This story is a beautiful one and I don't want to rush it, so this is kinda long:)
I knew I wanted to farm on James Island and I needed to find some land to cultivate. Little did I know that I would find such a lovely parcel of land to work with a beautiful family attached to it. And so this story goes... everywhere I turn around I get incredible support and lots of offer to help and contribute.
There are so many people in the community who have been instrumental in making this farm happen and I'd like to take this opportunity to celebrate them and to introduce them to you. There is no order to the list, everyone is equally wonderful and important!
Dwayne and Rachel Basset of Sprocket Creative who donated their time to build and design this beautiful website. I felt strongly that it was important to have a professional website but I am not computer savvy and the thought of creating a site myself stressed me out! As I was explaining this to a friend at Muddy Waters, Dwayne overheard and asked me about the farm and the tiny house project. I told him that at that point, my concern was creating a website and he said, well that's what I do for a living and my wife and I like to support entrepreneurs... we would be happy to build your site for you. After scooping my jaw up off the floor I asked him to turn around to see if wings were poking out of the back of his shirt!! I couldn't believe it. Dwayne and Rachel are wonderful people and now good friends. They made every effort to make sure that I was happy with the site, they set up a paypal account for me, created my logo and business cards, they took the time to teach me how to upload pictures, create content and generally navigate around the site. They also fielded LOTS of very long, late night emails from me, poor things!visit sprocketcreative.com
Jamee and Nikki of Lowcountry Local First I feel like I should thank these ladies for doing everything but farm for me! The support system and resources made available by LLF is incredible and they have helped me find grants, have provided seed money for me, prompted me to pursue funding opportunities, have come out to weed with me with the farm apprentices on several occasions. They have directed 2 volunteers to Dirthugger and are paying an experienced teaching assistant/intern to work parttime on the farm with me. They are creating new opportunities for education with the Sustainable agriculture classes, the SC New and Beginning Farmer Program and the Growing New Farmers Program. There are so many opportunities to communicate and celebrate new ideas, fresh food and local businesses like the Chefs Potluck, the Lowcountry Field Feast and the Femivore Award. I love these ladies and thank them for everything they've done for me!!
Catherine McGuinn Horticultural Therapist Catherine's not just my twin and doppleganger, she's a wonderful friend and is the person who introduced me to the job that sparked my farming passion. I had met Catherine while at Hyams and started to work for onthe side when she owned KidGardens. I was very interested in horticultural therapy and was working as an ABA therapist when Cat approached me with a job opportunity on a farm. I would split my time between acting as an assistant therapist to Catherine during classes held for the special needs students of a local school as well as helping the farmer with field work. Catherine and her family have come out to my farm to help many times and also helped pick figs at Sea Island Savory! They are a beautiful family and so good to me. Cat and Robert's kids call my veggies Megafood!
Andrea Schenck and Jon Zissner I have met Jon and Andrea through so many different channels! I first met them at the art openings and events they would host at Plum Elements where they were always so welcoming. We became friends and I would see them every Saturday at the market where I was selling flowers for Thackeray Farms and from there we just kept happily bumping into on another. I was working on refining my mission and business statement and thinking about approaching local individuals/businesses for funding when I knew that it was time to contact Jon and Andrea who I have so much respect for. They spent hours, an entire afternoon, working with me, advising me, encouraging me and giving me confidence to move forward. As well as connecting me with other individuals who could possible help. Since then, Andrea and Jon have been a constant and supportive presence and have sent many volunteers my way! Thank you!!
Muddy Waters Coffeeshop James Island Basically, half of my CSA customers are people who I met while working at Muddy Waters on James Island. They draw good people because they are good people and they serve the best coffee intown! If you are ever thinking of starting a business, I highly recommend working at a local coffeeshop for awhile first, it is a great networking opportunity and a lot of fun! Muddy hosted my CSA pick-up site and my last CSA pick-up cocktail party. Michelle is a great friend and she and her boys came out several times to help pick figs and tomatoes
George Hyams Hyams Garden Center, James Island I worked for George at Hyams for 7 years and I consider him to be a dear friend. I told him that I shouldn't have wasted my time in college, cause all I need to say in this town is that I've worked for George and before you know it, I'm hired! He is my go to guy, and has lent me his favorite pick-up truck on several occasions to haul compost and to move, and he has donated and delivered lumber for my packing shed. He is always there for me and I appreciate all of his help!
Jane Maybank and Family Property owners of the beautiful land where Dirthugger resides and incredible people! Jane and her family have been so supportive of me and have cheered me along the way! Jane has gone out of her way and has worked diligently to make sure that all systems are a go and to help make changes where necessary. There was one day when we thought that the well had gone dry and I admit, I broke down. Jane made me sit down with a cup of tea while she and her boys and their friend loaded up a pick up truck full of 5 gallon jugs, they filled the jugs off of their well and helped me hand-water the farm. It was a truly beautiful moment and I will never forget that kindness. Her youngest is my best helper and provides oodles of entertainment every afternoon after school. Jane is also helping me as architect on the tiny house project, as we share a passion for tiny and simple living and she will be writing the article to Charleston Home. I love this family and their rich history and love of land and community.
