By Deb J. Holley
Deb Holley lives and works on Black Cat Acres, a produce farm that she and her family began when they found themselves wearying of the “modern” urban/suburban life, its demands, and its politics. They longed to get back to a more natural, independent, and meaningful way of living. She says that “country life is a much more natural and beneficial way for humans to live, and, if undertaken with the needs of our planet in mind, much more sustainable.”
Six years ago, the residents of Black Cat Acres decided to become commercial growers, and two years after that, they started selling their produce. As a working produce farm, there are many projects underway at all times. Most pressing at the moment is finished garlic processing (by hand!) to ready bulbs to be sacked and distributed to grocery stores and chefs — time consuming work. There’s always more to be done on a farm though, and within that long list is the need to re-test the well which they use to water the produce — a task necessary for organic certification.
Deb and her son, Royce, do most of the produce business. Royce does the tractor work, and they both help take care of the planting, weeding, and harvesting, while Deb does the marketing and most of the delivery. “Royce also makes beeswax candles and enjoys photography; I’ve occasionally made farm gift baskets for customers. Husband Ken is mostly retired now, but still does some of the machine repair, equipment purchases, electrical work needed, etc. He also works in his shop in the garage, making horizontal bee hives to sell, etc.”
Surrounded by a garden of greens, melons, squash, herbs, red and green yard-long beans, some tomatoes, fresh honey, and a young orchard, there are many animals that call Black Cats Acres home, and who come in handy, too. There are, of course, the black cats for which the farm is named, plus six hens (Rhode Island Red, Barred Rock, and Americanas), one rooster (Rhode Island Red), and a German shepherd, Rokie, “whose job it is to keep deer out of our gardens.”
“It’s hard to define ‘homesteader’ in today’s terms, I believe, due to all of the modern conveniences which reach every corner of our society, both physically and socially, and harder yet to make an actual living by undertaking traditional rural activities. At the current time, I would define ‘homesteader’ as one who’s heart and soul love rural living and open spaces, who enjoys spending a large amount of time outdoors on their land, and attempts to live with a minimum amount of consumption, seeking to impact our planet as little as possible.”