New participants in our Farmer Incubator Program, Claudie Babineaux and Sarah Bostick have been doing very physical labor for years. However, they frequently run into people who challenge the idea that two petite ladies can accomplish such work. In naming their farm business “Half Pint Farm,” they decided to ‘own it’.
“This name, Half Pint Farm, really works for us because people have always challenged our ability to do things because of our size,” shares Sarah. Their farm name also relates to scale of production — Claudie and Sarah have both worked in intensive farming on 5-10 acre parcels in the past, primarily in Florida and Maine, but they now want to focus on a smaller scale. They are using their first year in our Farmer Incubator Program learn about the particulars of farming in the Southern Appalachians, such as how soil and weather behave with certain varieties of produce.
“We have experience in farming, but not here in the mountains,” says Sarah. “We aspire to own our own farm, and it’s important to do a lot of learning before investing in our own land. We plan to use our time in the program to learn about the intricacies of farming in this soil — in this climate and landscape — because it’s really different from what we’re used to.”
Claudie and Sarah have existing relationships with wholesale purchasers in the area, and the land they are cultivating on our Community Farm will help them expand to new markets. They hope save a seed stock of garlic to ease the transition to full-scale production on their own land in a few years. This fall, they are planting the first round of garlic to learn about the varieties that grow best here.
“It takes time to get farm infrastructure right, to get things up and going on your own land,” says Sarah. “When the time comes, we hope that this program will help us overlap production. By continuing to grow at the Community Farm while beginning to create infrastructure on our own land, we will be able to keep our market contacts happy, so we won’t have to completely start over.”
Claudie spends most of her time working on the farm while Sarah helps in between traveling as a consultant for Carolina Farm Stewardship Association.
“I have professional experience coaching farmers who are ready to scale up to wholesale, and I can share expertise on that topic,” says Sarah. “But now, when I tell them I’m actively growing, I can relate to them on a new level. We can discuss challenges we are facing together, in real time. Being able to talk about how our beets are doing this season or how the rains are affecting our crops allows me to connect with people on an equal footing. I get to be my own example of how farming is a continuous learning process.”
The aspect of community education in our programs is also important to them. This year, we have educated 140 people through farm workshops and trainings.
“We both love the world where farming and education/community come together,” says Sarah. “We love the fact that this place is here for the purpose of learning and teaching, and that the space where we are working will be used in workshops. The program is also a great way for us to get involved in the community. We enjoy being able to connect with the other farmers in the program – Will and Savannah. We both have so much respect for all the work SAHC is doing.”