Wednesday, September 26, 2012

Fall/Winter Shares Available

Sign Up for 2012 Fall CSA is now OPEN!

If you are interested in joining our Fall CSA this year, please take a look at the Fall CSA brochure here. If you have any questions, please send us a message at
Here's a quick breakdown of the info contained within the brochure: 
- our CSA runs for 10 weeks beginning in October
- we have three drop sites (Western Wake Farmer's Market in Morrisville, Five Points in Raleigh, and the Farm here in Clayton)
- we have three CSA share sizes: small, regular and large
Cool season vegetables you will likely receive in your Fall shares include (there will be multiple varieties of these veggies e.g., kale: winterbor and red Russian kale, radishes: watermelon, French breakfast, Easter egg, and black Spanish, etc. - so there is more variety than this list lets on): 
- kale
- collards
- arugula
- chard
- spinach
- sweet potatoes
- winter squash
- radishes
- lettuce
- turnips
- broccoli
- cauliflower
- fennel
- bok choy
- cabbage
- napa cabbage
- tatsoi
- beets
- carrots
- rutabaga
- scallions
- leeks
- herbs 

If you are interested in joining our CSA, please print out, fill out, and mail the brochure to 
In Good Heart Farm
1000 McLemore Road 
Clayton, NC 27520
Please make checks payable to In Good Heart Farm. 

Thursday, August 30, 2012

Guest Blog: Life-Changing Vegetables

 Here's a guest blog written by our friend & CSA member, Emily Estrada (we love her enthusiasm!!!):

If I were to ask those who know me well for an adjective that best describes my personality, I suspect words such as dramatic and theatrical would be used often.  I’ve made my peace with this and can admit that from time-to-time I have, in order to (try to..) captivate an audience, presented certain things in a dramatic, theatrical and maybe on occasion, even exaggerated manner.  However, when I write that becoming a CSA member with In Good Heart Farm has been one of the most life-changing decisions I’ve ever made, I assure you that I am not being dramatic, theatrical  or exaggerating in the slightest.  On the surface, one may think, “Really?  Really?!?  Having a vegetable subscription has changed your life…?”  Yes – that’s exactly right – joining the CSA in spring/summer 2011 changed my core, and even deeper, challenged what I thought I knew about myself.  Before you dismiss me, read on. 
            The most obvious (and I suspect common!) change is simply that I eat many more vegetables now.  Before the CSA, I would honestly go days…weeks…and maybe even….months without eating a fresh vegetable.  Today, I average about four servings of vegetables per day (and in some weird way, increasing my vegetable consumption has lead to an increase in my fruit consumption…who would have thought?  It’s like this is the type of food my body was designed to consume...weird  J ).  I was 28 when we joined the CSA, when, up until then I had always resisted eating vegetables.  Think about that: over two and a half decades of thinking one way (1.  Veggies are gross. 2. We’re “suppose” to eat vegetables but could never actually taste good.), changed so quickly by being a part of the CSA.  Actually, it’s best not to think about it; when I do, I become angry.  How is it, exactly, that I resisted eating vegetables for a very long time – without ever even considering how great they could taste (and make me feel!)?!?!  That’s not rhetorical – I think I have some answers.  First, I was not raised in a veggie-centered family.  Although we are all much more concerned with healthy eating today, this definitely wasn’t how it was back in the day.  Growing up my palette much preferred battered, deep-fried meats and (limited) vegetable items.  Thus, as a grown up, eating that type of food feels normal.  Second, moving beyond my family, I recently caught a few minutes of a cartoon on Nickelodeon when my nephew visited us.  In the segment I watched, the “punishment” given to a kid (or baby fairy, actually) was to eat beets.  Beets?!?!?  How, exactly, is that a punishment[1]?  And, more importantly, what message are we sending our children when we tell them eating beets is a form of punishment rather than the wonderfully root-y treat they are?  My point is that growing up in a family that was not veggie-conscious coupled with living in a society that tells children vegetables are gross, and that instead, they need to pick up a bag of those ever-so-cool triple-dipped toxic waste flavored cheese puffs, left me veggie-disillusioned for the majority of my life.  As a CSA member, my wonderment and absolute amazement towards vegetables has been restored.         
Change #2:  I’m eating more diverse types of vegetable; joining a CSA probably introduces many new and exotic vegetables for even those that have been life-long produce lovers.  The more adventurous vegetables I’ve tried through the CSA for the first time include: kohl rabi, leeks, fennel (OMG – fennel – I still get chills when I think about the first time I had it; I was seriously angry that this wonderful, joyous product only entered into my life when I was 29!!!  How did I live before it??), purple potatoes, garlic scape, and Daikon radish to name a few.  But, to express even further the change brought about by the CSA, let me also list the more traditional veggies I tried for the first time with the CSA: broccoli, cauliflower, any type of green (collard, swiss chard, kale (again – OMG – kale chips??  An existential question of the vegetable variety:  can a life before kale chips, really be considered living?), beet greens), beets, cabbage, carrots (alright, yes, I had baby carrots before – but they were those little tooth-pick shaped carrots that somehow get widdled down to stumps…I’m talking about those amazingly beautiful purple, yellow, orange, and white ones that look as though the ground was actually their home at some point), and radish.   Before the CSA I was, flat-out, unequivocally a Grade A weenie when it came to trying all food, but in particular veggies.  The CSA has made me braver[2].  I love getting a vegetable that I’ve never eaten before; even better if I’ve never even heard or seen it.  Almost every week I play the “Name That Vegetable” game with family back in Texas.  I send a picture of the veggie and they submit their guesses[3].  In short, the CSA has made me not only a much more frequent fresh food eater, but a more adventurous one.  I now know first, what the heck kale is, and secondly the difference between Red Russian and Winterbore varieties.  Same goes for radish – I can spot and describe different varities.  Same goes for potatoes…and on and on.  Five years ago, I never would have thought that this discovery and knowledge would have entered my life.  Thank you CSA! 
The last, and in many ways, deepest transformation the I’ll write about concerns the  realization that food is so much more than I ever thought it was.  Don’t get me wrong.  I’ve always known that food tasted good and, because of this, can make me happy.  But by saying that food is so much more than what I could have ever imagined, I mean that the CSA has helped me realize the natural and social connections betweens the food-production earth, the farmers that cultivate the food, and me – the being that consumes it.  I’ve often joked that until I met Patricia and Ben, I thought vegetables came out of the ground in a can filled with a water solution, is because when vegetables did make an appearance in my family, they usually came from a can.  As such, I cannot express in words the wonderment I felt the first time I saw a carrot pop out of the ground; my life changed in an instant.  Seeing that carrot come out of the ground reminded me that in many fundamental ways, I depend on the earth and, likewise, when treated properly (as Patricia and Ben very much do) the earth depends on us as well.  Because of the modern-day industrial food production systems and messages that we’re surrounded by, it’s easy to forget how food connects us to the natural world and, what’s more, it’s easy to ignore the relationship we have with food, the earth, and the food producers.  Gaining this knowledge – the knowledge that my time on earth is connected to a much larger phenomena – has helped me gain a new perspective on life.
               It’s weird to admit, but one of my favorite things to talk about are vegetables.  When a friend joins the CSA, it’s all I can do to stop myself from wanting to know how they’re going to store their veggies, how they are going to prepare them, and how they tasted.  On the first day of pickup this season, I wanted to take a picture as in “First Day of CSA!” in the “First Day of School” sense.  Next go-round, I think I may actually do it.  

