Unity Farm: Unifying farm work, animals, people and nature

Cathy Wells and her boys at Unity Farm. Courtesy photo.

To meet Cathy Wells at Unity Farm on Higbee Road is to enter the world of a true dynamo. Ordinary multitaskers would be put to shame.

Cathy started the farm originally as a home for her then four English Shire draft horses, partly to give them meaningful work. These she refers to as “her boys.” Pete is sadly no longer with us, but Jaguar, General and Rocket are. More important, Cathy started the Unity Farm to unify all aspects of farm work, animals, people and nature.

Cathy grew up in Indiana, loves the land and has a passion for farming. Unity Farm sells organic spinach, kale and salad-mix produce at Shelburne Market, Lantman’s, Healthy Living and Philo Ridge. A fall crop has been planted so there will be a continuing supply. The goal, which the farm achieves, is to grow “nutritious, vibrant, great tasting, long lasting” produce. Truly worth seeking out. Flowers are available through a flower share CSA that you can subscribe to and pick up at the farm or at Edo’s in Shelburne (the hair salon next to the Bearded Frog).

A visit on a cold late winter day revealed large hoop houses containing a bounty of spinach, kale and salad mix, almost ready to harvest. A more recent visit revealed a riot of flowers ready to pick and prepare into bouquets. As Cathy worked on removing the leaves from the flowers (they last longer in bouquets) she did allow, looking over her flower kingdom, that “flowers are like little brats”—that is, they sometimes do not behave as gardeners want them to.

To reduce the use of pesticides, Unity Farm uses integrated pest management (IPM) to control pests. In part, IPM relies on beneficial insects, such as praying mantises and lady bugs, to attack (eat) pests, such as scale, mealy bug and thrips.

There are, of course, many challenges to farming. One is securing the help needed for the diverse activities on the farm. The work is hard but rewarding, and anyone could learn a great deal from Cathy. A second challenge, shared by other small farms and businesses, is the cumbersome and sometime lengthy permitting process in Charlotte. In a small town such as ours it is imperative that the folks who issue permits are proactive and problem solvers.