Tuesday, March 31, 2015

Getting to Known Your Farmer...We're the Colvins....

Getting to Know Your Farmers...

 the Colvin Family

Do you want to know who grows your food? Do you want it grown as close to truly natural as possible? Do you want it transported under 100 miles to your home? Would you like to support a small family farm? Read on...we're the Colvins!

We're the Colvin family...all 17 of us. (If I've got that straight! With two weddings in 3 weeks, if I'm off by one, just give it a few days and I'll soon have the number right! ha) We farm together in the mountains of east Tennessee. We most likely sell at a market near you!

This is Steve in 1975 by his family's farm truck. He had it
loaded down with tomatoes to take to the Chattanooga
Curb market to sell.

Farmer Steve is from a third generation farming family, and I was a small town girl from New England. He grew up in agriculture, and I fell in love with the soil by spending time with my Grandfathers in their gardens. We began growing our food the summer Steve and I got married in 1981. So, north met south in the garden.  

We've been home schooling our children since 1986. Each year our studies took a seasonal turn as we anticipated spring. The thrill of pulling a carrot from the ground, swishing it in a pail of sun-warmed water, and munching it while I watched my Grampy work is a vivid childhood memory. I wanted my children to experience this, so gardening became an important part of our lives. 

 As the winter months dragged on and the seed catalogs arrived in the mail we began to use them to teach everything from basic colors to the little ones, to filling out order forms.(An important skill back in the 80's and 90's!) Each child made a list of flowers and vegetables they wanted to plant in their gardens during handwriting practice. We used real calenders (not smart phones or the computer as we do now!) to calculate planting dates for seeds indoors that we grew on the windowsills, and later when to transplant them outside. We made raised beds for raising our "salad fixings", along with our "postage stamp garden" for larger vegetables. Nearby our preschoolers grew cotton, special radishes, peanuts, and flowers in their little 3' foot spot with stepping stones across the bed to protect the plants from being trampled. 

My, how times have changed! In 1999 we moved from our one acre "homestead" to this 35 acre farm. We felt truly blessed! By then we had 9 children, and I still had a small garden mentality. We soon learned that larger scale gardening took real work! We didn't have a tractor that first season...or irrigation...or large scale experience. Daddy was away at work each day, and I was used to heading up the gardening education. Daddy soon pulled all the pieces together and our first 100' X 100' farm style garden was planted. God watered it, we tended it...for hours each day. 

Fast forward a year or so and I soon had my beloved raised square foot beds in place for easier growing. A couple of years before our move, Steve had bought me the book, Square Foot Gardening by Mel Bartholomew. Visit their site here. I loved the intimacy of small beds with BIG harvests! We still had our larger garden for the bigger crops that we needed to can, but each child  had their own 4X4' bed. I've learned this one secret...a child needs to fall in love with gardening before he will work willingly with a passion in a larger plot. 

So by the spring of 2000 we had 10, 4' square beds to grow in. Each one would feed one person during the growing season...and yes, we had our 10th child, Faith Anne that fall. Square foot beds are a great educational tool. Soon I had sons cross-breeding squash to develop a stronger native strain. My daughters had fallen in love with different flowers, and were giving them as a ministry of encouragement to others. We even had a biology/botany lab in a new herb garden one year.

My little ones had a bed of their own, and daily ate sun warmed cherry tomatoes and pulled radish and carrots for their after nap snacks. 
School was often accomplished from April through June on a blanket in the gardens. Math was a natural part of their work...when you had 1 square foot that held 9 bean plants and you needed to have an average of 27 plants to feed the family a meal. This kind of practical application of math gives meaning to the textbook study. They harvested and cooked their vegetables several times before replanting for a continual crop. Gardening...science...insects... journaling their experiences ...grafting the growth of a squash vine...cooking...it was all fun! Learning was as natural as our growing methods.

After expanding our beds to having 1025 square feet in 2002, and expanding our traditional "garden" to about 1/2 acre we began our first CSA. I had read, Sharing the Harvest,  by Chelsea Green that winter and was inspired with a great idea for our children's education. From January throughout the spring, summer, and fall small scale "square foot farming" was an integral part of our school. We had 25 families plus our own that first year and we learned a lot! 

Meanwhile my two oldest boys at home at the time (Adam - 12 and Caleb - 10) were learning wholesale marketing, handling produce in grocery stores, and setting up at a farmer's market with the family in Dayton. It was here that our CSA had it's start. Our backwoods country children learned people skills, handled money, and filled 1/2 bushel baskets each week with the produce they had grown themselves. The older girls, now in high school baked bread, cinnamon rolls, and other goodies to sell also. It was a great learning experience that later has reaped many blessings as we now earn our entire living on our farm.