[1] UNLESS they ate so much of the AMAZING Raw Beet Salad recipe Wake Cooperative posted on facebook and got a belly-ache like I do, but that’s only because it was super-yummy!
[2] And not only about trying vegetables.  For, I’ve recently discovered a fondness for shrimp – LOVE them.  The old Emily would never even entertain the idea of trying shrimp. 
[3] Admittedly, these submissions tend to be more comical than serious.  The garlic scape elicited a response of “Freddy Krueger herbs” and…well, I won’t tell you what they came up with for Daikon radish.  J   

Tuesday, August 14, 2012

Productive Sunday FUNdays Ahead!

Seedlings in the tunnel (thanks to Cate, Allie & Brandi for helping us seed these flats!)

As you know, there’s always work to be done on the farm and now is no exception. We’re working on getting our fall cover crops planted and our fall produce seedlings in the soil. We’ll be transplanting LOTS of goodies including, Brussels sprouts, green and red cabbage, white, yellow and green cauliflower, collards, kale, purple and white kohlrabi, mustard greens, napa cabbage, tatsoi, broccoli, beets, radish, and rutabaga. Many of you have expressed a desire to help us out on the farm  (many of you have already helped us SO much!) and we thought it might be easier – and more fun – if we had something of a planting party again. Only, this time around it’s a bit more difficult for me (Patricia) to get a whole lot of food together for our post-labor feast, given the new baby and his lack of desire to participate in baby wearing just yet. So, we were hoping that folks could pack a small picnic if they wanted to and we could provide some snack food (e.g., chips and salsa, cut up fruit, cut up veggies, etc.). Anyway, the best time for us to have folks out – and we think the best time for y’all – is Sundays. So we’d like to open up the next four Sundays to planting party time – productive Sunday FUNdays, if you will.

