Owl’s Nest Farm, farmed by Liz Whitehurst in Upper Marlboro, Maryland was started in 2016 with a foundation of healthy soil and strong CNG relationships. Her diverse 4 acres of farmland, just 20 miles outside of Washington, DC, had been Certified Naturally Grown for three years, farmed by Kristin Carbone of Radix Farm. Both the CNG land, and the CNG farmers nearby at Working Over Thyme Farm enriched Liz and her partners' farm life, and they wanted to participate as certified growers as much as they could.
Bracing themselves for leaner months and the learning curves ahead, they decided to apply for a CNG scholarship, looking forward to the support and advice of area farmers.
Although they were embarking on their first year of farming and working to build a solid reputation, they saw certification not only as a marketing and educational tool, but also as a community-building asset. “It’s both educational and comforting to have access to the wisdom of farmers with similar concerns and growing conditions.”
The scholarship fund was created just for that purpose--to ensure that beginning farmers could join a community and a certification that would help them establish themselves in the market and on the land.
In the coming years, Owl’s Nest hopes to grow year-round, with the help of their unheated high tunnels, and offer a winter CSA. “We want to do well, not only for ourselves, but also to continue to demonstrate the economic viability of diversified vegetable farming for local market sales.”
Since receiving their scholarship, Liz has found that relationships are their most essential tool as farmers. “And relationships are one reason that CNG is so great: the inspection process connects us with nearby growers, and as a result, we've continued to collaborate and help each other out.”
Entering their second year as CNG, she reflected, “It’s been super helpful to have the scholarship program available. It's always tough to make new businesses work, especially small sustainable farms, but we're making it work because we have help.”
The CNG Scholarship Fund was made possible because CNG growers and Friends of CNG pitched in whatever they could afford. Yet recent demand for the program has been so strong, the fund has been depleted. We’re turning to our broader community to help replenish the scholarship fund, so we can continue to offer scholarships to beginning farmers, and those facing unusual hardships, in 2018.
Please help us build a more sustainable food system by becoming a Friend of CNG today! All Friends’ contributions in July and August will go towards the Scholarship Fund.