Hope Grows Here
By Meda Kessler
With clippers in hand, she snips bunches of arugula, and the peppery aroma fills the air. Bodhi, the farm dog, follows along and is rewarded with a small cucumber, one of his favorite snacks. In a fenced-in pen, a pair of Nigerian goats — they provide lots of fertilizer — watch us intently.
Trish checks on the late season crop of okra and cantaloupe, pushing leaves back in search of the fruit. As we take a water break back at their home, the sound of thunder rumbles deeply in the distance and, instinctively, Trish and husband Jack both reach for their phones to check the weather. During a Texas summer, rain is always welcome, especially if you’re a farmer.
The spring deluge, however, played havoc with the growing schedule. “We lost crops, and it really threw off our schedule,” says Trish.
She knows a thing or two about rain and farming. She grew up on a farm in South Texas. Fresh vegetables were a way of life. Years later, as the mother of a son with food allergies, she was prompted to do more cooking at home. She took up backyard gardening with a vengeance; eating fresh and healthy had become a necessary way of life.
Jack left corporate America after 20 years for a simpler existence. He bought a couple of acres in southwest Fort Worth and was considering becoming part of the tiny-house movement. The couple had worked for the same company but didn’t connect personally until each had gone through a divorce.
They shared a lot of the same values and were both single parents. The transition to a full-time life digging in the dirt was a natural one. Trish’s hobby became a full-fledged passion, and she left her job in 2018; Jack’s goal was to do everything he could to support her.
Stone’s Throw Farm became official about six years ago. They now have a cozy log cabin on the property, with a stock tank pool. A shipping container serves as storage and hopefully will also house a small prep kitchen one day. Jack built a cold room to hold freshly picked produce for market. Beautiful braids of onions hang under a covered porch.
One of the biggest game changers was the addition of their mobile farm stand. You can’t miss the bright yellow trailer with sharp graphics, and it’s spacious enough to haul not only baskets of seasonal organic produce but also baked goods, local honey, canned jams and jellies, and coolers filled with grass-fed beef, heritage pork and pasture-raised chicken they sell for local ranchers and other growers. They also offer eggs from local farmers, and the couple recently got some baby ducks.
In January 2020, they fulfilled another dream by getting certified as a nonprofit, as one of their missions is to help special-needs teens and adults with either paid jobs or different levels of internships. The Stones’ blended family includes three sons: Nate, 16, and two with special needs. Jackson, 14, has autism, and Cru, 12, has cystic fibrosis. “One of our customers mentioned that we [should] reach out to Hope Center for Autism in Fort Worth,” says Jack. “That’s been a productive partnership.”
Other interns have included a 20-year-old woman in a wheelchair. While limited physically, she wanted to work on her social skills. “She not only is a great greeter, she was able to run the mobile point of sale system.” The interns mainly help at the farmers markets and mobile stands. “Mondays are set aside for kitchen duty, where they prep and can vegetables and fruit at a rented kitchen,” says Jack. “Plans are to host more special-needs folks at the farm, so they can learn about how we grow our food.”
The to-do list is long; so are the days. The couple put in 75 to 80 hours a week, as not all the work is done in the field. Trish is always researching best practices for organic farming, and she experiments with economical alternatives to things like fertilizer, including aged alpaca compost and alfalfa pellets. She also picks the brains of veteran farmers on planting schedules. Jack helps out in the fields as well as handling the office work. Three days off in a row is truly a vacation for them.
But they’re happier now than when they were pulling down bigger salaries in the corporate world.
“In the last six years, we’ve learned what to grow in this climate and that we have good bees out here and that local farmers are a rare breed,” says Trish. “We’re just glad to be part of a small but passionate community.”