1: Future Ag Field, looking at the back of the historic Oaky Grove Methodist Church on neighboring property
Ever since I’ve been able to reach the steering wheel sitting in my Dad’s lap, I’ve always loved driving a tractor. Whether steam or diesel, red or rusty, I’ve always had a fascination for this slow and clunky machine that has been the farmer’s best friend for over a century. I enjoy them so much, I even drove one to my last day of high school, all decked out in my cap and gown ready for graduation which started a tradition that has continued on ever since. It’s one of the things that drew me to this position here at TLC. The office life isn’t for me. I enjoy being out in the woods, getting dirty building trail, taking data, removing invasive species, and I especially enjoy running equipment of any kind. That brings me to my latest task out at Walnut Hill, to begin the process to return 40 acres of overgrown fields into productive agriculture.
Similar to our partnership with Transplanting Traditions at Irvin Farm Nature Preserve in Chapel Hill, NC, our long term plan for Walnut Hill out in eastern Wake County is to have a partnership with an organization that continues to use a portion of the property for agriculture production. Keeping active agriculture in Wake County is very important to provide fresh food to a rapidly growing area and also to respect and honor the property’s history.
2: The trusty tractor, along with historic equipment at Walnut Hill
Last year, we completed basic building repair to some of the nearly century old structures on the property. This year our focus has been to begin the restoration of the soils on a portion of the property that will become working farm land. To do this, we’re mowing down the grasses and trees that have grown up over the past few years to get ready to plant a winter cover crop that will stabilize the soils and increase the fertility for future crops. While mowing, I always feel like I’m being watched. Every time I fire up the tractor and head to the field, I’m followed by one or two hawks that perch in the trees along the field ready to scoop up a mouse or rabbit. Grasshoppers and mantasis seem to enjoy sitting on the hood of the tractor until they find a nice grassy portion on the field’s edge to jump off in. Behind you, other songbirds swoop into the fresh cut field to find the bugs that didn’t escape by riding away on the Deere.
Next time you see a farmer working the land, do as the country singer Craig Morgan says, “Just just smile and wave and tip your hat to the man up on the tractor.” There will always be development pressure coming on our local farm lands so support your local farmer. We’ll make sure we help do our part every chance we get to protect our local farms and food. And thankfully for me, that includes a little work on a tractor from time to time.
This is The Dirt- Tales from the Field.