"the Gift of good land": A Contest

Norma Burns, owner of Bluebird Hill Farm in Bennett, North Carolina is betting the farm. Her farm. And not betting it so much as gifting it to the lucky couple who want to take over for her, growing organic produce and flowers on Norma's 12-1/2 acre property in Chatham County. Norma and her late husband, Robert Burns, operated and improved the farm over the past 18 years, and now Norma is interested in finding someone from the next generation who will continue to work the land after she moves to Raleigh, North Carolina.

She's calling the contest “The Gift of Good Land,” a nod to Wendell Berry, the respected Kentucky farmer and writer, whose 1981 book bears the same title. The only requirements for entry are a 200-word essay, a $300.00 entry fee and meeting the June 1, 2017 deadline. The farm is valued at $450,000 and Norma is hoping to use the combined entry fees to create a $50,000 start up fund for the winners, who will be announced June 30th. Look on the contest website for more information.   

On a related note, Michael Ableman, the celebrated writer and West coast farmer, passed through Portland last week en route to his farm on Salt Spring Island, British Columbia. Michael and I met 11 years ago when I hosted him at my restaurant to promote his book Fields of Plenty. Since then, I've visited Michael and worked on his farm over several summers.  I know Foxglove Farm, which Michael and his wife, Jeanne Marie, have tended over the past 12 years, to be a harmonious and amazing piece of farmland. Michael's newest book, Street Food: Growing Food, Jobs and Hope on the Urban Frontier, was published in Vermont last year, by Chelsea Green Publishing. In this book, Michael describes Sole Farm, his urban farm project in Vancouver, British Columbia. The project is fascinating, and sets the scene for him to address related contemporary agricultural issues. Michael and I had sat down at my kitchen table here in Portland, and I asked him what an opportunity like the Bluebird Hill Farm might ask from its up and coming new farmer-owners. Click on the conversation at the top to the post to hear what he has to say.

I'm already excited for the winners of The Gift of Good Land! It's a well known fact that the population of working farmers makes up less than two percent of the United States total working population, despite a continually growing demand from eaters for high quality food. The need for Greenhorns, one of the names given to the next generation of farmers, to grow on and maintain small farms like Bluebird Hill Farm, Foxglove Farm and countless others, is essential. Hopefully the prospect appeals to an up and coming generation who want to work closer to the good land of Bluebird Hill Farm and beyond.