Whirlwind Farms Practices Sustainable Agriculture
Driving to my destination down winding dirt roads in northeast Alabama, I can hear gravel crunching under my tires. When I arrive at Whirlwind Farms in Geraldine, owned by Dove and Russell Stackhouse, I am greeted by bright green fields of crops and two large farm dogs eagerly awaiting a visitor.
The Stackhouses have lived and farmed on a 15-acre plot since 2010. They cultivate seven acres of open land surrounded by eight acres of woods. Their new apprentice, Matt Shaw, helps run the farm that features a campsite, a greenhouse and four mobile high tunnels.
In addition to 1.5 acres of chemical and hormone-free vegetable production, the Stackhouse team nurtures wild berries and mushrooms.
Rather than simply producing food, the farming couple works hard to be stewards of the land, leaving their acreage healthier than it was when they started.
As Dove Stackhouse gave me a walking tour of her land, she proudly stated that her goal is to “take it to the next generation.”
She explained, “We want to teach people about being totally sustainable, not just in food production but in introducing back native plants.” As we walked along the edge of the woods surrounding her farm, she mentioned that they didn’t want to touch the forest surrounding their property in order to protect the natural ecosystem.
While the owners of Whirlwind Farms are now farming multiple acres and selling at farmers markets around the northern part of the state, the road to get here was not always smooth.
The farm actually got its name from the dust devils and tornadoes prone to hit this area of Alabama. “Our home was destroyed by tornadoes, and we lived in a tent for five years,” Stackhouse said. The name “Whirlwind Farms” is a sort of homage to the very thing that produced such a rocky start.
Other than dealing with the tornadoes destroying their property, the couple also had to deal with getting a loan to finance the farm. “Ultimately, the bank took a chance on us,” she said.
The investment paid off. The farming couple, motivated by the ultimate goal of providing for the community, persevered until their dream became a reality.
A visit to the farm makes it clear that the couple’s goal is not limited to personal gain. Dove Stakehouse said she wants to get the community fully involved in their work. “Kids here don’t have any good food,” she sighed, noting that children often rely on unhealthy choices.
She stated that too many people buy into the myth that healthy, organic food is too expensive. To Stackhouse, that is simply not true. “Our prices, for the most part, are in line with Walmart’s”.
She said she hopes to engage with the community and educate them on the importance of healthy eating as well as inform them that it is attainable at low price points.
Whirlwind Farms also hopes to partner with the schools and allow students interested in farming careers to get work experience on a real farm. Stackhouse said she would love to work with the local FFA organizations and allow high schoolers to have an internship and learn life-long skills.
Overall, owning a farm is about community, she noted. She relies on trading with other local farmers to provide her with clean meats as well as other vegetables she doesn’t produce herself.
“We’re all in this together,” Stackhouse said. “If we leave space on our land for farmers, everyone benefits. It gives me hope for the future.” She added that she is confident that rural communities can continue to provide good food by careful land cultivation and giving back to the Earth. “We’ve got the land and the people. There’s no reason we can’t do it.”
For more information about Whirlwind Farms, visit www.whirlwindfarm.net. The farm has produce pickup spots in Madison, Huntsville, Collinsville and Geraldine.
By Erin Blythe
Last Updated: June 06, 2018