As is often the case with Price, our conversation is woven together with the details of our personal lives, questions and answers about farming, and updates on her current apprentices. We fall easily into our long-established role of mentor and apprentice as I stand by to assist two goats being brought into the world by Price’s gentle hands.
Four years ago, I started my journey in farming through the Growing New Farmers apprenticeship program as one of the first participants during the pilot year. The experience was a life changer, introducing me to a farming community made up of some of the most hardworking, passionate, innovative, and generous people. Every day brought something new, whether it was riding on the tractor with Joseph Fields or product tasting with chefs in the kitchen during deliveries. As the program came to an end, I knew that I wanted to dedicate my career to working in agriculture. In 2011, I realized this dream when I became the director of sustainable agriculture for Lowcountry Local First.
As the first formal farm apprenticeship program and farm incubator in South Carolina, Growing New Farmers has created both opportunities and networks for small farmers and food system leaders to learn, grow, and succeed. Every year the program introduces a thread of new individuals to the fabric of the local agricultural community, strengthening the capacity of the local food system. Past and current program participants often become mentors, advocates, and leaders; each has a unique story and these are just a few.
As a farming apprentice, Harrison learned the climate, market, and community in Charleston while receiving the tools to grow both food and a business. Through his experience, he gained the skills and the support network to help him take the helm as the director of the Green Heart Project, which under his leadership, has grown to two urban farm school sites at Mitchell Elementary and Zucker Middle School with almost 15,000 square feet of garden serving more than 400 K-6 grade students.
Amy Robinette was raised in Spartanburg and graduated from the University of South Carolina. She initially came to Charleston seven years ago to train as a pastry chef, but, like so many others, found herself stuck in the kitchen. While working at Closed for Business, a partner restaurant of the Green Heart Project, Robinette connected with the urban farm at Mitchell Elementary. Although Robinette’s aunt and uncle own a large horse and produce operation in Kentucky, volunteering with the Green Heart Project was her first experience growing food. Before long, she had started her own vegetable garden and adopted her own small flock of chickens.
Another over-40 apprentice, John Lloyd is also a second-career farmer. The history of John’s family goes back several generations in Cordesville, S.C., one of the oldest Gullah communities in the state. His family-farming legacy was passed from his sharecropping great-grandparents, to his independent farming grandparents, to his aunts and uncles in farming, and now to him. Born, raised, and currently living on the family farm, John grew up in a community built around the growing, harvesting, and cooking of organic local food. In his youth, he spent long days doing farm chores, but the pull of life off the farm led him to a career in athletics.
His lean build, trainers, and track pants echo a lifetime spent as a distance runner, fitness trainer, physical education teacher, and coach. During the last few years of teaching and coaching, Lloyd became increasingly disturbed by the high rates of obesity and health related illnesses. He watched student’s diet choices become limited to unhealthy processed foods with little or no access to fresh fruits or vegetables.