From the Ground Up

portrait by Michael Wilson

Our initially fruitless hunt for land had convinced us that we were bound for a small acreage on which we would be limited to growing specialty crops. The price per acre on property within reach of our markets would easily swallow our nest egg, and so a smaller acreage would have to do. We had reluctantly given up on our desire to graze livestock. Over the course of six months our offers were declined on a few “this is it” properties that were both close to town and conservative in size.

As fate would have it, an exceptional property in lovely and quaint Brookville surfaced that not only offered us space to grow into, but also an efficient and well-kept old farmhouse. It was ours!

One of our top priorities was to seed the majority of the 27 acres of corn stubble to pasture. As both large seeding equipment and hiring a neighboring farmer to seed the pasture for us were outside of our budget, and as spring rains were in the forecast for the next few weeks, we decided that we needed to get the seed germinating or else the weeds in the field would win the race. After a little looking around used equipment lots, we found a rusty old set of discs, likely with a long history of being pulled behind a team of horses. Rich fired up our Kubota tractor and disced the fields, breaking up the old corn stalks in preparation for seeding.

We spent some pocket change on a 20-lb capacity crank seeder that’s worn on the chest like an accordion. Over the course of a week, we took turns pacing every square foot of our fields, broadcasting seed into the furrows left behind by the discs. As a neighboring farmer to the north rolled by in the distance, tractor-seeding his acreage in one afternoon, we crossed every inch of the land, getting well acquainted with the lay of it. Mother nature graced us with regular spring rains, which gave those seeds just the moisture they needed to burst forth into a green field of legumes, forbs, and grasses.

An experienced farmer friend of ours since said that seeding by hand was the best advertising we could have employed for ourselves. Our neighboring farmer may have been chuckling at our labor-intensive seeding method, but we demonstrated our dedication to the land that way. And if anything, it would get the fellas at the diner talking about the crazy kids at Stu’s old place.

In the end, we are proud of the lush first year pasture that hosted generations of butterflies, spiders, and birds this summer. We are proud, too, of what we are creating together, a farm of our own built from the ground up.

Sam and Rich Wickham are among them. They founded Foxhole Farm in Brookville, OH, in April 2018, setting out to transform 27 conventionally cultivated acres into a sustainable farm growing vegetables, microgreens, herbs, and, eventually, sheep. They sell at Dayton-area markets in Centerville and Oakwood, and supply Dorothy Lane Market and a handful of nearby restaurants.