CONSERVING FOR THE FUTURE
Farming sticks with you. Craig and Nancy didn’t set out to make farmers of their two kids. Thirty years ago, working the Virginia farm where Craig grew up, they simply thought it would be a good life for their young family.
“Evidently we instilled something,” says Craig. “Our daughter now helps raise crops on an organic farm and our son is going toward the poultry end of veterinary medicine. I wouldn’t have guessed five or six years ago that either one of the kids would be that involved.”
Nancy calls farming “a glue to our family.” She says, “We had great times working together. I think it has given strengths for them to build on as adults.”
Craig added, “In 2018, our farm became a century farm in our family. So that’s kind of a cool thing. We can carry on from generation to generation … and keep the farm in the family.”
Farming may have had a strong influence on their children, but the reverse is also true. Craig stresses how his kids have changed his view of farm ecology.
Part of their conservation effort has been to modernize, using new technology to improve animal habitat and health. Computer software and innovative ventilation systems have transformed climate control. Cell phone alerts keep Craig and Nancy updated on changes in their turkeys’ environment. The technology doesn’t just make the work easier, it gives the birds a better life.
The human-animal connection is important to Craig and Nancy. He praises her intuition about the turkeys. Nancy says, “You always have to be aware. Look at animals in their eyes and listen, use your senses to pick up on things that might be a little off. Anybody who’s had children, you can look at your child’s eyes and tell if they don’t feel well, and it’s kind of the same with little animals.”
Learning to Lead
With their soil and water conservation efforts, recycling, waste management initiatives, and new computer software, Craig and Nancy feel they’ve learned a lot they can share with their neighbors. “I’m proud that we’ve done it here,” says Craig, “but I want them to understand and be educated. And it’s working, because a lot of our neighbors … are now using conservation practices. If I did just a little part, I’m really proud of that.”
One spring morning Craig and Nancy marveled over a big, new piece of art on one of their barns. The Shady Brook Farms® brand had partnered with world-renowned mural artists to thank some of its independent farmers for their dedication. The project was called “A More Beautiful Barn,” and to hear Craig and Nancy tell it, that’s certainly the result. “We wanted it to tie in some way to conservation that is important to us,” Craig says. “It’s just turned out perfect.”
The mural artist said he got a lot out of working with Craig and Nancy. “To give something to a community and leave something behind for the people to enjoy … that’s priceless,” he says. Both artist and farmers seem to have learned a lot from each other. “That’s the cool thing about farming,” says Craig. “You can teach a lot of life lessons. And I’ve had a lot of good mentors myself.”