Ken Dawson and his partner Libby Outlaw run Maple Spring Gardens, a 79 acre farm just north of Hillsborough in Cedar Grove. The land was once used for tobacco and was worn out when Ken and Libby acquired it. They have used organic soil building practices (composting, cover cropping, etc.) to rescue it and return it to productive farmland.
Ken has been farming organically since 1972 and has been a full-time farmer since 1984, raising vegetables, fruits, and flowers. Libby works part-time on the farm and manages the flowers. Their daughter oversees production of medicinal and culinary herbs. They also employee seasonal workers to help out.
When we visited the farm, he talked about his commitment to organic farming and about the certification process, which many small farms forego because of its expense and hassle. He pointed out the buffer zone of trees all around his land, which protects the farm from whatever his neighbors might be doing. He keeps maps of his fields and notes about things like plants, fertilizer, and seeds. “It’s what you do in your field that makes you an organic farmer. It’s what you do in your office that makes you a certified organic farmer,” he said; the inspectors are mostly interested in his field notes and records of purchases when they visit each year.
The Maple Spring Garden farm family works hard during the spring, summer, and fall, with a little break in the winter. Resting when the earth rests, “is a sustainable life,” said Ken.
Learn more at http://www.maplespringgardens.com/.