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Return to roots planned at Honeywood Farm

By Kay S. Pedrotti In the not-too-distant future, Honeywood Farm will become a known ‘brand’ for organic fruits and vegetables and meat that isn’t mass-produced, chemically altered or over-processed, says Edward Mitchell III. Ed, known as ‘Junior’ though the designation actually belongs to his father, his wife Amy and daughter Isabel are embarking on the new farming venture. They will have help from Clay Allen, longtime manager of the farm even before Ed’s father bought it from Tom Grapner in 1992. ’The kind of farming we envision is what our forebears actually did,’ he said. ‘Honeywood has always made land conservation and ethical livestock husbandry priorities in its operations and was named conservationist of the year in 1997. We’d like to take it further, adding an organic food plot, diversifying livestock operations and rotating livestock grazing habits more intensively. Over time this will build healthier soils, pastures and animals while reducing or precluding dependency on costly fertilizers, herbicides and pesticides ‘The farm itself is nearly 1,000 acres, but we’ll start small with two to three garden acres and some fruit orchards. We’ll have pigs ‘“ I recently bought some Tamworth pigs, an old heritage breed that thrives on pasture and will help root up the Bermuda grass where we need to plant. Eventually, the cattle and pigs will keep our fields fertilized and chickens will keep them free of pests and parasites.’ It will take a few years to develop, Ed says. He anticipates about three full-time employees supplemented by part-time positions. Allen will continue to supervise the farm’s calving program, a time when brood cows are usually in the barn with grain supplements, said Allen. The farm already has a market for its quality beef. Sustainable agriculture is defi ned as farming practices which provide human food, enhance environmental quality and natural resources, use non-renewable and on-farm resources efficiently, sustain economic viability for farms and as a whole improve the quality of life for everyone. ’We’ve moved so far away from nutritious food,’ says Ed. ’Years ago my grandfather and all the farmers fed their families from the land. Today’s food is not only devoid of nutrients we need, but also can be full of things that actually harm us. Intensive use of petrochemicals and fossil fuels has stripped the soil of its biodiversity and essential minerals while contaminating water supplies. Sustainable farming disregards this flawed model and first focuses on the health of the soil. Healthy soils produce healthy food and then healthy people … it all starts with the dirt. I believe the sustainable farm is coming back. We can make Honeywood Farm a part of that effort,’ he added. His higher education is in finance, not agriculture, but Ed is learning much from people already in the organic farming business. He says a hero is Joel Salatin of Swope, Va., wellknown for his sustainable farming. ‘I’ve visited his farms and several others. Salatin’s fields are some of the lushest I’ve seen. They produce four times more than his neighbors’ pastures that use conventional methods,’ Ed says. One method Ed and Amy may try is community- supported agriculture, in which people buy shares and take part in both the risks and bounty of the farm, he adds. The small sustainable farm cannot survive without community support but without health food a community may not survive. There already is an idea for a package logo, a big iron-sculpted bull who is ‘running’ in front of Ed’s barn at Highway 18 and Piedmont Road. The statue was done by a New York artist called Zura, a close friend of Ed’s sister Mandy, who lives in Brooklyn. It was a commission but the client backed out and the statue stood in Mandy’s nursery lot for a while. Ed decided he would buy it as a Christmas present for his father but when he called Mandy said it had been sold. ’My mother had bought it as a present for my father and me,’ Ed says. ’She just got ahead of me ‘“ we didn’t know anything about who the buyer was until it got here. Mandy and Zura drove it here in the back of a pickup truck so it’s now a part of the Honeywood family.’ Allen said the Mitchell family farm lost hay barns, about four miles of fencing, other structures including a home and several small outbuildings in the 2010 tornado. Amazingly, no cattle were lost and only one cow was injured. The family donated $20,000 to the community foundation for recovery costs for families, despite the Honeywood losses. Notwithstanding the statue’s front-and-center status at the farm, Ed’s plan is no bull ‘“ he and Amy are serious about providing good food.

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