Photo credit: Scott Kelly
Ten Mothers Farm is a small farm in Cedar Grove, NC. We grow organic, nutrient-dense vegetables for a CSA and local restaurants.
Gordon Jenkins and Vera Fabian started the farm in 2016. Neither of us grew up farming, and we don’t have a great explanation for how we became farmers – we just love food. It’s our main motivation for farming. We grow vegetables that we love to eat; we cook our meals with produce we’ve just picked from the fields; and we take great pleasure in sharing the abundance with friends, neighbors, and CSA members.
Vera grew up in Chapel Hill; Gordon grew up in Berkeley, CA. We met in 2007, when Vera was a gardening teacher with The Edible Schoolyard, and Gordon was working for Alice Waters at the restaurant Chez Panisse. In 2012, we left our city lives behind, and set out to apprentice ourselves to some of the best farmers we could find: first, Bob Cannard of Green String Farm in California; then, Eliot Coleman and Barbara Damrosch of Four Season Farm in Maine; and finally, Ken Dawson and Libby Outlaw of Maple Spring Gardens here in North Carolina.
We started the farm on leased land with seed money from our original 34 CSA members. Three years later, we were able to buy land with three friends. We each have our own independent parcels and we own one piece in common. We share practical resources, like a deer fence and a mower, and we aspire to share less practical but nonetheless important ones, like a sauna and a pizza oven. We all have plans to build homes, plant orchards, and care for the land together for years to come.
On the farm, we're now joined by Luke Howerter, a dear friend and a talented farmer. Originally from Savannah, GA, Luke was drawn to farming during college because it felt like a grassroots way to work on the social, environmental, and economic challenges we face globally. In 2011, this took Luke to northern California, where he learned to farm at John Jeavons's organization Ecology Action, a non-profit that teaches small-scale, sustainable, subsistence farming to people from all over the world. Since his time at Ecology Action he has worked on a number of farms. In 2016, Luke came to North Carolina to manage the Duke Campus Farm. We met, became fast friends, and found ourselves discussing what it would be like to farm together. In late 2018, we decided to try on co-managing the farm and, as a team, moved the farm onto new land.
When we say we’re a small farm, we mean very small: just about an acre. We farm by hand, without a tractor, because we like keeping our feet on the ground, and it allows us to focus on growing the highest quality produce we can. By not tilling and not using a tractor, we’re able to build very fertile soil that supports healthy plants and nutrient-dense food.
Since we’re so small, we focus on making every square foot count. We grow intensively, choosing our crops carefully and spacing them closely, and we replant beds as many as six times a year. Our focus on building fertile soil supports this level of production and allows us to grow year-round.
We believe the best way to grow healthy, nutrient-dense food – as well as to grow plants that are resilient against pests and extreme weather – is to farm organically. While we’re not certified, we follow organic practices strictly. Every day, we make farm decisions based on the health of the soil, the pollinators, the community we’re a part of, and the broader ecosystem we inhabit. We never use synthetic chemical sprays or GMOs.
Since we spend pretty much all our free time cooking, we grow vegetable varieties that are known for great flavor. When harvesting for CSA members, we always prioritize taste, freshness, and nutrition. We want you and your family to eat well.
There’s an old saying from India that “garlic is as good as ten mothers,” which to us means that food is medicine, as nourishing and powerful as ten whole mothers. There’s also a fantastic film by Les Blank called Garlic Is As Good As Ten Mothers. And really, we just love garlic.