Vic and Shannon Generous friends who are letting me "house-sit" or as i say, "squat" in their extra room on Folly for free all summer. This has been a tremendous help financially and has kept a huge amount of stress at bay. It has also helped me emotionally to start and end each day with a long walk on the beach.
Danielle Spies and Sea Island Savory Ms Spies is the horticulturalist and farm manager of Sea island Savory Herb Farm on John's Island and she is one of my best best best friends. Danielle called me in December as I was getting ready to start my first season and was stressing about where to start my seeds. She asked if I wanted to come to Sea Island Savory to seed my starts in their trays and leave them there for her to water and care for them. She said I could work a couple days to help her get ready for Spring as a trade. I'm pretty sure I started to cry. I could not have started Dirthugger without her and I am so grateful. I've returned to Sea Island to seed for Fall. Danielle is one of the most thoughtful people you'll ever get the chance to meet! She and her family have come to the farm several times to help weed and sling dead fish:) If you're looking for beautiful organic herbs, goto Sea Island, they have everything!Danielle came out on her day off and watered the farm so I could get away to the mountains for a break. Love you!
Scott Stefanelli and Family Scott and his family have helped in so many ways! They are members of my CSA, they have come out and helped harvest, cut bamboo and they went and picked up a trashbarrel full of fish heads and carcasses and brought them to the farm for the "Three Sisters" fish head burying party. They and their friends and family joined my friends as we dug furrows, buried fish and planted corn. Scott cooked some delicious dinner to share and provided really good beer. As I was wondering what restaurant or Bar I could approach about possibly "renting" some cooler space in their walk-in for my produce, Scott approached and said, hey, you know schools out for the summer at Trident Culinary College and there is a teaching kitchen and walk-in cooler you are welcome to use if you need it. I stammered out a yes! or more likely a hells yea! Again, the seemingly impossible was made painlessly possible because of the wonderful people I know. I am not making this stuff up, and there's more!
Ray, Nancy and Les Oliver of River Run Farms, Vance SC I was selling pasta for Brian Bertolini at the Charleston Farmers Market last year and my neighbors were the Oliver's, who sell grass fed beef, homemade ice cream and kiwis. I so enjoyed our conversations and one day we started talking about my farm and whether or not I would be organic and how I was going to prep my soil. I mentioned that I was planning on just using compost and fish emulsion this first season and would see what happened. I also mentioned that I was planning on growing "organically" and naturally but was not going to get certified. Ray told me that he had been composting his neighbors genetically modified cotton plants and had resulted in beautiful compost, but because they were GM plants, he couldn't sell to organic growers. He said that I was welcome to come and take as much compost as I wanted whenever I needed it...wow. Compost is very expensive and the delivery charge is nothing to sniff at either. This was huge and I've driven up to Vance twice to fill up George's truck with this beautiful, nutrient rich compost. If you need compost, call the Olivers, they charge a very fair price, the compost is nice and light, and it is gooood stuff. Thank you!!
Laura Geouge from Hyams Another best best friend who called me one morning and said that it was her day off and she wanted to come help out on the farm. She also asked if I needed one of those open, outdoor canopy tents that had bug netting onit. She had one that was just sitting in her garage and wanted to get rid of it. I laughed and said, uh yes, I was just on my way to the dollar store to buy that exact item. Laura came out and within the hour, set up the tent and put in floor boarding using the lumber donated from Hyams and voila! I had my first make-shift packing shed, just in time for the summer produce to start coming in.
Pete Madsen Pete's Herbs and Kirk from Sea Island Savory Here are two more goto guys who can do anything, fix everything and have any kind of equipement you could ever think of needing, ever AND they are both incredibly nice guys. Kirk came out and gave me an estimate for irrigation, provided equipement, had helped me with generators and has loaned and offered to loan any equipement I might need. He is also the person I call when I'm freaking out about something broken and he either gives me the contact info i need or he walks me through the problem. He also was behind allowing me to seed my starts and work off the cost at SIS. In February, I was waking up at 3am every morning wondering how I was going to find the time to hoe up each row by hand, shape them, compost and seed them in the right amount of time in order to have a decent harvest in Spring. I checked my messages one morning and there was Kirk's voice saying, Hey Meg, I don't knowif you're interested but Pete is in between leaving one job and starting another and offered to bring his Kubota tractor and cultivator out there to disc in your garden and mark out the rows. Also, he can use my ditchwitch to dig the irrigation trench and can set up your irrigation for you. He probably will just charge you for parts and deisel. Okay..let me know!
I called back and said you're my new best friend and what's Pete's number??
Pete comes out and is all calm, sets up irrigation and gets the tractor work done in about 2 weeks or 3 visits, tops. I couldn't stop thanking him, but he claimed that he loves this kind of work and it soothed his nerves. He helped me load up bags of leaves from the neighborhood onto a trailer and hauled them back to the farm for me to spread out. He also let me come out and pick figs on his property to offer to my CSA and to chefs. I am so fortunate to have these people in my life. Pete never did charge me but for parts, just asked me to donate two CSA shares which I did. He is always there for me and is incredibly talented. See pics on the gallery page! Next stop...hops trellising!
