Q & A with Coverdale Farm

Coverdale Farm Preserve
Photo by Ashley Harrell

In the third issue in our series about the organizations we support at Harvest Market, we are pleased to showcase the Coverdale Farm Preserve. Owned and operated by the Delaware Nature Society, the 377-acre Coverdale Farm Preserve is “comprised of 200 acres of nature preserve that is managed to conserve and enhance the biodiversity of Delaware. Nestled alongside the preserve is a 177-acre working farm that showcases regenerative agriculture methods. Farm livestock includes cows, sheep, goats, pigs, chickens, and Thanksgiving Turkeys. In addition to a Community Supported Agriculture (CSA) program, the produce, meat, and other products produced on the farm help feed our community and the planet. Coverdale Farm’s regenerative agriculture practices lead to healthier soil and minimize the impact of farming on the land. Coverdale Farm offers panoramic views of rolling countryside, vegetable gardens, a professional kitchen for culinary classes.”

We highly encourage you to visit their website to check out all the fun and family-friendly events and classes they host!

In this interview with Michele Wales, Coverdale Farm’s Manager, Harvest Market asks about the role of sustainable farming in environmental preservation and education.

Delaware Nature Society LogoHarvest Market: What is your role at the Delaware Nature Society?

Michele Wales: I am member of the Coverdale Farm Preserve Team with the amazing opportunity to work as the Manager of the site.

Harvest Market: Please tell our readers more about your work at Coverdale Farm.

Michele Wales: My responsibilities span from the detailed daily operation of our core enterprises: vegetable and livestock production and education programs and events to overseeing our operational budget, assisting with fundraising for our projects, acting as a bridge between our parent organization (DNS) and the farm ensuring that the mission of DNS is upheld and illustrated through our practices, and taking a leadership role in the implementation of our visionary 10-year master plan for the farm. In addition, I get to work with passionate colleagues, actively farm the land (mostly animal husbandry), teach farm to table cooking classes, drive tractors, train, mentor, and learn from my fellow farmers/educators, and spend lots of hours outside of an office. I am so fortunate.

Harvest Market: How and why is farming relevant to a conservation organization like DNS?

Michele Wales: Agriculture is one of the most destructive actions that humans perform. It depletes and degrades the essential natural resources that form the foundation for growing food and life as we know it. Delaware Nature Society’s mission is to connect people with the natural world to improve our environment through education, advocacy and conservation. We envision a healthy and sustainable environment.

It is our responsibility to farm as a form of conservation. To model small scale agriculture that is productive, economically sustainable, and environmentally accountable. Our master plan challenges us to rise to a regenerative method of farming that takes the lead from nature and mimics natural systems. It is a holistic approach that repairs and restores natural resources and biodiversity while producing nutrient dense food. Our three pillars of focus are soil health, animal welfare, and social fairness. At Coverdale we can actively grow healthy soil and healthy people through our food. Food is the common denominator between us all and a great way to start a conversation about the environmental issues that DNS works on every day.

Harvest Market: What are some ways that the average consumer can support the farmers and food producers in their community and beyond?

Michele Wales: First and foremost, find us! Then join us! Those of us that grow food do not do it for fame, we do it because we have passion. We are proud to feed you and your family. We are always happy to share our work with you. At Coverdale we welcome folks to become part of our community. Take a cooking class, volunteer to help in our children’s garden, come to the Harvest Moon Festival, become a CSA member, help with livestock chores on a summer Saturday morning, shop our market days, send your kids to summer camp, take a hayride tour, or just come to enjoy a beautiful day under the shade of our glorious oak trees. Whether at Coverdale or another local farm, get to know us. Your support is instrumental as we need advocates to spread the word on our collective delicious work.

Coverdale CowHarvest Market: What is the most surprising part of your job?

Michele Wales: Farming is known for its physical demand on the farmer but I am not sure folks recognize the mental demand. It is a job that requires the practitioner to be a scientist, veterinarian, mechanic, master planner, horticulturalist, engineer, philosopher, meteorologist, counselor, marketing expert, salesperson….I think you get the picture. It requires a range of skills that one never learns completely in college. It requires a humbleness to know when you do not possess the skills needed to solve the endless problems that face you daily. It requires resourcefulness to bridge your skill gaps and great relationships to find an extra hand when you need one. Round it out with passion, patience, and perseverance and you have one of the most beautiful and challenging professions out there.

Harvest Market: What aspect of farming and food production is the most inspiring to you? And the most challenging?

Michele Wales: The most inspiring and challenging aspect are one in the same for me. To have nature as our partner. The natural world is the most complex, dynamic, and intricate system in existence. It is about impossible to replicate. We do our best to take its lead to farm in a rhythmic manner through a holistic lens. Farming in this way is much more akin to flowing downstream with the current.

Nature, however, is not always an easy team mate. It can level our work through one strong storm, heat wave, early frost, etc. It is not forgiving and we must always remember that in this farming game, it will win. Respecting it and understanding it are helpful to stay inspired and navigate challenge.

Harvest Market: What would you say to an aspiring farmer?

Michele Wales: Congratulations! Your path has brought you to an incredible profession. Be dedicated to your farm and your colleagues. Be clear about your goals. Be passionate in your pursuit of the highest quality product. Honor your soil. Be proud of your work. Be open, you will always learn something new every single day. Do not give up. Have a lot of fun.

Harvest Market: Is there an achievement or contribution that you are most proud of? Why?

Coverdale TurkeyMichele Wales: I have been at Coverdale Farm for 19 years and have been part of our evolution. Our current project transitioning our farm to a regenerative operation is by far my proudest contribution. Regenerative Agriculture will enable the collective us to continue to grow food in the face of a changing climate. There are a few pioneers that have started the movement and I am so proud that Coverdale is joining.

Harvest Market: Looking ahead, what do you see as the next big issue for DNS and Coverdale Farm?

Michele Wales: We will be faced with demonstrating that Regenerative Agriculture can be a viable and replicable form of conservation and food production.

Harvest Market: Is there anything else you’d like to share with our customers and staff at Harvest Market?

Michele Wales: Thank you for letting me share a little bit about what I love to do and where I do it. I extend an invitation to anyone interested to come and visit us. I would be so happy to share our work with you. With gratitude, Michele