Passionate Producer: Erin Harvey of The Kale Yard

Reader Contribution by Wendy Gregory
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“I believe that small farms and gardens that grow real food in the most environmentally sustainable way play a crucial role in healing our food system. More people can play a role in agriculture. You don’t have to have a lot of land, money or equipment, or quit your day job to be more of a producer and less of a consumer.”

Erin Harvey became a passionate activist involved in social & environmental issues while in college. She began by interning with nonprofit community gardening organizations and apprenticing at Garden Patch Produce, a small CSA in Alexandria, Ohio. “I discovered that food is an entry point to these issues that touches everyone, and that actually growing food was a satisfying way to begin to address them.”

 “After college, I moved to Philadelphia, working with a grassroots food access organization for one year and then Greensgrow, one of the leaders in the urban farming movement. At Greensgrow I learned through inspiring example how you can create something out of nothing through sheer determination. Next I headed west for the CASFS Apprenticeship in Ecological Horticulture at UC Santa Cruz. The Apprenticeship – really the mothership of the organic farming movement in this country – has trained farmers and gardeners for 50 years now in the most beautiful setting, perched above the Monterey Bay.”

“Wanting to learn more about fruit trees, my next move was to Chester County, PA, to one of the most diverse and delicious orchards you’ll ever find – North Star Orchard. There I received invaluable training in farm management. I also completed a Permaculture Design Course, which explores how we might use the principles of ecology as the basis for all design decisions.”

Erin then started her own small farm back in her hometown of Lancaster with The Kale Yard. “The Kale Yard was bootstrapped into existence with a vision, some stubbornness and $3000 to start out. I had 10 seasons of farming, gardening and food system work behind me and was ready to work on my own project. For the first few years I farmed on borrowed land and drove to market in my Subaru.” After the first three years on borrowed land, Harvey purchased her own land and The Kale Yard had a permanent home.

 “As a solo entrepreneur, I’ve also imposed many parameters on my farming project. The scale is fixed at “very small.” Time and labor are limited. I have always also worked off farm, and I don’t aspire to hire employees. This means that I have chosen not to rely on growth for success. My goal is to thrive rather than to profit. I farm because it’s an authentic lifestyle and I can’t imagine not farming.”

Erin Harvey now spends most of her time as the market manager at The Keller Market House bringing her passion and extensive farming experience to the local food movement in the revitalized downtown of her hometown, Lancaster, Ohio. She still maintains the Kale Yard and farms on a smaller scale, bringing plants and produce to the Market House.

Wendy Gregory spent her career working with children as a culinary and gardening teacher in an arts-based summer camp for at-risk children in Nelsonville, Ohio, and as the director of a children’s museum in Lancaster, Ohio. She is a freelance writer exploring the ways seniors can contribute, grow, and reinvent themselves in a new chapter of life. Read all of Wendy’s MOTHER EARTH NEWS posts here

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