EQIP Helps Fulfill Passions and Dreams in The Boondocks for Beginning Farmer
When Kate Paul was a young girl growing up in North St. Louis County, Minnesota, she enjoyed working in the large family garden adjacent to her grandfather’s farm. Spending time in the garden, amidst all the rows of diverse vegetables was a joy for her. She had great fun planting seeds and watching them grow into delicious vegetables for the entire family. Paul moved away from her family’s land after high-school to attend college and then graduate school for Biology. While living in the Minneapolis/ St. Paul area, she volunteered at a Community Supported Farm, of which Paul says, “ I was inspired by the wherewithal of the family that worked the land and the network of community members who gained more than just healthy, fresh food from the farm; they also gained a connection to the farm, the farmers, and other farm members... they gained a community committed to obtaining food locally from a sustainable source striving to give back more to the Earth than it takes. Through this experience, I was inspired to start my own CSA farm on my family’s land after I moved back home”
Paul, a beginning farmer, became familiar with the Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS) while starting up her own farm on her family’s land. This led to her wanting to know more about what NRCS had to offer her as a young, beginning farmer. Marge Sella, District Conservationist (DC) for NRCS in Virginia, MN, suggested that Paul work with her on developing a conservation plan for her 120 acre family farm, of which 4 acres are used for vegetable production for her Community Supported Farm.
Paul became interested in applying for Environmental Quality Incentives Program (EQIP) funds. In January of 2013, Paul was awarded an EQIP contract, which consisted of planning and implementing a Seasonal-High Tunnel project. In May, 2013, Paul’s dream came true, and with the help of her husband, her mom, and other family members and friends, the High-Tunnel was constructed.
“Utilizing the EQIP Program allowed me to plan and apply a seasonal high tunnel on my farm. As a result I can now jump start my growing season and also extend the growing season into October and/or November, which will help to extend the amount of time I can run deliveries for my farm members. I’m incredibly grateful to have the high tunnel and the new potential it provides my farm,” said Paul.
In her first season, Paul grew tomatoes, peppers, eggplant, cucumbers, and a variety of herbs. Additionally, when the temperatures grow colder on her North St. Louis acreage, she can extend her growing season well into October and even November, if the weather cooperates.
“The thing that made this project different was that Paul was a beginning farmer. EQIP allowed this ag producer to move forward with planning and applying a practice on her land.” Additionally, Sella reports that Social Media such as Facebook has been a helpful tool for Paul, where she is able to stay in touch with her farm members and the greater community and let them know about activities on the farm throughout the year. “Amazing how quickly news can be shared through Social Media venues.”
In addition to farming, Paul has recently published a book, “Memoirs from Down in the Boondocks: A Spiritual Journey through Poem and Short Story”, which touches on her journey back to the land that she grew up on and now farms. Aside from writing and working as an energy healing practitioner, growing vegetables on her farm is a passion that she wants to continue. She is grateful for the federal program funding through EQIP, as this funding enabled her to meet her conservation planning goals and objectives. Paul looks forward to the growing seasons ahead with an extended season and additional experimentation with crops inside the high tunnel.
Kate Paul’s farm website is www.owlforestfarm.com and her farm’s Facebook page is facebook.com/owlforestfarm.
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