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Harpeth Moon Farm celebrates eighth season along river banks

Thirty-eight acres of land, two barns, one house, and miles of riverbed ebbed and flowed through Harpeth Moon Farm’s property in 2016 – promising to nurture what would soon become a successful, booming business that surrounds the Kingston Springs community and nourishes its residents.

For the past eight years, Hayley Roberts and Max VanderBroek have been the hands that have selected, planted, and harvested each vegetable, fruit, and flower from the lands that are nestled between historic Highway 70 and the Harpeth River in Kingston Springs.

Hayley, Max, and their daughter Ridi / Macy Pate

Hayley – originally hailing from Arkansas – moved here with VanderBroek in 2016 after her father, Bruce Roberts, discovered the land that is now home to Harpeth Moon Farm. VanderBroek is originally from Michigan.

The couple met at Warren Wilson College, outside of Asheville, N.C., where they “fell in love with using our bodies and just the idea of working,” Hayley said. The small, liberal arts school is a working college – where students must pick a “crew” and work all four years on the college’s farmland. VanderBroek described crews at Warren Wilson College as the equivalent of fraternities at state schools.

The couple met while they both worked on the landscaping crew.

That would be where some of the “inspiration” for Harpeth Moon Farm came from, VanderBroek said.

“After I got on landscaping crew and I was like, wow, this is pretty rewarding to be tired at the end of the day and dirty for something I saw as beautiful – beautifying the campus,” Hayley said.

“Then, I got [my dad] into it because we've always been outdoorsy people, but he really just latched on to the idea of stewarding land, and that's when he had been looking for property – I think mostly to get us here,” she laughed.

Bruce is a co-owner of Harpeth Moon Farm with the couple. He does mostly the business side of things, where Hayley and VanderBroek deal with the actual produce. Bruce and his wife have lived in Kingston Springs since 2008, Hayley said. You will find Bruce is the face of Harpeth Moon Farm when it comes to the Kingston Springs Farmers and Artisans Market on Saturday mornings.

Richland Farmers Market

When Hayley and VanderBroek moved here eight years ago, they came with the intention of starting a farm that strives for environmental and community sustainability.

“There was zero infrastructure” when they got here, VanderBroek said. “There were the two barns, the house, but that was it. No irrigation, none of the tunnels, none of the greenhouses, there were no fields.”

“So when we started, we were really just starting completely from scratch, and we didn't know the Nashville community very well or what would grow well here,” he said.

The couple said that when they first started farming it was a “scattershot” of growing “every single thing possible” to see what the community wanted and needed. They estimated that they grew 100 different varieties of produce.

Three months after they moved here, the couple sold their first vegetables at the Kingston Springs Farmers Market.

“It was really just hit the ground running and just trying literally everything we could, and watering – we would water stuff with watering pails,” VanderBroek recalled. “There's no water up here. We would go down, fill up buckets, drive them up. And I mean, it was just insane, like absolutely insane.”

Since then, the couple has spent eight years learning the community, honing their craft, and growing and expanding the farm. They said that this year, they are growing a total of 40 different varieties on one acre of their land.

Rainbow chard

According to its website, Harpeth Moon Farm boasts an ever changing list of available produce depending on the season – from the freshest leafy greens, to the sweetest summer fruits, and a whole rainbow of roots, they are always striving to find the best flavor and the longest lasting freshness from their fields to your plates.

Additionally, the farmers grow a diverse array of cut flowers for you to enjoy “from Mother’s Day to first frost.” They said they believe it is important to grow the flowers as ethically as possible in an industry that is riddled with pesticides and other harmful chemicals. Because all of their flowers are certified organic, Harpeth Moon Farm promotes a healthy pollinator habitat, a bustling soil ecology, and residue free blooms that “you can feel good about sticking your nose into.”

“What we've come to find is that it's actually quite skilled, technical labor, and it's hard work, no doubt,” VanderBroek explained. “You can also really hone what you're doing, and make it a pretty viable vocation.”

“It takes a lot of planning,” he continued, adding, “So we make this very elaborate plan for the whole year that we try to stick to and it guides us when we're in the middle of the most chaotic time of year – which is right now, where there's a million things to do at the same time.”

One thing that Hayley has learned over the years is that “it takes a community to grow food for a community.” The couple has been able to employ three full-time workers who help around the farm and at markets – two of which have been with them for a few seasons now.

Community members can find Harpeth Moon Farm’s USDA Certified Organic produce and flowers at nearly 30 local markets, stores, and restaurants year-round – including SKYKING PIZZA and Turnbull Provisions in downtown Kingston Springs.

For the future, Hayley hopes that their products are able to be more accessible for the community.

“A dream is to one day have a farm store,” Hayley said. “[Our product is] not as accessible as it should be, even though we're doing our best to get it to the hands of people.”

“Going back to just needing a community to be able to run a farm is so crucial,” VanderBroek added. “One of the things we hear the most from people who shop with us is that they want to come see the farm. Not everybody gets to experience what it's like to grow food, which is tough. That's a tough reality that we're living in, because everybody's eating food.”

“It'd be nice to be able to get people more exposure to the farm so that people have more of a feeling of connection with their food even beyond just knowing that it's grown locally – that maybe they had a part in it, or they know exactly where it's coming from,” he said.

Summer bouquet

As they are in the midst of their eighth year establishing their USDA Certified Organic flower and produce farm, Hayley and Vanderbroek believe that being rooted in community means putting down literal roots. And in a community where music runs deep, the couple strives for true harmony with the land. “This means tuning in to the waxing and waning of the moon, the whisper of the Harpeth River, and the laughter of their neighbors.”

“We’re trying very hard to grow using sustainable practices.” VanderBroek said this is “really important because the river flows right through our property and agriculture is actually one of the largest producers of fertilizer over leaching into waterways.”

“Agriculture can be extremely destructive, especially when it's near waterways,” he said. “The river is our home, and we care deeply about having a clean product and a clean ecosystem.

Hayley chimed in, adding that she and VanderBroek are “very much do unto others downstream as you would want done to you.”

“It's all connected,” she said. “It's not just our part of the river that's right here – this small stretch – that river then flows into the Cumberland that flows into the Ohio that flows into the Mississippi. It's the rain, it's the tears and the sweat.”

The couple feels grateful to have planted their roots along the Harpeth River in Kingston Springs just seven years ago.

“We love Kingston springs. I love it so much. It's this little gem,” Hayley said. “Kingston Springs just feels untouched – hopefully it stays that way.”

“It felt like home immediately,” she said. “And obviously the river, we love the river, and I feel like the river just makes people just a bit more chill. I like river towns, I feel like people are just a bit … cooler.”



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