We’ll start around 4pm and spend a few hours each Sunday (8/19, 8/26, 9/2, and 9/9) transplanting seedlings and then we’ll hang out together in the shade enjoying snacks, personal picnics, and refreshments (a nice glass of wine or a good beer are definitely encouraged if you’re into that sort of thing J). If you think you would like to come out to help transplant, please shoot us an email, let Ben know when you see him at drop, or give us a call (919-800-8898) so we know when to expect you. If you’d like to bring out friends or family, please do – the more the merrier! Of course, dress appropriately (comfy clothes and shoes, hats, sunscreen, etc.) and bring a water container of some kind.

So, if you’ve never been out here, it’s easy. If you’re coming from the Triangle, just take I-40 East and get off at Exit 312. The Google map directions take you the rest of the way. Our address is 1000 McLemore Road Clayton, NC 27520. When you pull into the driveway, please park so that you do not block anyone. You will see a pretty white and green farm house and you’ll see a trailer. Beth, Eric and the kids live in the house. We’re in the trailer (our mailing address is 1000, but our physical address is 980) – but we’ll probably be outside when you show up. If you have any questions, give Ben a call (919-800-8898). 

We hope to see you some Sunday afternoon!

Monday, May 14, 2012

Ramble On

Here's the farm update from the CSA newsletter for this week (Week #4 May 14, 2012). 

Ramble On

Last week was a nice cool week again and yesterday brought us more rain -  with more to come in the next couple of days. This is great for us and for the farm – although it does mean we have to pick the summer squash and zucchini more often (as the rain bulks them up quickly). We managed to get a lot of our tasks accomplished last week between the days at market and CSA drops - but we do still have some left over items to try to tackle this week, including thinning the green bean plants and building the high tunnels.

Our friend Liese came out to the farm Thursday evening and helped us harvest all day Friday and attended Western Wake Market with me on Saturday. She’s coming back to the farm with me this Tuesday and she’ll be spending the week helping us attempt to get caught up with farm tasks. Our friend (and intern), Meredith, came out Friday before she had to go to work to help us harvest as well. And – Saturday our friends Andy and Craig came out to help Ben put the roof on the lean to building (it’s what the walk-in cooler is going to be built under)! We are SO, SO, SO blessed to have so many supportive people in our lives! The farm may be managed mostly by Ben and I, but we couldn’t do any of it without the help and support of our friends, CSA members, and market customers. You are all truly co-producers and we are extremely grateful for your efforts!

As I type, Ben is hilling up potatoes. The plants are blooming and need more soil around them to grow more effectively. After that, our friend Craig is coming back out (he took two weeks off work and is spending some of that time helping Ben try to get the cooler up and running out here). Ben and I harvested all of the squash and zucchini that was up to size this morning. We have four 240 foot rows of summer squash (that’s almost 1,000 squash plants!), so it takes about 45 minutes to an hour for the two of us to harvest. If we don’t keep up with them, particularly when there are rainy days, they get huge and too bitter to bother with (except maybe large zucchini for zucchini bread). We then wiped the sandy soil off each of the squash and graded them (according to size and as “seconds”) to store them in our current cold room (this is the room CSA members picking up at the farm go into). After that, we washed all of our market bins. As we’re bringing more items to market, we’re using more bins, so this chore has grown rather lengthy as well. It takes Ben and I about 40 minutes or so to wash all of the bins and lids if we do it together.

Tomorrow Sean Barker, of Part and Parcel Farm, is coming out to check out our operation. Being a farmer, he understands that while we love having folks out to the farm, pretty much the only way it’s possible for us to visit is if someone works with us – so Sean offered to do a couple hours of work with us during his visit. We’re very much looking forward to speaking with him about what we do and learning more about what he’s doing as well. It’s always nice to talk with fellow farmers. Also, tomorrow, CSA member and friend, Charlotte, is coming out in the afternoon to help Ben do some much needed transplanting and hopefully also stake and tie up tomatoes. The first round of tomato plants are getting pretty big! Of course, I’ll be headed to the Five Points drop to meet folks for the CSA pick up between 4:30 and 6:30. Please remember that while I am completely capable of doing all sorts of farm and off-farm tasks being over 8 months pregnant, I cannot pull out the tent and set it up by myself (it’s just too heavy and cumbersome) – so, if you’re the first person to drop and you’re willing, I’ll need your help with the tent. It’ll only take a couple minutes. Thanks, Michelle, for helping last week! J

Alrighty! I suppose I’ve rambled enough for now. As usual, let me know if you have any questions or suggestions. We’re here to help! Thanks for keeping up with us and please let us know how things are going with you. If you have anything you would like to share in the newsletter (e.g., how you use your weekly shares, how you feel about being part of CSA or this CSA in particular, what your thoughts are on the environment and health, book recommendations, etc.), please send it our way ( I could certainly use the help writing the newsletter and I think y’all might like to hear from folks other than myself for once! J

Farm Time

Below is an entry from last week's newsletter for the CSA (Week #3; May 7, 2012). Read on if you'd like to know more about what Ben and I have been up to out here. 

