A conversation with Eliza, instigator of Lonely Worm Farm, and Matt and Hannah, first farmers.
A little background: When Eliza was looking for young people to live full time on the property and help turn acres of long neglected land into a wheelchair accessible farm and arts center, she reached out to her distant cousin Matt, known in the family for his kindness, wilderness skills, and love of hiking (He is a graduate of the Appalachian and Pacific Crest Trails). He took the bait.
Last spring, Matt and a team of volunteers erected a yurt to serve as a temporary shelter while a permanent, energy efficient house for farmers of all abilities is being built (design done, permits pending). At the end of the summer, his girlfriend Hannah arrived with her own set of skills including animal husbandry, off grid caretaking, dog mushing (you never know when that will come in handy), and years as an outdoor recreation guide. Also: Jake, a one-eyed husky with a sweet, curious disposition and various physical disabilities that tie him directly to the farm’s mission.
What exactly is this mission? Eliza’s dream is for Lonely Worm Farm to be a place where people of diverse minds, bodies, and backgrounds can draw from the healing powers of nature, and reawaken their understanding that we are not apart, but an integral part of the Earth. In practice this means making regenerative agriculture accessible to everyone, creating workshops that introduce visitors to the complexity of the plants, animals, and fungi that surround us, providing meaningful employment for people with disabilities, and celebrating the interdependence, resilience and humor of our community through the arts.
The following is slightly edited version of a conversation had over Hannah’s delicious chicken pot pie.
Eliza: So, pathbreakers. You both are very comfortable on the land. Do you remember your first pull towards a life outside?
Hannah: I was homeschooled in the south. There was no one around. From dawn to dusk, my siblings and I were outside. It got me used to being outdoors. When I grew up, I worked as a kitchen manager. It was so stressful. So much work. All my friends were stressed out. I just took a giant leap away. I can’t remember any aha moment, but I quit my job, sold my things, lived in a tent and became a white water raft guide. It was much better.
Matt: Whenever I had friends over, my mom would have to apologize to their parents, because we’d always end up back in the swamp, covered in mud. That’s where it started. A Rhode Island swamp. Then there was my grandmother taking me out to the yard and showing me dandelions, saying you can put this into the salad. I thought she was pretty weird. Look at me now.
Eliza: What’s it like, living in a yurt?
Hannah: (laughing) It is the nicest tent I’ve ever lived in.
Matt: Having that big space is definitely nice. The most challenging part is navigating the bureaucracy. Even if you go off grid, you still need to take local rules and regs into consideration.
Eliza: You guys have been really busy around here, clearing paths, preparing for a pick-your-own flower garden and intensive vegetable garden, tending to chickens and bee hives, and much more. What project are you most excited about?
Matt: Who knows what I’ll say next week, mushrooms? But this week it is the soil. Working with the soil, figuring out the soil. I am excited to cultivate plants, but that seems secondary to cultivating healthy soil. It’s a long term project. At some point, I’ll move on, but the soil will stay.
Hannah: You will leave a soil legacy!
Eliza: Matt Dirt.
Matt: I also like how it’s a puzzle. I mean, if you read books about market gardening, they’re mostly about efficiency. We want to be efficient and sustainable, but we also want 4-foot aisles that wheelchairs can navigate. They can’t get muddy or rutted and they can’t get too compressed. It’s a good challenge, trying to figure out how to put these pieces together.
Hannah: I’m excited about seeing the gardens coming together. It seemed like so much work, but now the beds are looking so good. I’m curious to see how the plants will grow.
Eliza: I’m excited about incorporating our neighbors and the larger disability community into tending these gardens, how is that going to work? what’s that going to look like?
Hannah: And the bees! I can’t wait to get those bees pumping out the honey.
Eliza: I’ve learned alot about beekeeping this year. 1. Hurricanes aren’t good for honey. 2. Always inspect a hive before you agree to take it. 3. Bee cakes. Who knew? Hannah’s become an expert at making desserts for the bees. Hopefully that extra love will result in honey for our subscribers.
Stay tuned for more and don’t forget to check out our e-shop. Our herbal products make great holiday gifts!