It goes without saying that this year has been a time of global reckoning and transition. We all are feeling the gravity of our current paradigm as many of us continue to navigate the unknown and anticipate what comes next. Like many of the challenges we face on the farm, we can look to the land to teach us.
What role does a disruption, or disturbance, play in an ecosystem?
In ecology, a disturbance is a temporary occurrence that causes a pronounced change. Disturbances often act quickly and with great effect, altering the physical structure or arrangement of biotic and abiotic elements in an ecosystem. For example, we can see many major ecological disruptions playing out in real time today. Fires, flooding, storms, and insect outbreaks radically alter our landscapes and the ways they function. Surely we can also consider the global pandemic a major disturbance, one that has completely altered our socio-economic, political, and environmental systems. On a smaller scale, at the Horn Farm, we have come to appreciate both the impact and opportunity that disturbance can bring to both our natural and human systems.
Small disturbances occur in our landscapes constantly. A felled tree, for instance, opens up the forest canopy and allows light to reach the understory in a new way. And while we might focus on the why and how of a tree coming down, the result of this action is a change in the system that provides an opportunity for new flora to thrive. Similarly, animals are some of nature’s most favored disruptors; as they move through the landscape they deposit seeds and nutrients while others reshape wild spaces by scratching, digging, and building habitats. These disruptions are part of an ongoing cycle of natural change. Healthy ecosystems require this movement of energy to flourish and self-regenerate.
The land stewards at the Horn Farm have been researching and experimenting with how micro-disturbances, and even more so, intentional disruption, can improve the health of our farm ecosystem. Through intense observation and ecological literacy, Woodlands Steward, Wilson Alvarez has developed a methodology of land stewardship that he calls a “bottom-up” approach. Based on biomimicry, we seek to imitate the disturbances and scale of impact that animals once had on the landscape. By studying and mimicking the behavior of animals, we can learn how and when to make small changes to ecosystems that will help to restore its natural functions. Through intentional disturbance, the Horn Farm ecosystems are being restored.
Beyond our farmscape, we are coming to understand that the organization itself is going through a period of deep transformation. Through much reflection, hard work and growing pains, the organization has found new direction and leadership this year. Additionally, we are saying goodbye to two long-term staff members, Jon Darby and Pamela Moore.
Both Jon and Pam have been a core to the success of the Horn Farm Center’s educational programs as well as its evolution towards a more ecologically-focused farmscape. Their impact at the Horn Farm is invaluable and we are thankful for the energy and creative input they have brought to the organization. Just as we value their hard-earned contributions, we are embracing the disruption and new opportunity that their departure will bring. As we continue to prepare for a new season at the Horn Farm, we will continue to stay connected, as Pam and Jon are forever part of our extended farm community.
To learn more about their journeys and to honor the work they accomplished here at the Horn Farm, keep reading below!
Jon Darby’s Horn Farm Story
It’s hard to imagine the Horn Farm Center without Jon Darby. For many in our community, the farm is synonymous with his name. Jon first became involved at the Horn Farm Center as a volunteer in 2007. Shortly after, he joined the Modern Homestead Farm Committee, which was tasked with organizing the on-site activities at the farm such as the community gardens and the Incubator Farm Program. In 2010, as a participant in the Incubator Farm Program, Jon started his own farming operation, Sterling Farm. The following year, he was hired as the Horn Farm Center’s first part-time Farm Manager. In 2016, Jon transitioned to a full-time position as the Education Director where he began to oversee all educational activities at the farm.
During his tenure at the farm, Jon developed a robust schedule of educational programming that has impacted thousands of visitors and program attendees, helping to make the Horn Farm Center a destination for experiential, farm-based learning. As the manager of the CSA operation and the Farmer Training Program, Jon has helped to cultivate a healthier, more resilient community through his hard work, dedication, and inspirational teaching methods.
Jon’s legacy at the Horn Farm has had a lasting impact: many of his students, having gone through the Farmer Training Program, have gone on to become farmers or work in the field of regenerative agriculture in some way. When asked what he loves most about the Horn Farm, Jon replied, “What I love the most about this place is the focus: reconnecting people to lost skills and empowering them to grow their own food. We are helping to make our communities more resilient.”
After 12 years serving the organization, Jon is retiring from his current role at the farm but he looks forward to serving the Horn Farm other ways. He also plans to continue farming and teaching from his homestead, where he will be spending more time with his family. Jon’s official last day at the Horn Farm is October 10th. However, we are sure you will see him around!
Pamela Moore’s Horn Farm Story
Pam’s role at the farm is a little less visible, but equally important to the success of the organization. Pam has served as the Executive Assistant since July of 2018. As a trained instructional designer and systems administrator, Pam has brought her keen attention to detail and ability to organize, document and manage systems to the Horn Farm with great impact. She also helps to organize our big events, such as the annual Plant Sale and the Horn Farm Center Pawpaw Festival. Pam has helped to streamline the farm’s administrative operations and is leaving behind a fine-tuned machine. We have a few months to wish her well in her new full-time endeavor, which she will begin in January 2021.
We are so grateful for the contributions that Jon and Pam have made to the ecosystem that is the Horn Farm Center. Their absence will certainly create a disturbance in the fabric of the organization, and we will honor their legacy by using that shift as a catalyst for the growth and evolution of the farm.
Here are some opportunities to visit in the next few weeks. We look forward to seeing you on the farm.
Saturday, September 26: Wild Lands: Shelter Building and Finding Water
Saturday, October 3: Wild Lands: Art of Fire by Friction (sold out!)
Saturday, October 10: Wild Lands: Foraging, Hunting, Trapping (sold out!)
Saturday, October 10: Foraging Wild Roots for Coffee and More
Tuesday, October 13: Backyard Composting
Saturday, October 17: WildLands: Advanced Primitive Hunting Techniques (sold out!)
Tuesday October 20: Backyard Composting
Saturday, November 7: The Living Landscape
Saturday, December 5: The Living Landscape
See you at the farm!
York County has moved into the green phase for dealing with COVID-19, so we are resuming some on farm classes with modifications. Classes will be held outside and are limited to 10 participants per class. If more than one class occurs on the same day, start times will be staggered to reduce the number of individuals arriving at the same time. Multiple hand sanitizer stations are available. We will adjust as needed as time passes and things change. Participants are required to bring a mask and wear when proper physical distancing cannot be maintained. Except for family members physical distancing of 6 feet must be maintained.