Farm Time

The habit of looking to the future and thinking that the whole meaning of the present lies in what it will bring forth is a pernicious one. There can be no value in the whole unless there is value in the parts.
BERTRAND RUSSELL, Conquest of Happiness

Whew! It feels great to have received some good, drenching (and cooling!) rains! Last week was quite the hot and humid time. Tuesday and Wednesday in particular, I had to give up working outside much past 10am. Instead I chose to do paperwork inside and run errands with the car (which, unlike the truck, has air conditioning).

This week we broke down and transported the high tunnels we originally built in October last year for use for the fall and winter crops to the spring and summer fields. We’ll re-build the tunnels to use for some of our summer crops – especially tomatoes. Monday, CSA member, Charlotte, came out and helped us transplant tomatoes and peppers. Ben direct seeded green beans, dill, and radishes and cultivated the spring garden. In the process of prepping a bed for tomatoes, he managed to get some row fabric (which he used to cover the closest crops to the tractor to keep them protected from thrown soil) caught in the tractor implement (the rotovator). Not only did we lose about 250 feet of row cover, we spent quite a lot of time working to get that stuff out of the rotovator so Ben could finish prepping beds. After quite a lot of frustration, we triumphed over the mangled row cover and high-fived each other for getting through it! 

Last week, we also managed to keep ourselves pretty busy with our daily chores and weekly harvest, wash, and CSA drop/market days. If you came out to the farm today, you’d see that our “lawn” is in desperate need of being mowed and we have every intention of getting to that task someday – it’s just such a low level item on our already lengthy regular daily and weekly chores list. Our spare time is spent working on the tasks on our weekly to-do quadrant. This week we have a TON of transplanting to do. Also, the weeds are catching up on us and we need to get out there and hand weed and cultivate (with the wheel hoe and the tractor, depending on the crop). We also need to go ahead and thin the green beans and stake the tomatoes. I don’t know about y’all, but we can see July just over the horizon! We’re also going to finish the transport of the high tunnels and re-construct them this week. And Ben needs to get on that tractor and put in the cover crop on our fall/winter field as well as the new, big field we added on this year. It’s going to be another whirlwind of a week! See you soon!

Time is an illusion. Lunchtime doubly so.
DOUGLAS ADAMS, The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy

Monday, April 30, 2012

Farm News

Here's an entry from our Week #2 Newsletter for CSA members. 

Ben and I took our usual Sunday stroll through the garden today and it looks like everything is about to go gangbusters on us! The cabbage is beginning to head up, the squash is fruiting and blooming up a storm, the garlic is producing scapes and the leaves are starting to go yellow/brown (which is an indicator of when it’s ready for picking), the broccoli is full of baby crowns, the potatoes are starting to bloom, and, of course, the plethora of weeds are thriving as well! This week we’ll harvest scallions, tat soi, lettuce, strawberries, arugula, herbs (flat leaf parsley, dill, cilantro, and garlic scapes), kale, chard and beets for y’all. We picked the kale and the chard pretty hard last week, so we’re going to offer you the option of kale, chard, or beets for this week – which we’re calling the “choose 1 option”. Remember, the early bird gets the worm – so if you really want one of those things, it’s probably best to come to the pick up site as early as you can. We’re also going to offer the herbs as a “choose 1 option” – you get to pick between cilantro, dill, parsley and garlic scapes (or – if we have enough garlic scapes to give to everyone, it will be an added extra and you pick between the others). 

