Driving Ag Education at Good Hope Farm

by | Apr 9, 2021

Every Friday on social media, we post a Farm Feature Friday showcasing one of our dedicated North Carolina farmers. Erin Crouse and Sarah Justice with Good Hope Farms are inspiring community members to become farmers themselves. The #FarmFeatureFriday campaign will run through December 2021 on our Facebook, Twitter and Instagram pages. Be sure to tune in each Friday afternoon on social and help show your support for our local farmers!

The Town of Cary is keeping the town’s farming legacy alive through community involvement and agricultural education at Good Hope Farm. Located in the historic Carpenter community, the land where Good Hope Farms sits has been farmed for over 100 years. “Carpenter village grew with the popularity of Brightleaf Tobacco, and is now a national historic district due to its importance as a watering station for trains heading to the Durham tobacco market,” said Erin Crouse with The Conservation Fund, “families like the Howards, who farmed tobacco on this land for 65 years, were a huge factor in building this community.”

Purchased in 2008, the Town of Cary acquired the farm in order to preserve the farming history of 1910 historic homestead on-site. In 2015, the Town of Cary began working with the coalition of four nonprofit partners to develop the project now known as Good Hope Farm. “Our shared vision for Good Hope Farm supports environmental conservation, historic preservation and economic development while providing community engagement and farmland access to new and beginning farmers,” said Sarah Justice with the Town of Cary.

With strong connections to farming in their families, Sarah and Erin were instilled with a passion for agriculture and eating local. Today the women work together, along with the farm manager Thomas Saile of Piedmont Conservation Council, to offer parcels of land to interested farmers and bring agriculture to the heart of a booming city. “Right here in the heart of Cary, interested farmers can apply to project partner Piedmont Conservation Council to lease a portion of the land at Good Hope Farms to launch and grow their own agribusinesses,” Erin said. “Currently we have seven agribusinesses that grow a variety of products from cut flowers and tradition Southern vegetables to Asian vegetables not often seen in the U.S.”

According to Sarah, a typical day on the farm is bustling with activity. “Most of our farmers also work other jobs, so they are often at the farm on evenings and weekends. Prior to the pandemic, we also provided a wide variety of public programs on the farm to connect the community to the land through agriculture education.”

Most of the historic buildings on the farm still stand tall today, and the farmers use these buildings to access tractors, farm equipment and storage, just like the families who farmed the land a century ago. “One of the biggest barriers for new farmers getting started is the immense capital cost for land and equipment,” Erin said. “We try to minimize that by providing a space where they have access to everything they need to start and grow a successful small-scale farming operation.”

Along with the farmer training program, the farm provides training and experiential education to other farmers and the public. Pre-COVID the farm was offering a variety of public events on the farm, including volunteer workdays the third Saturday of each month, a CSA program and educational events. They hope to pick these events back up as soon as possible and engage with the public face-to-face again. “Our team has done a great job providing virtual workshops during the current situation, but we can’t wait to get back to experiencing the farm with the community and involving them in the process,” Sarah said. Even if the public cannot visit the farm at the moment, they can still support Good Hope Farm through their CSA program as well as the Western Wake Farmers’ Market and the Cary Downtown Farmers Market. Interested customers are also welcome to reach out directly to farmers for orders or more information on their website at http://goodhopefarm.org/meet-the-farmers/.

“This farm is one of the most rewarding projects I have worked on in my professional career,” Erin said. “To be able to see the asset that it is to both farmers and the community makes all the hard work worth it.” Sarah echoed her sentiment in saying, “it is amazing to create and be a part of something that lives on. It is such a blessing to serve my community while being on the land and live in cooperation with it.”

Both women encourage eating local and connecting with your local farmers, not only to know where your food comes from, but to build resiliency for the local economy and the environment. “We always say ‘no farmers, no food,'” Sarah said. “It is important for people to get to know their farmer to truly understand how agriculture works.”

In the future, Good Hope Farm not only plans to expand upon the land they offer to farmers, but also continue to renovate and build upon the vision for the farm itself. When they are not working with farmers or managing events on the grounds, you can find Erin and Sarah working in their own home gardens.