N ear the small community of Coble, Tennessee, the Lingo family spent the winter gearing up for the sixth growing season at Beaverdam Creek Farm. Just over five years ago, the 72-acre piece of land along Sulphur Creek Road in western Hickman County was nothing more than woodlands and pastures. Today a handful of dedicated farmers with a focus on faith, family, and sustainable growing practices have turned the land into a thriving community- supported farm that feeds people across the mid-state with good food grown the proper way.
Philip and Trish Lingo, along with their children Tricia Ann and Jacob, moved to the area in January of 2008 from the outskirts of Atlanta. The self-proclaimed city slickers had become interested in developing an agricultural lifestyle and business for a time prior to purchasing the land they now call home.
The Lingos didnt come from a farming background and admit that their experience was limited to backyard gardening as a hobby when they decided to take on the project. But there were larger forces at work. In addition to the desire to continue their familys ability to see the literal fruits of their labor, the future of the family and their faith helped guide them in their decision.
"We had an interest in starting an agriculturale business as well as planning a church," Philip explains. "The people we went to church with in Atlanta, we only saw on Sunday. They were so spread out that, in order to see them, we might have to drive anywhere from 30 minutes to two hours to get to them if they had a need. We had a desire to live in close proximity to the people we go to church with."
The Lingo family took great care in deciding that this particularly rural site in Middle Tennessee was right for them. And it wasn't the only area in the running. When their home state proved to be problematic, Hickman County found its way onto the familys radar and that of three other families who also relocated.
"We looked in North Georgia and the land was so expensive, Philip says. Also, we wanted to find a place that wouldn't be overcome with growth and suburban sprawl from the city. We wanted a rural setting far enough away from a city where we wouldnt be overtaken, and we wanted a place where our children could one day purchase land. We want to provide the opportunity for our children to stay close to home if they choose and get involved in the business."
The move may seem like a radical one for Philip, a software developer accustomed to living within spitting distance of one of the Souths largest metropolitan cities. But he appears to feel right at home in the countryside house he is constructing by hand at Beaverdam Creek during his downtime from doing contract work with Hewlett-Packard.
Instead of running the rat race in the big city, he finds himself, his wife, and children working with the land and with their hands building a home, a business, and eventually, a church building and cooperative school that benefits those in the community who want to be a part of it. As for the business, Beaverdam Creek Farm is growing its brand quickly. Using sustainable and natural growing methods, the Lingos are gaining a reputation as a source for truly good food products and more.
"We're Certified Naturally Grown," Philip points out. "It's a privatized grassroots certification process. Its not government run. We actually have other farmers come and inspect us and then we will inspect other farms. Its a great system and a good way to pass knowledge between farmers."
In addition to using mulches and compost, as well as natural fertilizers like fish emulsion and processes like under-cropping and crop rotation, Beaverdam Creek Farm also combines a variety of organic material to create a more perfect soil.
"We make our own soil blocks, Philip notes. We add compost, peat moss, green sand and rock phosphate, and lots of really good stuff. We do about 20,000 soil blocks per year and we get a lot of organic matter into the ground."
The end result is a bevy of produce that is available to those who purchase a share of the community farm.
Community Supported Agriculture, or CSA, is a growing trend in farming where the general public has a chance to invest in the farm in exchange for a weekly delivery of goods grown fresh on their farm.
"Our customers are shareholders," Trish remarks. "They can buy a share of our farm at the beginning of the season, and then they get a basket of whatever is freshly grown each week at one of several delivery locations. They are like part owners of our garden, but they don't have to do the weeding. They just get the benefit. We had about 88 families last year."
The farm usually sells out their shares, so getting in early is important for those who wish to take part in the CSA program. A deposit holds a spot prior to the growing season, with full payment due before the May harvest. The shareholder deliveries happen between May and October.
A full share is designed for a family of four, and a half share is designed for a family of two, Trish explains. Adds Philip, Sometimes a couple will buy a full share if they are vegetarian or if they do a lot of juicing.
Whats in store. The pavilion for visitors to sit and chew the fat and have picnics will be operational by spring 2013, and in the coming years, the family has shown an interest in expanding greenhouse space for cold- weather growing as well as adding pork and pasture chickens to the products available for purchase.
In late January the farm was lucky to escape the devastation of the tornado that ripped through the community of Coble. Winds up to 115 miles per hour uprooted trees, splintered the forest surrounding the farm, and destroyed homes and businesses without doing any significant damage to the operation. A slight variation in the storm could have meant starting over from square one for the Lingo family. Instead, Beaverdam Creek Farm will be up and running on schedule and will continue to provide naturally grown products to hundreds of people across the mid-state for the foreseeable future.
For more info on Beaverdam Creek Farm's CSA go their listing.