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News Release

A New Beginning on the S&S Microfarm

Chakesha Harvey

Samantha Longster and Scott Naugler aren’t what most think of as typical farmers. They didn’t grow up on a farm and neither did their parents or grandparents. She was raised in Orlando’s suburbs and he’s from the city of Boston.  She’s spent the last 20 years as a property management executive, and he was a full time le cordon bleu trained chef.   

“We just liked growing stuff,” Sam said. It started with pots of tomatoes out by their pool. Things just got bigger and bigger as they expanded their one-acre backyard operation into keeping goats, raising chickens and rabbits and more tomatoes. 

“We had been talking about it for years, so we decided to jump in with both feet,” she said.  In August 2019 the couple bought a 32-acre blueberry farm near Bartow, Fla. Sam said the timing couldn’t have been better. Three months after they got the farm, the company Sam worked for closed in bankruptcy, and she started a new career with a software company, which allows her to have time for the farm.  It was March and time for the blueberry harvest, which provided some income.  “Thankfully the farm was in operation when we bought it and the former owner was helpful,” she said.  

Sam and Scott heard about USDA’s Natural Resources Conservation Service financial assistance for conservation practices and set up an appointment at their local service center. “I sat down with District Conservationist Karl Anderson and told him ‘I’m new and don’t know what I’m doing,’” Sam said. Karl went out to their farm and asked what their goals were. Their priority was to get rid of the grass planted between the blueberry bushes.   

“We have programs for that,” Karl said.  He proceeded to help the couple develop a conservation plan and signed them up for the Conservation Stewardship Program. The program offers technical and financial assistance to adopt conservation activities on working private agricultural and forest lands. It rewards existing conservation across an entire farming operation and supports the improvement of conservation systems with funding over a period of several years. NRCS will pay the couple an annual payment for their existing conservation activities, in addition to enhancements, which include cover crops to replace the grass between the blueberry bushes. Sam and Scott are looking at perennial peanut because it delivers nutrients to the blueberries, saves water, and reduces the amount of herbicide they will have to use on the plants.

As new and beginning farmers who have been farming 10 years or less, the couple is eligible for a higher payment rate, which varies depending on the conservation practice.

Thirteen acres of their farm is already in production with blueberries and they have planted two of seven acres in Moringa trees.  Sam wants to harvest the leaves to sell fresh to grocery stores and process them into powder to package and sell. “It’s an amazing super food, nutritionally dense, and it grows so well in Florida,” she said.   

The couple earned their hemp license last year in preparation for producing fiber and they are growing CBD hemp in their nursery at their farmstead to sell for oil extraction. “That is the advantage of being small, you can experiment. You have to be willing to try,” she said.

This year has been a big learning curve for them Sam said, but they have made the transition to farmers. Scott works full time on the farm and her new job for a software company gives her the time and flexibility to help. “We plan to be farmers for the next decade or so until we get too old,” Sam said. You can follow Sam & Scott on their Facebook page

Do you want to learn more about the Conservation Stewardship Program? Contact your local USDA Service Center.