Last week was a good first week of getting into the swing of spring things. We had a good first market at the Raleigh Downtown Market. We met quite a few nice, new folks. We even met one of our neighbors. We also had a nice time meeting new CSA members this week and catching up with returning members. Everyone’s excitement has been infectious and has given Ben and I a much needed second wind to get more summer crops in the ground and get the cooler under way. Before we know it, it’ll be June! In between harvest, washing, boxing, and delivering to CSA drops and going to markets, we’ve managed to get some more things done on the farm. CSA member, Charlotte came out this week to help us cultivate, hand weed, and transplant tomatoes. I seeded up pumpkins and more tat soi and Ben direct seeded more mesclun and cilantro. Ben spent some time replacing the bearings on the disk harrow and disked up ground for late tomatoes and peppers. Earlier in the week, he got a truck load of compost from the city of Raleigh and spread it and then finish the beds to prep more ground for summer produce. Friday, our friends Tarah, Meredith and Meredith’s friend, Liz came out to the farm to help us harvest for Saturday’s markets and CSA pick up.

This is the chicken tractor for the "tweens"
Life on the farm means we work a lot, but it also means we’re often entertained. The not-so-baby chicks (I think they might be “tweens”) have provided a personal comedy show for us each evening this week. Ben put a few roosts in the chicken tractor and they all try to roost on the highest one. They wind up jumping on each others’ backs and struggling to push each other off the roost and start all over again. Fittingly, it’s kind of like they’re playing chicken. Charlie, our dog, also provides quite a bit of entertainment. He likes to hop in tall grass like a gazelle – and no matter how many times he does it, it makes us laugh. He’s an awfully goofy dog. He also managed to get into it with a ground hog a couple weeks ago. I had no idea ground hogs were so tough – Charlie finally met his match. By the time Ben and I were able to figure out what all the commotion was about, we saw a ground hog attached to Charlie’s face (more specifically, he had Charlie by the nose). There was quite a lot of blood for a couple minutes or so, but the ground hog and the dog left that match relatively unscathed. Charlie may have a scar on his nose and hopefully, he’ll learn his lesson not to mess with wild animals – or ground hogs, at least!

Well, I guess that’s all for now folks! Thanks for taking the time to read this and find out a little bit about what’s going on the farm. Let us know how you’re doing too!

Thursday, April 12, 2012

Western Wake Farmer's Market Vendor Spotlight

 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.

To learn more about In Good Heart Farm, visit and or contact Ben and Patricia at, (919) 800-8898.

Thursday, April 5, 2012

Busy Bees

Boy oh boy – it’s been a busy year so far! The last time I posted, I posted the invite for the 2012 Onion Planting Party. It was a HUGE success! We managed to plant – not 1,500 but 6,000!!! onion plants! And we did it all in under an hour. We finished so quickly, I was thrown off guard and hurriedly got together the food from inside to put outside under the tents – with the help of mostly the female folk in attendance. The taco salad, burrito/taco bar food theme was also a success. I’ve struggled to try to come up with a good theme that allows me (and others) to easily have food to meet almost everyone’s food preferences (e.g., gluten free, vegetarian, vegan, paleo, etc.). Thanks go to my mom for coming up with the idea! By three o’clock or so, most folks had a chance to plant, party, and were on their way. It was a beautiful, semi-lazy Sunday and we got work done – that’s my kind of Sunday! 
Folks gettin down and dirty with the soil. 

Look at that gorgeous blue sky.

Time to dig in!

Ben and I (with some help from our friend and CSA member, Charlotte) have been doing a lot more planting since then. Just to give you a good idea – those 6,000 onions were planted in 2 ½ beds (240 bed feet each). Since then, we’ve planted almost THIRTY (200-240ft long) more beds of produce that includes, spinach, beets, tat soi, bok choy, Chinese cabbage, scallions, leeks, chard, kale, lettuce, broccoli, cabbage, summer squash, zucchini, cucumbers, parsley, fennel, carrots, peas, mesclun, arugula, dill, cilantro, and potatoes (I might be forgetting something). And, to tell you the truth, April is going to be our busiest planting month of all – and it just started! We can hardly believe it’s April already. April is not only our busiest planting month, we also do a lot of cultivating and weeding, and getting ready for markets. 

This year, we’ll be attending the Western Wake Farmer’s Market (the Spring/Summer market opens this weekend 8am-noon), the Clayton Community and Farmer’s Market (opening 4/14 9am – 2pm), and, for the first time, the Raleigh Downtown Farmer’s Market (opens 4/25 Wednesdays 10 am – 2pm). We’ve also increased our CSA membership to 59 shares. The small share size and alternating small share pick up weeks has allowed us to do this. We’re happy to see so many folks return and we’re also happy to see new folks join CSA and this CSA more specifically. We will also be continuing our Farm It Forward efforts this year. We hope to have two 6 week long Farm It Forward sessions, providing CSA shares to 12 families.

