The New Incubator Farm Program

Dear Patterson School Foundation friends,

My name is Kitty Gurkin Rosati, heir board member of Patterson School Foundation and former board chair. As great, great niece of our founder, Samuel Legerwood Patterson, it gives me immense pleasure to summarize for you the substantial progress we’ve made to regenerate his vision and legacy for this beautiful and historic property. As most of you know, Samuel Legerwood Patterson was the first elected NC Agricultural Commissioner, as well as a Representative and Senator; his mission was to better our land, resources and community, and to educate and inspire others to do likewise.

Ben and Ian

Farm Manager Ian Driscoll (left) and Program Director Ben Loomis (right)

After a few grant submissions, Dr. Eilene Bisgrove and I were awarded a Z. Smith Reynolds grant, which has funded the first year of the Patterson School Incubator Farm (PSIF) program. This grant has allowed us to hire a Program Director for the new program, Ben Loomis. Ben is a graduate of Appalachian State University’s Sustainable Development department, and has lived in the High Country for seven years, learning about regenerative farming, non-profit management, and community organizing. He brings a wide range of connections and planning skills, and has been busy setting up the systems that allow farmers to sign up and become part of the PSIF program. We have also hired a new Farm Manager, Ian Driscoll. Ian graduated from Warren Wilson, and spent time managing the college’s organic farm. Over the last few months, Ben and Ian have worked together to get the PSIF program started, and have begun to renew Samuel Legerwood Patterson’s legacy for forward-thinking agricultural education on this hallowed ground.

Summary, update, and future plans for our agricultural regeneration:

Initially the board committed to manage 40 acres of farmland organically; this determined acreage is presently part of a grass-fed cattle lease, which is being managed accordingly.

The current plan is prioritizing the regeneration of land surrounding the school grounds into a productive, organic farm. We believe the first step in teaching others to grow organic food is to do so ourselves, and create a successful system of producing fresh food to market within the local community, and to demonstrate the power of regenerative agriculture to yield profitable results. Through this year and next, we’ll be adding fields of vegetables, trees, and berry bushes to the land using techniques that will contribute to the soil’s health as our growing spaces develop. We are planning to sell our first harvests at Farmer’s Markets, restaurants, and our own farm stand by next year’s growing season!

The Incubator Farm program includes space on this five-acre parcel adjacent to highway 268 for vegetable rows. Farmers will also receive support from our Farm Manager Ian and access to the commercial kitchen to wash and process their produce.

Beyond farming ourselves, we see this as a space for members of community to learn in different ways. We are working with exceptional teachers and farmers to lead workshops, trainings, and certification courses for food businesses. We’re building a raised bed community garden for small growers to rent. And for people ready to take the leap and start their own farm, we have designated some half acre plots, and five acres of our best land to lease to new farmers.

 

Together, we are designing the space as a living classroom, blending natural beauty and productivity. Community-minded individuals are invited to live, learn, and farm together. Using the abundant resources available at Patterson, we are creating a living classroom that builds careers in sustainable farming, value added food production and culinary ventures, while providing fresh food to the community.

Our first series of farming and gardening workshops! You can buy tickets and read more at www.pattersonschoolfoundation.org/courses.

These are the goals we’ve set for the upcoming year. If you’d like to sponsor a project, please let us know! We’ll be raising money and completing each task as soon as we have the funds. Each of these projects will help the program grow and raise its own money by selling produce and renting space, with our goal of making our budget as sustainable as our farm.                                                                                                                                                                                                              

Young blueberries

The first blueberries and blackberries planted by the pond on East Campus are doing great and we’ll be adding more all around campus through the coming year!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

With the scale and history of Patterson, we have a chance at redefining expectations of what successful agricultural enterprises look like. How do you want to get involved? Ian has helped us make good use of two recent donations: a neighbor gifted us the funds to start our first organic gardening camp for children this year, another PSF friend donated twenty blueberry and blackberry bushes. PSF board members have funded everything from our PSIF scholarship program, to Weise Dorm’s new curtains, and our Kruger Brother concert! There are many opportunities to pay your passion forward at Patterson! You can message me at kittyrosati@pattersonschoolfoundation.org, Ben at benloomis@pattersonschoolfoundation.org, or sign up for the Incubator Farm newsletter to stay abreast of upcoming workshops, retreats and the many exciting happenings to come.

 

Thanks! Kitty