Farm, Forrest, Farm! (Podcast)

Staci Strauss

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Last night, I had the pleasure of talking with Forrest Pritchard, author of a new book called Gaining Ground, A Story of Farmer’s Markets, Local Food, and Saving the Family Farm. Although Forrest grew up on the farm that was handed down for six generations on his mother’s side, he went away to college, earning degrees in English and geology at William & Mary. Much to his father’s dismay, he decided to forego the world of steady jobs (read paychecks) and return home to the Berryville, Virginia farm on which he was raised, determined to make a go of it as a farmer.

You can hear our conversation on the nifty SoundCloud podcast provided at the bottom of this article.

To my farmer’s markets customers: If you hadn’t been so dedicated–waking early each weekend to shop at your local market–not only would this story never been written but our farm might not be here today. I hope you now realize what a difference your food choices make; I can’t thank you enough. You’re the ones who saved our family farm.”

As you can imagine, Forrest’s story is filled with moments of struggle and triumph as he restores Smith Meadows to health and sustainability. He takes us on his very personal journey, sharing his most brutal lessons of on-the-job training. He shares his many highly personal stories of being a young and inexperienced farmer, he takes us to a place where we begin to silently cheer as he passes one obstacle to the next. The book is witty, heartfelt and beautifully wrtten. It is a primer for anyone who yearns to homestead, to live on the land and raise real food.

For me, the most powerful moment came when Forrest expresses his gratitude to the farmer’s markets patrons on whom the success of Smith Meadows was built. He says “To my farmer’s markets customers: If you hadn’t been so dedicated–waking early each weekend to shop at your local market–not only would this story never have been written but our farm might not be here today. I hope you now realize what a difference your food choices make;  I can’t thank you enough. You’re the ones who saved our family farm.”

As I read these words, I choked up. I admit it. If there has ever been a better way to encourage folks to shop their local farmer’s markets, I haven’t seen it.

However, his was no overnight success.Upon his return home, there was a drought and the farm was debt-ridden, the soil depleted by years of growing corn and soybeans. Through sheer will and an instinct that must be in his blood, he slowly turned it around, creating a lush environment to pasture cows, pigs, sheep and chickens in a most sustainable and humane manner. He takes his product to area farmers markets, where lucky patrons have the privilege of knowing that it is Forrest and his family who feeds them.

We have some friends in common, Joel Salatin, Nina Planck, and her parents, Chip and Susan. We are definitely going to swing by for a visit next time we’re traveling through Virginia to visit Smith Meadows and do a Handpicked Story on Forrest Pritchard of Smith Meadows Farm.

So give a listen to our interview and buy Forrest’s book.

Do your part to save family farms. Shop your local farmers’ market and get to know your local farmers.

Photo credit: Staci Strauss