Meet Sunflower, Petunia and baby on the way will make three – (three pumpkin-loving Jersey cows that is) and a flock of cackling hens and a strutting rooster, and, of course, Tara and Sean, the farmers of Ostara Farm. Now before someone looks at the photos and then questions if I know the difference between pumpkin-loving cows and winter squash-loving cows, let me allay your concerns. These cows really prefer pumpkins, but the pumpkins were gone and they were just going to have to settle for winter squash during my visit. I believe Sean mentioned that this was good for their digestive system. They are 100% grass-fed with additional treats of yummy homegrown veggies, and the milk is organic jersey milk that per NC law is only sold for animal consumption. My mouth watered thinking about the “real” milk I enjoyed as a child. No wonder our homemade ice cream was creamy, yummy growing up; the richness makes all the difference. I must have Tara and Sean over for ice cream this summer; they bring the milk and I do the rest. Either that or I get our own Jersey cow…hmmm. After they reminded me of the milking schedule, I think I’ll hold off adding a Jersey to our farm household.
Tara fell in love with growing her own food and Sandy Mush while interning for Joe Allawos on his farm on Sugar Creek. She realized that the organic vegetables and the physical exercise she was getting were lessening her fibromyalgia pain. Tara reflects “ I later came to understand that my body is highly sensitive to chemicals in food. When I eat conventional foods for any length of time, my body starts to hurt. So the more I produce my own food the better I feel- it gets me out moving around in the sunshine and the food is clean. Years later, I read that Fibromyalgia is associated with a buildup of chemicals in the fascia of the body, causing pain and that people who have it cannot process all of the chemicals our environment is laden with, and my own personal experience seems to back this up.”
Tara graduated with a biology and environmental studies background from UNCA, and she and Sean utilize biointensive and permaculture practices on their farm; they use a no till system with a whole lot of mulch. They do have good looking garlic, which is what inspired my visit; that and wanting to see for myself if they really don’t have to weed due to the heavy mulch. (I’ll be back in June to check on those weeds or lack thereof.)
Farming has been a natural progression from her internship, growing for herself, then surplus to friends and faculty, to starting a CSA for UNCA faculty, and now selling at the French Broad Coop on Biltmore Ave. Ask for Ostara Farm’s garlic, and later this season their produce and eggs will be available there as well. They will also be selling starts at Fifth Season Gardening in Asheville.
After living in a few other places, Tara and Sean made their way back to Sandy Mush and carved out a special home for their farm, Ostara, named for a goddess of spring solstice. Springtime on a farm holds such promise! Before I took my leave of Ostara, Petunia let me pet her and I had one more question for Tara: “What do you love about living in Sandy Mush?”. Tara was quick to articulate the depth of her feelings:
“It is one of the most beautiful valleys on Earth and I feel very close to Spirit here. I also love that it is still a farming community- we have lots of farming neighbors that we like and can share common interests and experiences with. Farming can be isolating, but not quite as much in this valley as some of the other places we’ve lived and farmed. It feels nice to support each other in our work, makes it feel like what I am doing is more magnified, having a larger impact.”
Tara is also passionate about her work with the Asheville-Buncombe Food Policy Council.