglocal