Katherine “Peanut” Belk • Shawn Jardnicek
Molly Belk • Henry Hernandez
Where did you grow up and how did it influence your life? I grew up in the suburbs of Charlotte and as one of five kids with a much larger extended family, I was energized by chaos and commotion. I spent a lot of time outdoors, hiking/camping, playing sports, running around in the dirt at the farm, and creating my own fun. We were all fairly independent kids, encouraged to be curious, explore, work hard, and no matter where we found ourselves, to treat people with kindness and respect. And so I spent a lot of time adventuring outside of the Carolinas only to realize how much I loved living in the southeast in close proximity to family. I believe my upbringing very much shaped me into the nut I am today (Peanut is my nickname) – energized by people, drawn to a diverse workload, and passionate about bringing folks together around a common cause.
How did the journey to farming begin? My parent’s farm transitioned over the past few decades from forest to dairy farmland, and from corn intensive production to hay. For several years it was their “wild hope” to replenish and reactivate the soil and transform it into an organic operation collectively benefiting the community and the surrounding ecosystem. While researching other sustainable farming models, they connected with Shawn Jardnicek, who at the time was running Clemson’s Student Organic Farm. With Shawn’s extensive experience building farm designs that leverage natural processes to create functional growing environments, he was the perfect person to help turn my parent’s dream into a reality. At the time, I was living up in Boston and working for a product design firm specializing in helping people live healthier lives through human-centered products and services. After learning about my parents’ plans, I felt a call to move down south and work on the other side of healthcare, building community around fresh food. I now spend my days doing all things farming, delivering, marketing, accounting, community engaging, etc.
Anything you wish you had done along the way and didn’t do? This is our second growing season at the farm and we’re are “failing forward” every day. One thing I wished I had realized out the gate is how very little control we have as farmers (and as humans). If you release the stress of trying to control your environment and realize the only thing you can control is your reaction to the environment, farm life goes much more smoothly. Another big mistake I am still trying to learn from is how to not take on too much at once. It has been quite challenging to work on startup / infrastructure projects (fencing, irrigation, roads, website, insurance, etc.) while simultaneously getting produce out of the field and developing relationships with farm share members, chefs, and other farm loving folks. I am still trying to find the right balance here!
Is there anyone in particular who inspired your journey and why? I am inspired by my parents in many different ways. My mom has the incredible gift of gathering folks together and creating comfort in a setting, and my dad has the ability to gracefully manage and direct while maintaining a level head among people with differing agendas.
What is your favorite way to unwind?I love to end the day with a short trail run – it helps me to decompress and reflect on the day while enjoying the beautiful nature that surrounds me.
ON THE FARM:
What do you grow / produce? 35 different types of vegetables, pasture raised laying hens for eggs, flowers and honey.
Do you have a favorite crop? Arugula! It is delicious, very nutritious, and a higher margin crop for us!
What are five must-haves that you grow? We’ve heard that folks can taste the difference in our broccoli, collard greens (which are sweeter than store bought), carrots, cantaloupe and green beans.
Where do you sell your products? We sell our products through a 100 person farm share program, at the Matthews Farmers Market (Saturdays from 8-12 pm), and wholesale to local chefs. Our farm share is 14 weeks (April – Aug and Sept – Nov) with pick-up locations in Charlotte, Rock Hill, and Matthews. We also offer a corporate farm share program where we park our refrigerated trailer at an office and employees who are members of the share can pick up their produce at their convenience over the 24 hour time period. All leftover produce from the farm share is donated to families in the Lakewood Neighborhood of Charlotte.
You can find more recipes @ https://www.wildhopefarm.com/tidbits/