By Faith Farm is sited on land that has been farmed since the early 1800s – primarily cattle, tobacco, and vegetables. When the 96-acre farm was bought in 2011 by the Birckheads, it had become fallow, the buildings abandoned, the fields and forests left unattended. For the suburban couple, with no experience in farming (she was an accountant and he was a doctor), this was truly a calling with a mission.
As Lori explains it, the farm began with a dream…as in the sleeping kind of a dream. She dreamt of land and ponds and growing food she gave away. And the entire dream was in color. Without any experience growing vegetables, she interpreted the dream to mean she should support food pantries or maybe volunteer at soup kitchens. The dreams persisted. Her husband realized she wasn’t kidding, and, through the serendipitous force of timing and faith, they found a farm to buy on the outskirts of Nashville. Thus, began Lori’s mission to grow and supply healthy food to those in need.
First, however, the Birckheads had to start with infrastructure since all the farm had remaining was an old stone house and a falling-down barn. They built a large red barn (the farm’s identity), ostensibly to house Lori’s harvested vegetables; refurbished the stone house so a family could live there, these days as tenant farmers; and began the work of improving the soils where their first garden was to be planted (Lori uses the word ‘garden’ although it looks more like a large field with row crops in the photos!)
Slowly, with help from neighbors, their local Extension office, hired experts, their own labor and that of others interested in their ultimate mission, the farm began to see itself restored and producing large quantities of vegetables. To assist in distribution, the charity organization teamed up with Second Harvest to supply food banks in their area. Volunteers have helped ever since and By Faith Farm has donated thousands of pounds of locally produced fresh produce.
In the summer of 2019, Lori opened her modern apartment on the second floor of the red barn as a farm stay. Tastefully appointed and spacious at 1500 square feet, it boasts two master bedrooms, two bathrooms, a large kitchen and living area, and a balcony with views of the cattle pasture and incredible sunsets. Guests can explore the property, scouting for the old tobacco barn in the woods or throwing a line into the fishing pond for catfish. Lori may even take you for a ride down the trails in her farm UTV (utility vehicle). If you want to help with chores or volunteer in the fields, she has no problem offering you a hands-on experience. And, the purpose behind the farm stay, in addition to giving guests a taste of farm life? All revenue from the farm stay is funneled to the farm’s mission of feeding those in need.
Currently, a cattle farmer leases some of the land for his herd, a beekeeper places his hives around the fields of vegetables and flowers, the tenant farmers have their own production CSA (community supported agriculture) for locals, and Lori has a u-pick flower operation, added in 2019 for additional income to support the farm’s endeavors. Without forethought, the farm has become a springboard for others. Lori chalks it up to pursuing her mission with faith.
Speaking to Lori, it is clear this accountant-turned-farmer has found her true mission to do good in this world with a very local impact. What’s next? There are 50 more acres to tame, a tobacco barn that could second as an event center, beautiful spots on the farm for weddings, and anything else Lori can envision (or dream) to ultimately pave the way to ”health responsibility, food justice and hunger relief” (from her website www.byfaithfarm.com).
Check out By Faith Farm here on Farm Stay USA for more information and to book your stay today!
(Photos courtesy of By Faith Farm)