As you know, we rotate our cover crops and we also plant to encourage beneficial (to the health of the farm) critters. So, we’ve also spent some time taking down the low tunnels, mowing the winter cover crops, prepping beds for the spring crops, and then also mowing down the old winter vegetable crops and prepping ground for spring cover crops to go in. The cover crop that was just mowed consisted of barley, oats, peas, daikon radish and volunteer vetch and crimson clover. Ben planted Dutch white clover, mustard, barley and wild flowers for our beneficial habitat.

Here's a picture of the beautiful cover crop we just mowed down.

In other news, we applied for and received a NRCS (Natural Resource Conservation Service – part of the USDA) high tunnel cost share! We currently have three home made high tunnels. We first constructed them in October. Shortly, we will take them down and set them up elsewhere for our use with Spring and Summer crops (mostly, tomatoes). As you can probably imagine, it takes a lot of time and effort to take down and reconstruct these high tunnels – and we’re not complaining! – we’re happy to have them! BUT – let’s just say that the new tunnel we’ll be getting from the NRCS cost share will be A LOT easier to move!!! This one will be on tracks and it will therefore be easily mobile. We’ll just have to slide the hoop house down the tracks (rather than completely taking it down, moving the parts, and then putting them back together again). So, while we’re not complaining about our homemade three high tunnels, we’re very excited to get one that will be more efficient and a lot less work, so that we can focus our efforts on one of the other tasks on our never-ending to do lists (actually, thanks to Ben and Habits of Successful People, we use a to-do quadrant with important/urgent, important/less urgent, less important/urgent, and less important/less urgent as the categories – it took some convincing for me, but it really does work!).  

Of course, in addition to our making preparations for a busy and productive year on the farm, we’re also making preparations for the arrival of our newest family member, Elliott (in late June or early July). The same day we had our (very fun!) baby shower, 50 baby chick-a-dees arrived in the mail. It was a Sunday, so the main Post Office in Raleigh called us at 7am to let us know the chicks had arrived and we could pick them up. So, of course, that’s what we did (well, Ben and my dad went – my mom and I were getting things together for the shower). While my folks were here, we got a lot of our nesting accomplished, with their BIG help including, putting new blinds on all of the windows, putting up new curtains in Elliott’s room and the living room, putting a new sliding glass door that leads out of our kitchen onto the porch, refurnishing the living room with new to us items – including my Oma’s awesome couch from the 1970s, setting up Elliott’s room organizationally and making it a guest room for now, which leads to the biggest deal yet – we got a new KING SIZE BED (and moved our old bed into the guest room – which will be Elliott’s room down the road)!!! Ben sleeps like a crazy person, our bed was old and may as well have been a hammock, and we’re about to have another person in it with us, so we decided (thanks to the help of my folks) to get a new bed. Ben and I are in heaven – we both feel like we’re the luckiest people ever to have a bed so darn comfortable. I’m not sure the thanks I feel every time I get in that bed is ever going to go away – and I’m sure Ben feels the same way. When you’re exhausted after a long day, and place you can lie down will do the trick, but having something you can wake up from rested – well, that’s heaven! Before my folks came, Ben and our neighbors put in wood laminate flooring in the guest room (to replace the old “white” plush carpeting). Ahhh – it is nice to have a cozy home – thanks mom and dad!

Mom, Dad, Ben and I (with Ben's sister Mary in the background)

What else? Hmmm…there are a lot of other things that have happened out here since the last time I posted – but I’m not sure I can keep them straight. It might be a little easier if I just listed the rest of what I can remember:
·        Ben’s cousin, Roy, designed our new logo.
·        We designed a new banner for market and friend Cyndi hooked us up with a sign maker, Steve, who’s doing the printing for us. We can’t wait to hang the new banner up!
·        We also designed new business cards. We should get them in the mail sometime in the next week or so.
·        We met with our Farm It Forward partners to decide on a plan of action for Farm It Forward 2012.
·        Ben will be a panelist for the “What’s on Your Plate?” screening April 17th.
·        I volunteered for this year’s Dig In! event (it was lots of fun!).
·        We repaired the pick up (it needed a new starter).
·        We’ve been working on getting together our new pole building and walk-in cooler.
·        We finally finished weeding our strawberries just in time to have to do it all over again!
·        We pick up compost weekly from Pullen Place.
·        We’ve done our monthly profit and loss reports and we’re almost finished with our tax paperwork (cutting it close, I know) for 2011.
·        Ben, with the help of a neighbor welder, Jeff, designed and built a custom-made garden cart that’s big enough to wheel with us over the rows. We can also attach the custom built row marker as well (this saves us countless hours overall).

Well, that’s all folks – at least for now! We hope you enjoy our farm updates. We’re looking forward to a fantastic Spring and Summer – see you around!

