By Mike Tanchevski
PRINCETON, Ky. — “The Unsettling of America,” a 1977 cultural critique of “industrial agriculture,” accelerated a young couple’s lifestyle transformation. In it author Wendell Berry said, “The exploiters’ goal is money and profit. The nurturer’s goal is health. His lands health, his own, his family’s, his community’s, his country’s.”
Berry’s reflections on traditional agrarian values inspired Justin and Kate Adams to act on a long-held dream and purchase a small farm in Princeton, Ky.
“We looked at each other one day and said, let’s look for a farm because that’s what our goal was down the road,” Adams said. “We thought maybe we could buy a farm 20 years down the road. But why put off your dream to when you’re older when you could do it right now?”
Princeton made sense for several reasons. After an unsuccessful attempt at finding a farm in Northern Kentucky, the couple expanded their search to include the western part of the state, where they were delighted to find what they were looking for, “It was the right size, 50 acres; it had a house; it had ponds; there was well water access; it had a barn and it was close to a town.”
What else made Princeton a good choice was Kate’s prospect of working remotely in her job. “Her company said as long as you live close enough to the airport and you have good internet you can work from home,” Adams said. “We had everything she needed for her work to say, that’ll work for us, so that’s why we chose Princeton.”
While earning a bachelor’s degree from Murray State University in veterinary technology Adams interned on a farm in Tennessee that raised grass-fed beef, pasture poultry, sheep, and dairy. That experience stayed with him and flamed his passion. “I just fell in love with the work and the animals and being on the farm, and I knew that’s kind of what I wanted to get into,” Adams said.
The name, Nurtured Lands Farm, comes from a chapter in Berry’s book that makes a distinction between exploiter and nurturer about farming philosophy and how they seek to use the land.
“I’m gonna pump fertilizer into it, I’m gonna till it, I’m gonna make it work as hard as I can to get the most out of it that I can, would be the exploiter’s viewpoint,” Adams said. “The nurturer thinks, I need to take care of this land so it takes care of me in the future.”
Another reason for a transition to farming focused on providing healthy food options for their three children. “One of the main reasons we wanted the small farm is we wanted our kids to have clean food that we knew was nutritious,” Adams said. “We wanted to know how the animals were raised.”
Currently, Adams raises grass-fed beef, pastured poultry, and forest-finished hogs on 35 of the farm’s 50 acres. With a focus on regenerating healthy soil grazing sites are rotated allowing for improved soil health and fertility.
The newest addition to the farm is forest finished hogs. The name is derived from where the hogs are foraged. “I might be able to call them pasture and people might understand that, but I feel like that’s a little bit misleading because they’re not actually on the grass pasture, they graze on a wooded lot,” Adams said.
Adams designated a three-acre wooded area with nut-producing trees for the hogs. He culled small trees like wild cherry and poplar, allowing the sun to filter down into the forest, giving it a quality of pasture.
Hogs are rotated weekly over the three acres living primarily on what they are able to forage. “They eat bugs and roots, but they also really love the acorns or walnuts that have fallen off of these nut-producing trees,” Adams said. “We also supplement them with the organic feed, but they really, really like rooting around and getting in the dirt and looking for all these other little treats that are out there in the woods.”
Nurtured Lands Farm is a finishing farm selling beef, poultry, pork, and eggs directly to consumers. The structure is a result of their current family situation and land capacity. “We’ve got three small kids, so right now it’s all I can do is feed and finish the chickens and the hogs and the cows and everything,” Adams said. “I would love to be able to breed the animals, but we don’t have really the room to do that.”
Adams is particular about where he purchases livestock. “I’ve tried to find a lot of other small farmers that breed heritage breed hogs and things like that. “Also, I buy from people with the same kind of mindset that we have.” They’ve partnered with Magney Legacy Ridge Farm to market their products and coordinate farm-to-home deliveries over a broader geographic area.
Nurtured Lands Farm continues to evolve through facility upgrades and the future addition of different livestock. “We trying to do something every year,” Justin said. “We added the broilers and the layers and then the hogs, now we just finished building a new garage that has a freezer room that’s dedicated to just our meat.”
“We don’t use chemicals and we have weeds and brush out in the pasture that the cows won’t eat, but that’s the kind of thing that sheep and goats would help us out with,’ Justin said. “I would love to get some sheep out here or maybe even goats.,” Justin said. “My biggest problem is my exterior fences, I just don’t know that they would stand up, especially goats.”
On May 25, they will share their experiences at the 2023 Western Kentucky Summer Forage Tour.
“The tour features both their successes and mistakes along the way,” said Chris Teutsch, forage specialist for the UK College of Agriculture, Food, and Environment. “It will be especially beneficial for persons new to ag or who are coming back to a family farm that has been let go.”
The tour is 3-7 p.m. CDT, rain or shine. The meal cost is $10 per person. Participants must preregister at https://WestKyForageTourMay23.eventbrite.com. For more information, visit http://forages.ca.uky.edu. Nurtured Lands Farm is located at 546 Highway 293 North, Princeton, KY. Organizers suggest each participant bring a lawn chair.
Adams is pleased to be a part of the tour and the light it shines on sustainable agricultural practices. “Our mission statement was to produce the food but also to reach out to the community because there’s a lot of people around here that do conventional farming. They have no idea that there are any other options besides conventional farming, so, we’re glad to be able to show new things to people.”