Lockewood Acres: The Life-Changing Nature Of Farming
Ben Lyons, founder and farmer of Lockewood Acres, will be the first to tell you he had no idea what he was doing when he started farming six years ago. When asked what sparked his interest and passion for farming, he immediately responded with, “I just love watching things grow.” In the hours that followed spent with Ben and company, I realized it was that and much, much more.
The day started with a lesson in goat milking by apprentice Kesnel, as new worker Dahna had struggled in previous attempts. Dahna had only arrived a couple of days earlier, having signed up to work with Lockewood Acres through World Wide Opportunities on Organic Farms (WWOOF-USA). Following the relatively unsuccessful (but hilarious) milking, I was given a tour around the property. I learned that the large RV in the yard had been the home Ben shared with his wife Denise the past six years, while he started the farm and built their current house. Ben mentioned that when the financial crisis and market meltdown hit several years ago, he and Denise found themselves deeply affected. When Denise was offered a job, they moved up to Vacaville, and soon after that Ben started Lockewood Acres. He shook his head as he thought back to those early years. “I was scared to death in 2009, I lost so much,” he said while proudly eyeing his new home.
Now, the farm is a sustainable sanctuary, home to free-range chickens, Nubian dairy goats, pigs, and St. Croix sheep. Several small orchards and a few acres devoted to vegetable production provide everything from peaches, pears and pomegranates to eggplant, tomatoes, squash, and more. As we walked along the rows of winter produce, Ben made note of how productive his farm has been. “It’s fascinating that such a little piece of land can produce so much food,” he said.
Ben is not the only one whose life has been changed for the better by the farm. This past year Ben joined the Multinational Exchange for Sustainable Agriculture (MESA) as a host farm for students interested in agriculture. It was through this program that he met Kesnel, who is now a year-long apprentice at Lockewood Acres. Originally from Haiti, Kesnel joined MESA with the goal of learning more sustainable and organic farming practices to bring back to his country. Growing up with seven brothers and sisters, Kesnel recalled how food was a blessing, and not always a guarantee for others. I found myself struggling to imagine the journey that had brought him to Lockewood Acres. “Food is a problem in Haiti, yes, but I want to show people that you can have a small plot of land and grow enough for yourself, your family, and more,” he shared.
By shopping at local farmers’ markets and supporting farms like Lockewood Acres, you’ll discover that more likely than not you’re also helping support a global community of aspiring farmers.
To learn more about Lockewood Acres, Ben Lyons and the Digital Dirt experience, visit pcfma.org/digitaldirt.
Remember, dirt first!