KP Whaley of Tiny Bridge Farm in Henderson County, North Carolina grew up in the industrial city of Rockford, Illinois where his father and three older brothers were machinists.
“We all grew up working with our hands in oil and steel,” he says.
However, his family had their hands in the soil first. KP’s father grew up on a rural farm, but decided to move to the city after high school. “He wanted to get away from the farm as soon as possible,” KP says.
Even in this new urban environment, their family had a garden to sustain them.
“My earliest memories are picking beans and weeding. My mom babysat kids and we all had that task to do, which kept us busy during the summer. But we also went back to my grandfather’s farm with my aunties and my uncles and helped them with all of their harvest and haying. I spent a lot of time on other people’s farms or other family members’ farms growing up,” he says.
When KP was in high school, he realized he didn’t want to become a machinist like his father and brothers, so he saved money to go to college.
“I became a first generation college graduate to leave that world, just like my father left his world of farming,” he says.
KP spent 20 years in sales and marketing, working with food co-ops as well as nonprofit organizations and public media, including Asheville FM where he’s currently the general manager of the radio station.
But he couldn’t shake the memories of picking beans and weeding gardens. In 2019, KP and his farming partner Ed Graves started Tiny Bridge Farm, a small diversified market garden where they grow a mix of vegetables, herbs, small fruits, eggs and honey. They found three acres of land in Henderson County, on the outskirts of the Hendersonville city limits.
“As we increasingly become an urban farm with housing developments literally happening across the street, it also gives us an opportunity to become the farmer of those new homes and those families that move in there and show them how to prepare local foods and eat seasonally and why local farms are important to our community,” he says. “I think it’s really important, especially in Henderson County where it’s such an agricultural county, to remember where your food comes from.”
KP wanted to build those connections through personal relationships, so they started a CSA, or community supported agriculture. This year, their twenty-week CSA runs from June through October. They bring boxes of produce to the new 7th Avenue District Hendersonville Farmers Market each week where CSA members can chat with the farmers while observing social distancing.
KP says that their farm has not been negatively affected by COVID-19, and in fact, they sold out of their CSA shares early. CSAs have been a popular option for people who want to avoid grocery stores and support the local food economy during uncertain times. The funds from the CSA allowed Tiny Bridge Farm to buy a tractor and expand their business this year.
“We have a vision that we’ve talked about for a long time, and it’s just kind of exciting to see that vision getting closer and closer,” he says. “I’m excited for growing and fulfilling what we want Tiny Bridge Farm to be.
Learn about hundreds of local farms and where to buy their food in ASAP’s online Local Food Guide: www.appalachiangrown.org
Aired: July 20, 2020