Some of my favorite childhood memories are of visits with neighbors. Our grandma would load us up in her pickup truck and haul us down the road for little more than a friendly visit. Most of Grandma's friends were other farmwives, but while the landscape was familiar, each farm was unique. Little did I know how “neighbor visits” would continue to be part of my farm journey.
When I was a teen, farm visits came in the form of field trips with FFA or 4-H. We would tour other members’ farms and learn about their operations. From livestock farms to tree timber fields, I was lucky to see diverse programs right in my backyard. During labs in college, we went to see the novel and inner workings of various agriculture enterprises. Each of these visits imprinted something different on me and there were always takeaways, even when the farm was the polar opposite of what we did on our land. There were always hacks to learn and I gained a better understanding of worlds outside my own. This is where my tendency to always be aware of insight from others comes into play.
What really makes a difference is farmers coming up with creative solutions for hindrances the rest of us face. I remember Dad seeing a fellow livestock farmer go to the junkyard and gather old seat belts to use as the latches to hold gates closed. Genius! My parents’ entire sheep barn still uses seat belts to fasten the gates and Dad proudly passes this hack along.
I continued looking for mentors when I worked in distribution sales, and even when I first started the farm, like visiting dear friends to the north, Wollam Gardens. I visited every flower farm I could find, from designer rockstar Jennie Love to global powerhouse Floret, and these visits led to takeaways that we use at Harmony Harvest. Each farm does things a little differently, so with wide-open eyes, you can learn new hacks in everyone's garden.
I always try to practice what I preach, so this week some of the team and I went on two neighbor farm visits. Our head grower, Sonja, and I first visited Tiny Fields in Churchville, Virginia. This flower farm is run by the ever kind and smart Laura Beth Dawson. Her name may imply small, but her passion for sustainable farming is huge. We saw new tricks that we plan to implement and I saw crops I've never tried (but now want to). We talked through things that neither of us has figured out and I offered insight into some of her questions.
But we didn’t end our field trip journey there. After waving goodbye, Sonja and I joined a few other Harmony Harvest team members and headed to White Oak Lavender Farm. White Oak is a local lavender farm and winery that offers an onsite agritourism experience. During the tour, we learned how essential oils and infused water is collected from a fresh harvest and what a harvest season looks like on a lavender farm. We looked at their dried production methods and how they allow customers to interact with the property. This got our wheels turning as we brainstormed new ways we can bring Harmony Harvest to everyone! The team and I saw mature lavender as well as new plantings in ideal conditions, which helped to answer a few questions we had about our patch. It was a wonderful time with the crew visiting another farm and seeing all that this single crop has to offer.
Farm visits have always been a part of my life. They allow me to grow, connect with others, see new landscapes, and experience someone else’s way of life. The next step is taking what we've learned and doing something with it, because it doesn’t do any good if it just stays in our brains. We don't get many chances to stop and visit, but I encourage everyone to find time in their busy schedule and do just that, because you never know what you will learn.
- xoxo, Jess