Wendell Berry

Sunday, February 26, 2012

In Good Heart Farm Planting Party & Potluck Sunday, March 11th

Join us for our second annual Onion Planting Party & Potluck! We have about 1,500 onion plants to get into the soil so we can enjoy those tasty red candy apple, candy, and red creole alliums in the months to come. We'll spend a couple hours getting those tasty treats in the ground and then we'll feast outside with the fruits of our labor in view.

In the interest of the environment, please bring your own "table" (e.g., plate, utensils, glass/cup, etc.). We will provide a main dish and a colorful salad straight from the garden and we encourage you to bring your favorite treat (e.g., appetizer, side item, desert) if you'd like.

You are welcome to bring children, friends & family! The more the, the merrier!

Hosts: Ben Shields & Patricia Parker
Phone: 919-800-8898
When: Sunday, March 11th - planting (noon-2pm), feasting (2pm-5pm)
Where: In Good Heart Farm 1000 McLemore Road Clayton, NC 27520
*** In the event of bad weather, we will re-schedule the planting party for Sunday, March 18th. 

RSVP: Please send us your name & email address (to if you would like to spend a Sunday afternoon on the farm planting onions with us, eating good food, & enjoying good company.

Thursday, January 26, 2012

Life is what happens... you while you're busy making other plans." (John Lennon)

That may be the case, but even so, Ben and I have spent quite a lot of the new year planning for the rest of 2012. As of yesterday, we finished our crop plan! This may not sound like the impressive feat that it is if you're not aware of the time and effort that it takes to try to decide how much of each item we would like to have available for every week of 2012. Consider on top of that that we'll be growing almost 50 different crops and over 150 different varieties of various crops (e.g., we'll have 10 different potato varieties and 13 different tomato varieties). Diversity is the spice of life!

In addition to finishing up the crop plans, Ben and I have spent some time running around getting all of our new business eggs in a basket. We canceled our listing as Ben's Produce with the Wake County Registrar of Deeds and we applied (and were approved) for our business name of In Good Heart Farm with the Johnston County Registrar of Deeds. I imagine changing a business name is something like changing your own name. We've had to open up new bank accounts and close old ones. We've applied for and received our new EIN number as well. Ben's cousin, Roy, is working on our logo for us and it is well on its way to being finished. Once we have our logo, we'll work on changing our electronic communications (new website with new URL and new Facebook page and the like). We also need to get a new banner for market. We'll miss the old hand painted banner April made for us.

We were pleasantly surprised this month with a week-long visit from Ben's mom, Jody. Jody is a fiber artist. She is employed by Rambler's Way and also is a small business owner of Botanical Shades (a natural dye company). You can see a beautiful shot of Jody at work here. Jody came to NC to work with the folks in textiles at NC State and we got to visit with her, so it was a win-win situation :).

I've also spent a lot of time reading since the new year. Some of the books I've read include Crop Planning for Organic Vegetable Growers, The Organic Farmer's Business Handbook: A Complete Guide to Managing Finances, Crops, and Staff - and Making a Profit, and Ecology for Gardeners. I've read through the first two once already, but the latter is a little more slow-going for me (although I find it more fascinating than business planning, planning has been the task of the year so far).

In other news, Ben and I have purchased a manure spreader! We'll be able to use it to spread manure in the future (when we have more farm animals) and we'll be using it this year to spread compost. Last year Ben spent days upon days spreading compost by the truckload, *by hand with a shovel*! I am not kidding you when I say he spent days upon days. I posted quite a few pictures of Ben engaging in this task last year on our Facebook page, but I'll post some here too:

You can get a good glimpse below of the area that Ben covered in one day.

The picture below gives you a good idea of what our manure spreader looks like (we don't have ours yet - we're picking it up at a farm in Snow Camp this Sunday) - except ours has rubber tires. 

This year is going to be substantially less physically taxing (or that's the idea anyway) with the help of the manure spreader and our tractor (we no longer have to depend only on the walk-behind tractor - aka tiller). Although, of course, when you have equipment of any kind it requires maintenance and repair. And of course, the tractor needs a little bit of both. Here's Ben driving the tractor 2 miles down the road to take the tractor to the repair shop (we are so lucky to have a garage specializing in tractor repair so close to us!).

In addition to our usual farm chores and tasks, we've been getting involved in some events in our community. Last week our interns, Meredith and Aaron, and Ben and I all attended the first Local Food Micro Enterprise Working Group meeting of the year. This group emerged out of an Advocates for Health in Action (AHA) event, "Connecting the Dots: Creating a Local Food System in Wake County." Over 20 movers and shakers were able to attend this first meeting of 2012. Thanks to the Inter-Faith Food Shuttle for letting us use their board room for the meeting! We will be having many more meetings in the year. If you are interested in joining the discussion, please feel free to email Ben ( or I ( to let us know you're interested and we'll add you to the listserv.

