I apprenticed at Bells Bend in the summer of 2014, and can honestly say they were some of the most defining three months of my life. The farm is a great work environment supported by an awesome community. My time there cemented my decision to someday run my own farm, a dream which has recently come to fruition. Though certainly grounded in the modern era, the techniques and approach at Bells Bend instilled in me a respect for traditional and low-tech farm practices. I have taken with me an admiration for dry farming, minimizing plastic use, and traditional cultivation. Bells Bend particularly convinced me of the merits of closed-loop farming and combining livestock and crops. Apprentices get to be involved in a wide variety of farm activities: I felt like I was treated not just as a farm worker, but as someone Eric and the crew was investing in as a future farmer. Beyond the workday, Bells Bend is blessed to be a community center: potlucks and a constant stream of characters stopping by the packing shed keeps farm life interesting. After Bells Bend, convinced of the merits of farm-generated fertility, I went on to apprentice at draft horse powered farms in the northeast, and have recently started by own operation in central North Carolina, Lazy Heron Farm. In many ways, I will try to emulate Bells Bend’s approach to farming, life, and particularly, treatment of apprentices, on my own farm.
Apprenticing at Bells Bend farm could not have been a better decision in our farming journey. Initially my boyfriend, Jordan, and I had planned on WWOOF-ing all over the state of California, hoping from one farm to the next. We planned on comparing the pros and cons of each farm we visited, in hopes of narrowing down the specifics for how our “dream farm” would run. However, as it so often does; life happened, and we decided we would need to be much closer to our home and families in Nashville, TN. We agreed that while hopping from one farm to the next sounded great in theory, getting to really know the ins and outs of how a small-scale, organic, farm operated from start to finish, meant choosing one farm and staying for at least one full season. Upon deciding which farm in the greater Nashville area would be the most beneficial for us to WWOOF at, many variables came into play. We knew we were looking for a farm that specialized in vegetable produce, used biodynamic growing methods, had a CSA, participated in farmers markets, and truly cared for the mission behind sustainably feeding the local community. We talked to almost all of the farms that participated in WWOOF within middle Tennessee, and Bells Bend was exactly what we were looking for, plus so much more. I simply cannot praise Bells Bend, Eric Wooldridge, and his crew enough. BBF not only changed our path tremendously, but it was easy to see how many others path’s are impacted by them daily, proving just how important a small farm can truly be to a community. The community of farmers, artisans, craftsmen, and amazing humans in general, surrounding Bells Bend is what one might picture as an ideal farming community, one with a rich history and an exciting future. The lessons, insight, hands-on experience, and patience* Eric & his crew provided us with on a daily basis was more beneficial than any classroom setting I’ve come across. We got to see first hand that farming is an intricate craft, and at times tensions run high. Just as nature runs its course, small-scale farming is not always sunshine and roses-and it’s not meant to be. We quickly learned just how vital communication can be when it comes to farming efficiently. We are beyond thankful that we got to see the good and the bad days, especially since the good easily outweighed the bad. I’ll give it to Eric, he really did his best to get Jordan and I to rough it out in the apprentice barn, but with the appeal of a cushy home only 15 minutes from the farm, we unfortunately only took advantage of the barn a few times. The stipend was a complete surprise and bonus, as most WWOOFing opportunities do not provide one. Besides the stipend, we were still very well taken care of as we were always provided with endless, fresh, amazing produce, pot-luck dinners, barn dances, a beautiful dinner provided by Nashville Farmers Market, a weekend in Red Boiling Springs at the Biodynamic Conference, a Local Food Summit free pass, invaluable knowledge, and a new outlook on our “dream farm.” We are beyond excited and nervous to begin our own adventure, as after over a year of looking, we recently closed on what we can only hope to turn into our dream farm. We truly would not be the same without our experience at Bells Bend Farm. We are eternally grateful for the guidance, knowledge, and genuine passion for farming with a purpose, provided to us by Eric and his crew. Thank you for everything!