Check out the spotlight on us in the Western Wake Farmer’s Market newsletter. Thanks WWFM!
Vendor Spotlight: In Good Heart Farm
In Good Heart Farm (formerly Ben’s Produce), owned and operated by Ben Shields and Patricia Parker, offers vegetables, strawberries & flowers of the highest quality and taste in the Triangle from their farm in Clayton, NC. Their mission is to strive for healthier people, community, agriculture and planet by growing and sharing the best tasting food they can. Their farming practices meet and surpass organic guidelines but they choose not to be certified because they are confident the reflection of their practices in the quality of their produce as well as their relationship with you speaks to their commitment to healthy food and holistic agriculture. 2012 will be their third year farming independently, though they have been farming with family and friends for many years.
Ben grew up farming and swore it off in early adulthood. After working a desk job in Manhattan, Ben realized he wanted to live a farming life. Patricia never imagined she’d be farming someday. She met and fell in love with Ben, realizing his dream was unexpectedly hers too. They farm because they love to grow goodness.
To make their farm sustainable, Ben and Patricia add nutrients to the soil using cover crops and crop rotation. They also use compost. They are currently making their own compost with scraps from Pullen Place in Raleigh. They also plan to start using the chicken tractor to allow the chickens to clean up old areas as well as fertilize. They irrigate when there is not enough rain and when they transplant seedlings. In terms of pest management, they begin by farm-scaping and planting crops that encourage beneficial insects with food and habitat (those critters that eat or otherwise kill the critters that eat the plants). They also work hard to improve their soil and boost the natural pest and disease resistance of the vegetables. The better the soil quality, the better their plants are able to fend off pests and disease.
Ben and Patricia are not only active on their farm, but also in our community. They feel very strongly that we need to grow more healthy food, more healthy communities, and more sustainable farmers so that we can all live good lives. They not only work to grow healthy food and relationships, but they also work to spread what they know and what they do as much as possible. Ben and Patricia co-founded Farm it Forward with Advocates for Health in Action and partners Wake Med, Energize!, the Inter-Faith Food Shuttle, and EFNEP and NC Cooperative Extension. 2012 will mark their second year providing CSA shares to families in need who might not otherwise have access to sustainably grown produce. They are also involved in two agriculture-related working groups in the area. They take every opportunity to participate in local panel discussions, to speak with kids at schools, and they always invite folks to come out to the farm and learn more about what they do.
Ben and Patricia love that they are able to complement each other so nicely in their partnership as farmers as well as life partners. “We are so lucky to be able to do something we believe in and something we know makes a positive difference, even if it’s small. We love being able to form lasting relationships with the land and so many wonderful community members. “
They want you to know that you are MUCH more than a customer! Your participation makes you a co-producer. As Wendell Berry says, “Eating is an agricultural act.” Never doubt your actions have ripple effects around you. Change doesn’t have to be overwhelming – begin with baby steps. Together, we can all make the world a happier and healthier place!
So, why the name change? In Good Heart has a lot of meanings, but they decided on the new name based on the Old English use of the phrase. To say that the soil is in good heart is to say that it is healthy, in good cultivation, and in good spirit. To say that a person is in good heart is to say that they are cultivating wisdom, courage, and good spirit. Ben and Patricia felt that their farm name should represent their vision and they couldn’t think of a better representation of what they want to do and what they want to be in our world than In Good Heart.