In addition to the working group, yesterday Ben and I had the pleasure of speaking with 4th, 5th, and 6th graders at the Sterling Montessori and Charter School. Juliann, our market president, invited us to speak to her son's class - taught by Teacher Tom. We were so impressed with how engaged and smart of all the kids were. We told them a little bit about ourselves and the farm and sustainable farming more generally. We also played a game, "Star Power" (thanks Emily and David!), to talk about how the system rules are often created by those in power so that the rules allow them to maintain and even increase their power. The driving home point we tried to have for the kiddos is that gain that comes at the loss of another is not sustainable and that gain that is absolute (as with increasing fertility through crop rotation, cover crops and the like) - or gain that does not come at a loss - is sustainable. We strive for the latter. Here we are with the kids after we finished playing the game. 

Finally, tomorrow Ben and I are attending the first meeting of the Collaborative Regional Alliance for Farmer Training (CRAFT) in the Piedmont region (CRAFT-UP). Here's what the email that piqued our interest has to say about the organization and the meeting itself:

The Collaborative Regional Alliance for Farmer Training (CRAFT) is a farmer-led coalition organized by sustainable agriculture farmers in a self-selected geographic region. Participating farmers offer up their time, talents and experience to help prepare the next generation of farmers. The secret to CRAFT’s success is simple -- farmers learn most effectively from other farmers. CRAFT provides farmer-to-farmer learning and access to the social network and culture of local farmers.”  (   Collaborative Regional Alliance for Farmer Training – United Piedmont (CRAFT-UP) will offer resources for farmers (and farmers-in-training) of the Piedmont bioregion. CRAFT-UP will be a venue for established Piedmont farmers to streamline and network their training opportunities, while providing beginning farmers with a formal network and more resources for entry
into farming careers. Many CRAFT groups also host social events for beginning farmers to get together casually and celebrate! CRAFT members will gain access to on-farm training and learn skills that will support their transition from farming beginners to market farmers.

We don't know much beyond that, but it sounds right up our alley! :)

Well, I suppose I've said enough for now. I hope you enjoyed the update. Thanks for stopping by!

Sunday, January 1, 2012

New Beginnings In Good Heart

It feels like Spring around these parts, even though it’s still about three months away. The days are beginning to grow longer once again and life is full of new beginnings for Ben and I this year.  For one, we have a new name. Ben’s Produce was never really our first choice. Actually, our first choice was Veni Vidi Vegetables (as in, I came, I saw Vegetables). We were so proud of ourselves when we came up with that name, but when we told folks about it, no one got it and others people told us they couldn’t pronounce it. So we scrapped Veni Vidi Vegetables and decided on Ben’s Produce for its simplicity. It’s been a good name for us. It’s good to have your name in your business name – it means everyone knows your name. But we also feel the name limited us in two main regards: 1) we want to move beyond just produce and 2) well, it’s not just Ben. Ben and I talked about changing our name last year, but when Ben’s Produce was voted Edible Piedmont’s farm of the year, we decided to delay the name change and resolved to change it for 2012. We threw around a lot of names, some serious, some not so much, before we finally came to In Good Heart Farm. In Good Heart has a lot of meanings, but we decided on the 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 I felt that our farm name should represent our vision and we couldn’t think of a better representation of what we want to do and what we want to be in our world than In Good Heart.

In addition to our changing the farm name, we are also changing the farm input – which is to say that I am now also a full-time farmer, along with Ben! I have gained a lot from working toward my PhD in Sociology at NC State, including mentors and friends. And while I will always think of myself as a Sociologist, I no longer feel that earning a PhD is an important goal for me. I never knew farming would be the life for me. It’s physical, cerebral, spiritual, immensely rewarding and it enables me to feel like I am doing something – and more than that, that I am doing something positive in conjunction with the people and the things that I care about. Ben came to his realization a few years ago when he decided to leave his job working for Smithsonian Magazine in Manhattan and move to NC with me. Now we’re on the same track and we couldn’t be happier, which is great – because the other new beginning in our life is that we’re going to be parents this summer! Ben and I (and our families) are thrilled and can’t wait until we get to meet the little one sometime in June (I’m due near the end, but my mom swears I’ll give birth two weeks prior to my due date). Life is good and we’re ready to take on this year with all the vigor it deserves! Stay tuned!