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A farm that’s growing more than food

Round the Bend Farm is spread over 115 acres in Dartmouth on Buzzards Bay. And it is a working farm but it’s also an educational non-profit. One of the organization's main goals is to foster diversity. Co-founder and executive director Desa Van Laarhoven says this takes all kinds of forms at the farm and is something that’s incredibly important to her personally.

"I have been very lucky in life with diversity," she says. "I have two adopted siblings and so for me diversity of course is around ideas, it’s around how to plant plants, it’s also around thought processes and cultures and bringing people together that have different vantage points, different life experiences because of the color of their skin, because of where they’re from, because of their belief systems, so for me diversity was a huge part of that."

One of the ways this manifests at Round the Bend Farm is through partnerships with what Desa calls “agri-preneurs.” Desa and her co-founders recognize that no one person can bring 115 acres to life. And so they encourage different businesses and projects on the farm as not only a commitment to diversity of people but also to diversity of finances and ideas.

"Jeff Kinder, the co-founder here with me, he doesn’t work for the non-profit but what he does, he’s an agri-preneur so he owns basically all the pigs and all the cattle and so he raises these guys and then breeds them on-site so in this pen right now we have the boy, the boar and then we have three sows," Desa says.

The boar and the sows are all different colors and breeds, and Desa says this too is on purpose.

"So these guys are Tamworth, Yorkshire, Berkshire, so they’re a mix of all of those and then some of them have a little bit of Idaho pasture pig in there as well. So the idea is we take the Tamworth, Yorkshire, and Berkshire and they all have babies together and they have a usually really productive and they don’t need much assistance in terms of delivering."

Desa Van Laarhoven

Again, the idea is to build resilience through diversity—this time, biological. Next to the pigs in the barn, another agri-prenuer is raising goats who get hired to come eat undesirable plants.

"And Goat Busters they actually go and landscape. So all summer long basically starting from when the grass starts growing and things start really coming up in May until September or October they’re out in the fields and they’re working hard. So they go all around in Dartmouth, Westport, and they’ve been at UMASS Dartmouth now, and they go into places that have tons of poison ivy, or greenbrier, rosebush, thistle, places that landscape crews aren’t super excited to go into, and they are."

The goats are excited because they eat these plants. And in the process, they clear the land for other uses. Round the Bend Farm is also home to a small nature-based school, a collaborative weekly CSA program that offers its shares free to families in need, an herbal tea company, and in 2020 the farm started partnering with a branch of Americorp that’s focused on land use and farming. There’s a lot going on.

"I often call Round the Bend Farm an organism because it’s alive, and there are so many different parts of it, and that means I don’t have to manage it all, none of us have to manage it all. We can cover our bases and as long as there are clear guidelines that we are supporting each other and we’re supporting the land itself, then it really works."

In other words, Round the Bend Farm’s model works not in spite of diversity, but because of it.

Learn more about the non-profit and the agriprenuers operating there: https://roundthebendfarm.org/

This piece first aired in April 2022.

An avid locavore, Elspeth lives in Wellfleet and writes a blog about food. Elspeth is constantly exploring the Cape, Islands, and South Coast and all our farmer's markets to find out what's good, what's growing and what to do with it. Her Local Food Report airs Thursdays at 8:30 on Morning Edition and 5:45pm on All Things Considered, as well as Saturday mornings at 9:30.