The Apprentice Link database connects people who are serious about learning the sustainable farming trade with farmers who are willing to teach them in an apprenticeship setting. Our programs’ emphasis is specifically in the Southern Appalachians, with a focus on farms that participate in local Collaborative Regional Alliance for Farmer Training (CRAFT) programs. 

 

Wild Hope Farm

This month we’re highlighting our Apprentice Link affiliate, Wild Hope Farm, which is located in Chester, South Carolina. It has been the “wild hope” of Sarah and Tim Belk to replenish their eroded, exhausted land from the damage caused by years of intensive farming practices. Transforming depleted soils takes time and hard work, but Sarah and Tim are determined to rebuild by moving into an organic operation that collectively benefits the community and surrounding ecosystem.

 

Wild Hope Farm provides high-quality, organic food to surrounding local communities through sustainable farming. With 12 acres under production and other mixed use acreage with greenhouses, walking trails, a large pond, and diversified natural areas, there is always a lot to do on the farm. Their produce is sold through a 350+ person farm share, to local chefs, wholesale to foodhubs, and at the Matthews Farmers market.

 

In addition to farming, they also host complementary on-farm events including retreats, weddings, farm-to-table dinners, and educational workshops to cultivate community and encourage people to learn about our farming practices. Centering and celebrating nature, their hope is to educate, explore and build a top performing organic farm which demonstrates efficiency, profitability and productivity while improving the land.

 

 

The concept is simple – good soil produces good food.

Even though we are USDA Certified Organic, our focus “beyond organic” enables a more nutrient rich soil which in turn nourishes the plants we grow and the bodies of those who eat our produce! These practices simultaneously decrease off-farm inputs (e.g., pesticides, fertilizers) and increase the health of our ecosystem through a polyculture of crops, a diverse insect ecology, and enhanced soil microbiology on a farm. On top of all that, we think you can taste the difference in the freshness of our produce flavor.”  –Sarah and Tim Belk

 

Wild Hope Farm is implementing renewable initiatives like a compost heat extraction system, a passive solar greenhouse and their 15.3 kilowatt solar PV array. They aim to use zero net energy within the next few years through conserving and producing energy on the farm. They’ve even started transitioning their invasive grass pastures into native prairies to enhance ecological diversity, and create habitats for imperiled bird, rabbit, and pollinator species.

 

“Over the last 3 years, we have scaled our production from 1 to 12 acres. As you might expect, this involves a great amount of planning and building both on the farm with our infrastructure (irrigation, fencing, soil quality) and in the community with our market development (growing from 150 to 350 member farm share). In addition, we are scaling up flowers and layer chickens over the 3 years. As an employee at Wild Hope, you will gain direct experience in scaling an operation and an opportunity to grow with us.”  Sarah and Tim Belk

 

Want to join?

Wild Hope Farm is seeking strong, efficient people with experience and passion who aspire to manage a production farm one day. During the season you will be exposed to all aspects of organic farming and deepen your knowledge of our organic farming methods, produce and operations, bee keeping, season extension, cover cropping, no-till methods, compost heat extraction, pasture raised chickens, soil quality, harvesting and packing, customer delivery, and selling.

 

If you’re interested in joining this dream team, you can reach them by heading to the Wild Hope Farm website, here and follow their social media, @wildhopefarm. If your farming business would like to join the Organic Growers school Apprentice Link, or if you want to browse other farms needing help, head over to our website.

 

Author: Julie Douglas

Julie is the Marketing & Communications Associate. She is the owner and Clinical herbalist at Wildkrafted Kitchen, a holistic healthcare company in Asheville, NC. Julie is a medicinal herb grower, ethical wild crafter, educator and formulator of internal and external medicines. After graduating with an AA focusing on Photography and Ceramic art, Julie went on to pursue her passion for sustainable small scale agriculture in Washington state where she apprenticed on various organic farms. After discovering their affinity for medicinal herbs, they moved to Asheville to study Holistic Herbalism at the Blue Ridge School of Herbal Medicine. Julie’s main goals are to make alternative healthcare accessible to marginalized communities, decolonizing herbal medicine and being part of mutual aid networks which strengthen and empower the community.