Jane Saiers and Darin Knapp arrived at farming by a circuitous route involving degrees in neuroscience and psychology and an overabundance of blueberries. Jane worked for twenty years in medical communication. Darin is a UNC professor who studies the neurobiology of addiction. They gardened at their house, giving away the extra food (in particular blueberries) to friends. Their values evolved and they began wanting healthier lives for themselves, their friends and neighbors, and the environment. Darin describes “an innnocent little gardening project gone wild.” The garden grew until, in 2009, they bought additional land and started RambleRill Farm.
Darin grew up on a beef farm, but otherwise they are newcomers and have learned as they go. The plethora of resources in the Triangle has aided them: they visited farms on the Piedmont Farm Tour, signed up for farmer listservs, and attended regional conferences. They both took the PLANT at Breeze Farm class offered by Orange County and have returned to speak at subsequent classes. Jane enrolled at CCCC to get her horticultural therapy license and decided to stay and complete the sustainable ag program. They now sell at the Hillsborough and Southern Village Farmers’ Markets and have found a helpful community of farmers. Darin also serves on the board of Farmer Foodshare.
RambleRill Farm is certified organic. The fields contain “pseudo-contour” blocks that are oriented perpendicular to rainwater runoff to prevent erosion. The hoophouse enables them to grow chard, spinach, and lettuce through the winter’s deep freezes; there’s no electricuty at the farm, but a small solar panel runs a fan that blows air between the two layers of plastic covering the hoophouse, creating a more insulated barrier. For those interested, a solar expert may be on hand during the Farm Tour to talk about using solar. Beehives line the woods; more bees will be “installed” during the Farm Tour. Shiitake logs are piled in the woods; logs will be prepared continuously throughout the tour, with some small ones for kids to take home. Displays and sampling will be set up in the large new barn, which is lined with tea plants.
Behind the barn, a trail leads into the woods and across the rill for which the farm is named. Visitors can sit around the fire pit or follow the Wendell Berry Trail through the woods. (The walk takes 15-20 minutes if you stop to read all the quotes.) Strolling musicians may be on the farm during the tour.
Jane is now farming full-time and plans to start horticultural therapy work this summer . This involves helping people reach their health goals through gardening and plants, whether those goals be improving mobility for a stroke victim, improving mental health, or establishing a wellness program. “Farming is a way that we see that we can make our modest impact on our community members with healthy food, and trying to create a healthier place,” says Jane. She and Darin will be on hand to show you the farm and share everything they’ve learned as new farmers during the Farm Tour.
Visit RambleRill online (http://ramblerillfarm.com/) and on the Farm Tour, and watch a video of our visit, below.