In about 2004 we won the national Square Foot Gardening School contest when I wrote a biology/botany course for our high schoolers using our square foot gardens. We also had a gardening club for home schoolers that was a rip-roaring success!  The author of my second hand book, Square Foot Gardening, Mel Bartholomew was a great encouragement to the family, and we were soon testing some of his equipment and adapting his methods to our new 48' greenhouse/high tunnel. 

Fast forward 10 years...I have 5 sons, and 3 daughters that are graduated and working full-time. 4 sons and 1 of these daughters still live and work the farm. All the younger children are also an important part of the farm crew also. We still teach through our "gardens"...but now they have grown to 30 acre fields, 3 greenhouses, and 2 1/2 acres of high tunnels! 

Here is the family:

Steve~ Owner and operator of Colvin Family Farm. He is the "jack of all trades". He no longer works off 

the farm all day. With his background in industry management, along with motion and efficiency study he tries to keep the day to day operations on track. I have to admit though it is likened to trying to hold water in your hand! He harvests and sells at 4 weekly markets during the busy growing season along with the managing side of the business. This winter he has designed the blueprints to the two homes he and the boys are rapidly building. (Adam and Caleb are to be married before strawberry season!) Along with his farm hat, he dutifully, and proudly wears the hat of a daddy to many which entails "training them in the way they should go". He is a godly, wise man and I love him.

Val~ I'm the Farmer's Wife , the one that is so proud and in love with the farmer. :) I too "wear many
hats", but am focused by God's Word to be a "keeper at home", meeting the needs of my family. I didn't work at any regular markets last season because of a farm accident. What I get to do this season remains to be seen still. I am the baker and canner for the

farm. We sell breads and jams along with a few other goodies. Last season we made strawberry, watermelon, seedless blackberry, blueberry, and peach jam along with apple and pumpkin butters. We grind our own wheat in our stone mill for our

breads...stone-ground whole wheat, sprouted wheat, and also a "fermented" artisan bread that is popular.

Of course this all takes back seat to being a wife to the farmer, mother to the farmers and "fits" (farmers-in-training) and young "keepers at home". I keep up with meals at different farms, laundry for the crew, schooling, sewing our seasonal clothes, and meeting emotional and physical needs keeps me pretty busy. 

Hope~ Hope is our married daughter that lives here
on the farm with her little family. Technically she's not a Colvin anymore, but I've counted her.  Her husband Bryan is a mechanic and helps when and where he can. Hope has a servant spirit and helps feed the crew hot meals wherever they are working in the cold season. She and Bryan are an energetic addition to our Friday night packing crew too! She also watches her little sisters and brothers when I am at a market they are not involved with. She also helps me do our seasonal sewing for everyone. And last season she often took my place when I was confined to bed. She is a true blessing to us all!

Adam~ Adam is our oldest son at home...for a little while longer! (I delayed the posting of this blog and
Adam was married 3/21/15.)  He will be married next weekend to Allison Edwards. So he'll soon be leaving "the nest". He is building a home on our other farm at the moment with his Dad and brothers preparing for the big day!

Adam is our online guru. He designs and keeps up with our website, keeps in touch with our customers and shareholders through social media. He is also part of the team that plans and manages the farms crops. If it has to be done online at our website, Adam is responsible for it. He job description though is field manager.  You'll bet to meet Adam and Allison at the Franklin Farmer's Market and also the Main Street Farmer's Market in Chattanooga this season. 

Caleb~ Caleb is our quiet steady man that has been instrumental to bringing meat and mushrooms to our markets. He manages the pastured poultry and hogs aspects of the farm. He's also an important member of the planning and managing side of the farm.

Caleb is getting married also on April 11th to Shelby Bennett! He has his own farm nearby now

that is under the "umbrella" of Colvin Family Farm. Caleb is now growing mushrooms there and is moving part of the hog operation there. Our pastured chickens will also range there this year. We're spreading out! Thankfully all three farms are here on the mountain within 10 minutes of each other. He also works with the rest of the family in the day to day operation of the vegetable farm. Caleb and Shelby will be selling at Dixie Lee Farmer's Market.

