In June of 2013, we made the leap so many others hope to make and moved onto our farm to begin a new life. High Grace Farm was born!
High Grace Farm is named after Julissa, whose middle name is Altagracia. Translated into English as “High Grace,” the name reflects how richly God has loved us, and continues the family legacy of that name–our first daughter is named Grace after her mother, and Faith’s middle name is Altagracia, so the women in our family all share that wonderful name.
We had dreamed of a farm for quite a long time, of growing our own food, raising our own pastured chicken and pork, and rearing our children away from the dangers of the modern world. But dreams are only dreams. As real estate agents, we were quite familiar with what farm land, working farms, and raw acreage was available in the Fayetteville, NC area and had spent years looking for just the right property to support our vision.
The right property didn’t exist. Not for us, nor for so many others looking for the perfect place to start their dream farm and dream life. Not for anyone. There is no perfect place.
Still, two months earlier, when we first drove down the long dirt driveway in Stedman, NC lined with painted wood fences and muscadine grape vines, we knew we were on to something we could work with. Something that would fit our needs and that we would love. The countless dogwoods and azaleas and eight wonderful acres of lawn and woods sealed the deal. We made an offer on the property the same day we saw it. As Dana laughingly said later, when the excitement of the deal had settled:
“You know, the house really didn’t even matter.”
The previous owner was the proverbial “little old lady” who was in her late eighties and ready to move to Florida. She and her husband had bought the property a few decades earlier with the intent to farm it, but that terrible, evil thing called cancer took her husband shortly after they bought the land. She continued on after he was gone, and every neighbor we have talked to has said the same thing, in the same admiring way and in the same lingering North Carolina accent:
“That Mizz Lily was the hardes’ working woman I ever seen.”
And, she was. The 4 acres that were cleared were gorgeous! Grapevines along the drive with drip irrigation; fig trees, blackberries and strawberries in the paddock with not a weed in sight. Acres of lawn sodded with centipede grass, always closely mown, sprayed for weeds, and fertilized religiously. Japanese maples with surrounding flowers gardens–absolutely weed free.
I wonder what Ms Lily would say if she should see us now, with no chemicals to control the weeds, trees ripped out to make room for animals, manicured lawns converted to pastures, and chickens eating the flowers she so lovingly tended. I think she would approve since farming was in her heart, but Lord knows, that generation put a lot of stock in chemicals…
We do not. We farm without chemical pesticides or fertilizers. We include heirloom varieties of vegetables and heritage breeds of animals to build the foundation of our farm. We graze our livestock on pastures as much as we can, but since pasture is limited on our farm, we supplement their diet with organic feed we bring in from Reedy Fork Farm in Elon, NC and hay from farms in the local area. Our farm is not certified as organic, and it never will be, but we follow organic guidelines as much as we can. We have a commitment to raising the best food we can, food that is healthy, tasty and whole. We try to honor the long past ways of farming and living and look to recover as much of the knowledge that has been lost as we can.
Not much in our past has prepared us for what we are doing. Dana lived on a small dirt farm in Pennsylvania, but his family moved away from that before he was a teenager. Julissa, born in the Dominican Republic, grew up in New York City, longing to be where it was green. Retired from an Army career, having built a successful real estate business we still maintain, we had only books and hopes to build our dream on. We have so much to learn.
So, this is our life. Growing good food, raising healthy animals, homeschooling our children, and building a place for our family and friends called High Grace Farm.