A Charlotte Family Tradition Changes Course
Jul 02, 2018 10:33AM
Katherine Belk, affectionately known as “Peanut,” now in her 20s, is the daughter of Tim Belk, former CEO of Belk Department Stores who sold the business more than a year ago. She comes to Wild Hope Farm with a background in marketing, business development and design research, and is passionate about fostering community relationships. Belk tackles the finance and operations side of the business as operations manager while also building the brand and hosting events. She also works on the farm harvesting, cleaning, planting and selling the farm’s products in local markets.
Why did you choose sustainable farming?
My parent’s farm has been many things over the past few decades, transitioning from regional commodities like cotton and tobacco to a dairy operation to passively managed timber, beef cattle and a place to get away under their ownership. For several years it has been my mom’s "wild hope" to reactivate the land and transform it into an organic operation that collectively engages the community, regenerates the soil, and improves the surrounding ecosystem.
How did you know that you were ready for this commitment?
I was living in Boston and working for a product design firm and spending a lot of time researching how people could lead healthier lives through human-centered products and services. At the same time, I was a member of a wonderful farm share that gave me access to high-quality produce, and it stoked the fire in my belly when it came to cooking with new recipes. When I learned about my parents’ plans, I felt a call to pack up my winter gear, move back south and do something on the other side of healthcare by building a community around fresh food.
Was the situation what you expected?
I naively thought, “How hard could selling eggs possibly be?” With my husband’s encouragement and to the confusion of all my friends, I decided to make this jump and join Wild Hope Farm to tackle all things farming: produce delivery, accounting, marketing, community engagement, etc. I was totally unaware of the backbreaking work that goes into farming and the exhaustion that comes with starting a business.
How does it work?
It has been an incredible journey building up the farm over the past year. I am driven by the potential to create a community around sustainable farming and the positive health benefits for those we impact. We have an 80-person farm share, and through it, we are able to transform the way families eat on a weekly basis. Our shares run 14 weeks and each week, and members receive nine to 15 different types of vegetables in each basket. The mix varies all through the season.
Do members interact socially?
Farm share members swap recipe ideas at our pick-up location and through a group chat. We deliver the baskets to Rock Hill and Charlotte using a trailer system we designed to help streamline the delivery process with smart, 24-hour access so that more working families have flexibility about when to make their pick-up. All leftover produce is donated to our partners at the Lakewood Community in Charlotte, where we are able to feed around 10 families per week.
Do you have opportunities to connect with the local farming community?
In addition to the farm share program, I have been able to connect with incredible farmers and foodies through our booth at the Matthews Farmers’ Market and with my wholesale deliveries to local restaurants. I am learning so much about different approaches to growing, harvesting, storing, cooking and the magic of convening around the table.
Do you practice any other outreach services to the community?
One part of our mission at Wild Hope is inviting people out to experience the farm and learn about our sustainable approach. We would like to attract diverse groups through farm tours, educational workshops, cooking demos, yurt yoga, farm-to-table meals, etc.
How does the farm share work?
Our farm share is a direct partnership between you and our farm, enabling you to buy fresh and support local. When you purchase a share, you support our farm through the inherent risks and tasty rewards of farming. You pay an advance seasonal membership fee to cover the production costs of farming, and you receive in exchange a consistent share of our fresh harvest. The produce, eggs and cut flowers are distributed to you at a central location during a designated time.
What happens to the money?
Funds generated from the farm share go directly to the farm. We offer farm shares for the spring/summer season (14 weeks from May through August) and fall season (14 weeks from September through November). A share will feed a family of four for $32 per week, depending on diet and costs. We are currently sold out of our Charlotte summer share, but still have spaces left in our Chester (on farm pick-ups Fridays), Rock Hill (weekend pick-ups at Legal Remedy Brewery) and Matthews (Saturday pick-ups at the farmers’ market) shares.
At the end of the day, is it all worth it?
Farming is exhausting work, there’s no doubt about it. But it feels like a perfect fit for me as I am energized by people, drawn to a diverse workload, love getting my hands dirty and am passionate about bringing folks together around a common cause. What is there not to love about creating your own sustenance?!
Wild Hope Farm is located at 2620 Blaney Rd., in Chester. For more information, call 704-770-1531 or visit WildHopeFarm.com.