Isaac~ Isaac is an especially important member of the farm crew this winter. With two brothers that are
engaged and building houses, he keeps all the pieces of the farm coordinated and pulled together. Even with two houses in progress, seeds need to be planted, greenhouses still need managed, the laying chickens still needed new housing and managing, and 3 winter markets still need manned. He is also drafted to help whichever brother needs a hand that day building. He works Market Square Farmer's Market on Wednesdays and Saturdays with his "little" brother Noah.  Isaac is a steady helping hand throughout the year...when he's not courting Destany Brock in the valley! :) She is a blessing to us, and an important part of our Friday night packing crew with her family for the past 4 years.

Titus~ Titus graduated from our home school a few days before Christmas. He is now our full-time wood chopper. We heat our home, water, and greenhouses with wood, so we need a steady supply.  Like Isaac he is free to help in other areas when needed. During the growing season Titus has taken the title of field hand in the past, and is seeking God's will for his future. He doesn't feel the farm is "thing"...so we'll see what the Lord's will is in the next few months. Please pray for him. 

Noah~ Noah is a sophomore in high school and

is a competent helper in the field and greenhouse. He works Market Square Farmer's market each week with Isaac. He's learning A LOT about the building trade this winter along with his studies as he helps build his brother's houses. His title is competent field hand. 

Faith Ann~ Faith Anne is a freshman in our high school this year. She is my helper baking, cleaning, preparing/packing for markets, and is learning to sew for herself. We're proud of how she is learning and serving! She's her Daddy's helper at Oak Ridge and Crossville's Cumberland Sustainable Farmer's Market.

Luke~ Luke is in Jr. High and, like Noah is learning a lot about building houses this winter.
(Today they were safety strapped to the roof as they sheathed it in the rain!!) Luke is our tinker...he neeeeeds to know why and how everything works. This is beginning to pay off as he can now fix things for me! He's as strong as his older brothers, and works right beside them. His daily job before breakfast is to care for our 250+ laying chickens. He also helped Isaac and the Farmer build their new movable
Our new hen house that is easily moved with
a tractor.
house this winter. He's been juggling school work and house building like Noah. It's been an exciting "school" year! Luke has worked the Franklin Farmer's Market with Adam in the past. This year he'll be helping his Daddy with the 4 markets he attends during the week along with working in the fields.We lovingly call the two younger boys, "F.I.T.s". (Farmers in Training)

96 nest boxes for hens to lay eggs in.

Levi~ Levi is 9 3/4 years old, and our inventor/artist son. At this moment he's building a miniature steam engine! He too
is at the building site almost daily, and they journal about what they are learning. He's learning at a young age that a man's work is not always easy or comfortable, but vitally important. He's a field hand, working alongside his Dad during the growing season. This year, he'll be taking on more responsibility as he's really growing up! 

Charity Rose~ Charity, our "baby", turned 7 on Valentines Day. It's hard to believe, but we don't 
have babies in the house now. Charity is full of energy, imagination, and a song that keeps our day full of smiles. She helps pack share boxes, lunch boxes, and now tool boxes. She has learned to knead the mini loaves of bread we sell, and is learning to label and bag cooled bread.  It'll be exciting to have her help this season.

So, now you know a little about the family! PLEASE come and partner with us this season as we bring you the best of naturally grown food. Sign up soon for our CSA is limited. Sign up online now at www.colvinfamilyfarm.com. We bring the best of farm life to your home.

 We also offer Farm Cards that can be loaded with any amount you set aside for the Farmer's Market this season. They make GREAT gifts. We're offering a pre-market special right now...see our farm's facebook page for details!  

 Look for:

*Certified Naturally Grown Mushrooms

*Our Farm's Vegetable CSA

       *Certified Naturally Grown Vegetables and Fruit

*Pastured Eggs

See the double yolk? 

       *Pastured Chickens and Forest Raised Pork fed       non-soy, NON-GMO feed

  •      *Jams, Jellies, and fruit butters made with all natural pectin and low-sugar so you can taste the fruit not just sugar!

        *100% Pure Raw Honey, Unheated
Our bees work the fields and surrounding areas of our farm...I like to call it vegetable honey, but it has to be called Wildflower Honey.

*Whole Wheat Bread, Sprouted Wheat Bread, and a fermented Artisan bread made with fresh stone ground wheat, non-dairy, non-soy, & natural sugars. 

Visit our website for more information at www.colvinfamilyfarm.com

Abundant Blessings!
The Farmer's Wife,

"As for me and my house, we will serve the Lord." 

Joshua 24:15