The fifty-nine-year-old Delaware Nature Society is one of our state’s foremost environmental organizations, with a mission that encompasses educational programs, active conservation and environmental advocacy. DNS owns or manages more than 2,000 acres, including the Coverdale Farm Preserve in Greenville.
Coverdale Farm’s rolling 377 acres is both a nature preserve and a working farm. It operates using regenerative agricultural principles that combine elements of organic and biointensive farming, permaculture, minimal tillage and rotational grazing. Since Coverdale is both a farm and educational center, it also aligns with the words of writer and poet Wendel Berry: “Agriculture must mediate between nature and the human community, with ties and obligations in both directions.”
According to Michele Wales Quinlan, Coverdale’s Director of Farm Operations, the regenerative agriculture practiced on the farm, “is not a one-size-fits-all methodology and is unique to each landscape.” Adding, “we strive to let nature lead us through this process of growing food.” And Coverdale does produce an increasing amount of food. Besides the fresh vegetables raised in their seven-acre market garden, the farm also has a flock of pastured laying hens for eggs, raises turkeys for Thanksgiving, offers farm-grown bedding plants in the spring as well as a seasonal pick-your-own flower patch. These products are available at the Coverdale Farm Market which is open to both members and the public Fridays through Sundays from April to November. Coverdale’s vegetables are also sold year-round to several local restaurants and grocery stores like Harvest Market in Hockessin. Coverdale opened their Farm Market in 2021, after operating on a CSA (Community Supported Agriculture) model for several years. Besides their own vegetables and eggs the market sells an assortment of products from other local and regional farms and producers.
Of course, farming is hard work, even though the Coverdale staff is constantly incorporating the best efficiencies they can with their “hands over machines” methods of growing. According to Wales Quinlan, “It’s a gift that we get to work here in nature, but it can be tough and demanding.” In addition to Wales Quinlan, the full-time staff at Coverdale includes Program Manager Mindy Brown and Market Garden Farmers Patrick Eggleston and Logan McCabe. They are assisted by five seasonal farm workers, a staff of part-time market and education associates and a small cadre of vegetable production volunteers.
In addition to their retail market, in 2023 Coverdale will also be holding their First Friday events (5:00 to 7:30 pm, June to October) with food trucks, live music and family-centered games; on-farm dinners prepared by the chefs at Ciro Restaurant every Sunday in June and October; the annual Farm to Fork Dinner in September; a new series of cooking classes incorporating farm-fresh, seed-to-table ingredients; and the Native plant sale in May.
“It really is exciting to get the local community back to the farm and to strengthen our hyper- local partnerships like the ones with Ciro Restaurant and Harvest Market,” says Wales Quinlan.
Harvest Market has been a long-time supporter of DNS and Coverdale Farm as a corporate donor—including providing a grant that helped fund the construction of the first turkey shelters.
For more information about the Delaware Nature Society and the Coverdale Farm Preserve, please go to www.delawarenaturesociety.org.