STORIES: September 2010
Regenerative Farming at Anthill Farm
In the summer of 2007, the four Ballentine siblings – Sky, Steven, Rebecca, and Galen – collectively purchased a 35-acre dairy farm with the intention of contributing to the landscape where they were born and raised.
Anthill Farm of Honesdale, PA is about as diverse as a northeast farm can be – a patchwork of vegetable fields, orchards of hazelnuts, chestnuts, pears, and Asian pears, a bee yard, a sugar shack for maple syrup, geese, ducks, pigs, and a root cellar under construction. The farm is partially powered by large solar panels and the farmers have plans to provide the rest of their power needs through wind generators on top of their barn. They have established all of this within three summers of purchasing the abandoned dairy.
Fall crop of kale at Anthill Farm.
Regenerative agriculture relates to any form of farming that not only preserves but improves an agricultural system. Some key aspects of regenerative farming are improving fertility of the soil, producing quality and an abundance of food, creating vibrant communities and equitable economies, and respecting the ecology of the natural world.
“We emphasize regenerative farming because the Earth needs regenerating, our communities need regenerating, our persons need regenerating, and our economies need regenerating,” says Sky. “The fact of the matter is, most things need regenerating these days.”
Galen Ballentine in front of the farm's beehives.
The Ballentines began building up their business by starting a small on-farm CSA and in the nearby city of Scranton, PA. “CSA has been great for our farm. It has really been the glue that holds our farm together, it definitely has a lot to do with the mutual appreciation and interdependence between us and our membership, not to mention the reliable financial support we receive through the commitment of our members.”
Within the first season of farming though, they realized the farm needed a larger market, and they set their sights on New York City. The Big Apple was a natural choice.
“A rural community should always be acquainted with, and complexly connected with, community-minded people in nearby towns and cities,” says Sky, quoting Wendell Berry, longtime hero of the sustainable agriculture community. “And, I love New York.”
Sky Ballentine talking about the farm at PASA's Farmer Field Day.
The Ballentines, now in their third farming season, are supplying two New York City CSAs (Foodstockings in Manhattan and Urban Meadow in Brooklyn) as well as the 82nd Street Greenmarket. They’re building up their wholesale business too, selling products to Pure Food and Wine in Manhattan, as well as restaurants in Honesdale and Scranton.
The farm has quickly opened their gates to the public for educational events. The Ballentines hosted a day-long Pennsylvania Association for Sustainable Agriculture workshop on regenerative farming this August. And on September 26th, The Greenhorns, a group for young and emerging farmers, held a Young Farmer Mixer at Anthill Farm.
A group of farmers learning about Anthill's regenerative farming system.
You can find more details about farm events and learning opportunities at Anthill’s website: http://theanthillfarm.com. As for why one might want to get into farming in the first place, Sky adds: “There's just something about being surrounded by large piles of tasty food.”