The Great Organic Farm Giveaway
A passion for organics and the ability to capture it on paper could buy you the farm, literally

By Cara Hungerford

Stake your claim: South Carolina farmer offers his farm as top prize in essay contest. Right: rows of tomato plants.



Farm at a Glance: Owl's Nest Plantation

Location: Cross, SC. Rural south-central South Carolina about 45 minutes north of Charleston.

Farm Type: Organic, not certified

Size: 30-acres, 12-acres under cultivation

What is grown: Tomatoes, cucumbers, squash (both summer and winter), lettuce, green beans, spinach, melon and cut flowers, also, plums, pecans, figs, peaches and grapes

 

A little creativity, a lot of passion and $350 could make you the proud owner of your very own organic farm. David Howe, organic farmer, is giving away his 30-acre farm including: farm house, all equipment, vehicles, office supplies, membership to his farmers markets and everything else necessary to run a successful farm operation to the winner of his essay contest (for a complete list of included amenities go to www.organicfarmgiveaway.com).

Sound too good to be true? Well, I think that is exactly what Howe is counting on. After running the Owl’s Nest Plantation, an organic farm in rural south-central South Carolina, for 12-years Howe is looking for someone with heart and a commitment to organic farming and if this makes it possible for someone to pursue a farm dream that would otherwise be impossible, even better. “We are providing an opportunity that for many people would otherwise be impossible,” Howe said quoting a recent visitor at the farm’s open-house.

Open House : Get a sneak peak of the grand prize at the July 13 open-house. The farm will be open to the public from 12-5 p.m.

To find a suitable owner for his beloved property Howe has asked interested parties to answer the question “What does organic farming mean to you?” Creativity is encouraged and essays can take any form from personal stories to poems, one interested party submitted an archetype for the official Owl’s Nest Plantation website. One strict rule, all essays must be 250 words or less. Of the essays received, Howe spoke of a moving life-profile that spanned 10 pages. “I had to send it back to him high-lighting the 250 word limit, I hope he sends it back,” he said. As Howe puts it you have to have passion to sum up what organic farming means to you in 250 words or less.

The other strict rule, the winner must agree to farm the land organically for six months. To ease the apprehension of the novice farmer or even provide advice to the expert, Howe is offering to spend those six months at the new owner’s disposal training, explaining nuances of the farm and market operation and answering any questions about the farm.

Howe took over the Owl’s Nest in 1992 and, after determining that the previous owners who used the property to run a horse farm were not using chemicals, he quickly turned it over to organic. Howe uses all the common organic management practices including: a hearty crop-rotation cycle, composted manures, cover crops and OMRI approved fertilizers when needed. The farm is also equipped with a new energy-efficient 4000+ gallon stainless steel gravity fed drip or impact sprinkler system to help even out temperamental South Carolina weather and allow a greater variety of crops. The farm was certified organic but certification has since lapsed. Howe runs the farm basically on his own employing from a temporary labor service when the work load becomes especially heavy. He finds this method of employment “the most economical way to run a farm.”

High market activity : The Howe's sell their produce at 4-different farmers markets in central South Carolina.
Howe, who decided at 13 when he took over the family garden that organic was the only way to grow, believes organic methods produce a better quality, better texture and most importantly a better tasting product. On the farm he grows tomatoes, cucumbers, squash (both summer and winter), lettuce, green beans, spinach, melon and cut flowers. There are also plums, pecans, figs, peaches and grapes. Howe participates in four area farmers markets and a co-op. This combination allows him to bring in a steady income year round.

News and interest in the contest are starting to spread as frequent visits from local news media add to the air of excitement on the farm. So far Howe has received 965 essays from all over the United States, there has even been an essay received from Europe and this morning he fielded a call from an interested Australian party. The official deadline for the contest is July 30, 2003 but Howe will only be accepting a maximum of 2500 essays so interested parties should enter quickly. When asked what would be the minimum of essays accepted. He said he hadn’t thought about it but he is hoping for 2500, no more, no less.

Contest Information

What: essay contest
Question:
What does organic gardening mean to me?
Length: 250 words or less
Format: any literary form
Deadline: July 30, 2003
Maximum number of entries accepted: 2500
Application fee: $349.00

For a complete list of contest rules visit: www.organicfarmgiveaway.com

Howe will narrow down the entrees to the top 100 essays himself then a panel of 3 judges will select a winner, first and second runner-up. Howe said he could not release the names of the judges but assured all were recognized and active in the organic industry. He agreed that they could even be called experts. Howe will retain copyright to all essays and is planning to distribute the winning essay to local and industry media outlets.