Greg Garvan Money with a Mission Greg is a financial planner and business consultant who has offered to help in any way he can with the growth of Dirthugger and advise. Through Money with a Mission, Greg has provided a grant for me to buy a trailer for the tiny house and has offered a loan for any other expense that comes up. He is an extremely kind and likeable fella and is dedicated to creating opportunities for the community to come together and interact.
Andrew Branan Farm Transition Network, Lawyer Hillsborough, NC On a tip from my friend, Bryan, I met with Andrew Branan whose expertise is in land contracts, agreements between land owners and leasees or farmers, and how to work with families who inherit land or who want to make the best use of their land. Andrew didnt know me at all, but spent hours talking me through the process of creating a contract, gave me example leases and tons of info and websites. He even looked over my mission statement and goals and edited it for me. He has been a great resource and I hope to drag him down to Charleston to give a lecture through the Sustainable Ag Program. His help allowed me to organize my thoughts and outline them in a format that helped myself and Jane come up with a personalized contract/agreement that we are both comfortable with.
Tyler Blanton Artist Tyler is a talented local artist and floral designer who came up with an original Dirthugger image that can and will be made into stickers and maybe Thirts and labels. She cranked out the image in 2 weeks and formatted it so that I can do almost anything with it! I am so lucky to have original artwork from Tyler, her style is powerful, refreshing and bold. I love it!!! Please check out her work on her website, I am a huge fan!
Roger Francis Clemson Extension Agent Roger was the first person I called when I decided to start my farm. He took the time to meet with me and listen to all of my ideas, which, in the beginning were kind of all over the place. He sat quietly, listening to me and when I was done, he kind of rubbed his forehead ,smiling and said (in his awesome accent), let me ahsk you som'tin, Meg. Are ya tryin ta make money offa tis thing? I said yes and he said, okay why don'tcha start dere and focus on that. let the other ideas come afta dat. Thank you Roger and thank you for answering all of my crazy emails! Roger can advise you on anything from grafting to pests to weed management, cover crops, soil tests, planting times and planting techniques. He is immersed in our farming community and is always out and about visiting local farms, so he is a great connector-if he doesn't know the anwser, he knows the person that does. Roger is every farmers best friend.
Joe and Ray Builders, Surfers and Coffee Drinkers It just occurred to me that I've known Joe for years, but have no idea what his last name is or what the name of his business is....anywhooo. Joe and his friend Ray are regulars at Muddy Waters and Joe owns his own construction business. I asked Joe what he thought about maybe building a packing shed with (for) me and he said Suure! I'll get Ray to help me and we'll donate the time cause I can write off one donated project a year. He is going to get the lumbar donated from deconstructed materials from Buck's Lumber and from Hyams. Can't wait to get some proper shade out in the field and to have all my supplies in one place!
More wonderful friends...Lauren and Jonathan who have spent several days out in the field with me harvesting, weeding and trellising. they actually call me to ask if I need help and when I was so sick, they went out and ran the water and worked for me. Lauren went and watered the farm for a couple days so I could get out of town for a break and Jonathan took my sick generator home and spent hours cleaning it and working on it! Jenn Stringer of In Living Colors is another best best friend and went out and bought gas for the generator when I was sick and is allowing me to stay at her house this Fall as I wait for the tiny house to get built. Kelli Shaw of Kelli Shaw's Designs has let me store my furniture that I intend to sell in her spare room indefinitely and always lends me $20 bucks when I'm down and out. Ashley Krejci is the friend who always to offer help and support in any way from writing, power points, emotional support and field work, Ashley is always there for me and is such a talented person! Suzannah Sheldon ,and little Taj, who is my first part time intern who has helped weed beets,harvest, pick figs, sit with my CSA bags, brainstorm ideas and offered to help with a business plan. Miss Rita Bachman, from Rita's Roots who joined my CSA even though she is a killer farmer and has a garden. She is my farming buddy and provides so much emotional support-no one knows the stress and the thrill of farming like Rita and she has been a huge rock for me. She also helps me load up my car after every CSA and lends her dog to me when I need a puppy fix. My Mom and brother, my biggest fans and supporters. Mom gives me work cleaning houses and pays very generously...I actually have to ask her not to give me money when she sees me, she is so generous and wants to help so badly. Thanks Mom! Thanks Everyone!! Thank you CSA members and Card Members...you all were the best, patient, supportive and enthusiastic about the produce!
If I've left anyone out, I am so sorry, I'm sure that I love you and definitely appreciate you, but let me know so I can sing your praises!
Thank you to my volunteers, Katy and Theresa and to Nikki and Dan, Bo and Ande, Sasha, Rita, Ms Lindsay Moore and Jen Wassum and to all of our local farmers both in the upstate and right here in the Lowcountry, who have been so supportive of me.