This is a story...
...of how Gray and Katie ended up creating Baken Creek Farm. What influenced us, what drives us, as we create our vision for reinvigorating rural communities, human health, and ecological diversification.
Gray and Katie are first-generation farmers in their families, but then again, if you go back far enough in any family tree you'll find someone with a farming background or homesteader spirit. Gray had acquired experience at various farm operations in the Mechanicsburg area growing up--cows, gardening, turkeys, pigs, large-scale vegetable production, farm and event catering--diversity is the spice of life! Katie's childhood was one connected to nature and learning about the biology and interconnections of life around us with influence from her mother and grandfather. As she pursued environmental science at Penn State, she found her interest in regenerative agriculture and soil science, which led her to continue her studies at University of Delaware for a Masters in Plant and Soil Science. While in Delaware, she took non-credit courses on farming and starting a farm business through Extension and maintained several garden plots in community gardens while learning by doing.
Gray and Katie met in 2014 and bonded over their passion for agriculture and nature. They watched Food Inc., read Omnivore's Dilemma and Folks This Ain't Normal, and continued to fall down the small-scale, family-oriented farming rabbit hole. They wanted to know where their food came from and how it was grown. They weren't finding the quality of food they were reading about and watching movies about in their local supermarket or farmers market--sadly the local farmers market didn't have very many farmers at that time. So in their little suburban home they started raising quail for eggs and meat, which led to Cornish cross meat chickens, then laying hens. While the livestock interests developed, the garden expanded every year and edibles were incorporated throughout the landscaping--all of this on less than a half-acre lot.
Gray and Katie were quickly outgrowing the resource base they had in the suburbs, but the farm search had already been ongoing for a year or three. In 2018, after looking at many farms, raw land, fallow land, and sifting through paperwork, ordinances, and deed restrictions, on a cold early-March morning they made their first visit to what is now Baken Creek Farm, a 30-acre diversified, regenerating farm. The fields were mowed, but otherwise unimpressive, the pond was in disrepair, and there was an overwhelming stench of fox urine in the barn--and yes, the house was WAYYYY too close to the road, but they fell in love with the property and saw the possibilities.
The Establishment of Our Farm
We immediately started raising our own meat chickens as soon as we moved in, while also starting to mend the garden and fruit trees that were on the property. The Katahdin sheep (NOT goats! :D) arrived at the farm in 2019, and we started management-intensive rotational grazing from day one. Layer chickens came with us from the suburban homestead, but after a few years we found our free-range model with chickens doesn't mix well with market gardening or wetland predator pressures (hence the mink massacre of 2021). We still raise meat birds every year, but decided to partner with another local farm to bring high-quality eggs to our customers. In the fall of 2021, Gray's itch to get pigs became too much to resist and the first Idaho Pasture Pigs were brought in. Those pigs weren't lonely for long as we immediately bought some IPP breeding stock to grow the herd with plans to put the bacon in Baken Creek--figuratively speaking!
It wasn't until the drastic turn of events of 2020 that we went all-in on production practices that improve the land, human- and ecological-health and diversity, going beyond the certified organic standard, educating customers and becoming customer-certified. Gray discovered Acres USA in early 2020 and has been influenced by the writing of Mark Shepard's Restoration Agriculture and Water for Any Farm that melds a passion for grazing livestock and forestry, while also managing water flow and erosion with keyline design. Additional influencers that have guided the thinking and ultimately direction of Baken Creek Farm includes Greg Judy, The Chesapeake Bay Foundation, Joel Salatin, Pat Colby, and Michael Pollan. The writings of Acres USA authors persuaded Gray to sell the tiller, much to Katie's dismay at the time, and shift the farm to commit to soil health.
The years since the shift towards our commitment to regenerative, beyond-organic practices have been invigorating and inspiring, allowing us to see how agricultural production can exist within a diverse and thriving natural ecosystem for the betterment of community health.
Between inflation, banking system failures, and many friends and customers demanding beef from us, in early 2023 Gray decided it was time to invest in some cattle and the first Dexters were brought to the farm. Katie got one giant step closer to having her dream come true of owning a family milk cow--not a Jersey, but the tri-purpose Dexter is a compromise we're both excited about. We didn't know if we'd enjoy cattle or not and figured worst case scenario we would sell some beef. And so begins our adventure into bovine stockmanship.
"The best time to plant a tree was 30 years ago, and the second best time to plant a tree is now."
Thirty years from then is now and thirty years from now is going to be unimaginable.