Welcome to Sylvanus Farm

Though I do not believe that a plant will spring up where no seed has been, I have great faith in a seed. Convince me that you have a seed there, and I am prepared to expect wonders.”

-Henry David Thoreau

"Agriculture is the mother of our culture. Growing food is the common thread throughout the whole world. It connects everyone, across all party lines, all ethnic and religious differences.”

-Robin Van En, Pioneer of the CSA movement in North America

Welcome to Sylvanus Farm
Welcome to Sylvanus Farm

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Sylvanus Farm

ProduceSylvanus Farm CSA allows community members in Nashville, TN to eat fresh, organic, locally grown produce usually less than 24 hours after it has been harvested. Because we operate on a small scale, we can bring you gourmet and heirloom varieties that require too much handling for large grocery producers.

Sylvanus Farm is located in a curve of the Cumberland River, called Salt Lick Bend. On 50 acres, we cultivate about five acres of vegetables, herbs, flowers, and fruit. We specialize in growing European, Asian, Traditional, and Heirloom varieties. We have a small, mostly Black Angus natural beef herd and a large flock of laying hens.

During the early and not so innocent moments that began the twentieth century, my ancestors were fleeing Odessa and Rome (they had already become city people) for the promise of an America that my own cynical post-modern mind can barely wrap itself around. While my people were still clamoring to exit their “baggage (not business) class” boat rides, the hearty people of Kentucky and Tennessee were hard at the work at hand. They were plowing the earth slowly and reaping a perhaps limited list of crops. What they lacked in variety was made up for by the wonderful seasoning called hunger. The simple grains and vegetables were heirloom varieties. They weren’t as pretty as their modern waxy counterparts we see in grocery chain stores, but they had discernable flavors and the minerals of yet un-ruined soil. Someone in the neighborhood (even the one where I am sitting now) had a stone mill for grinding grains; corn, wheat, barley, oats. The family with the mill ground your grain and kept a bit of it as payment. Domestic hogs rooted around eating acorns and garden waste and didn’t produce things like bad cholesterol or cellophane wrapped tenderloins. All in all it was probably an isolated existence.

ProduceWith industrialization, food that came out of cans from a factory instead of a home kitchen became the norm. Farmers here in the southeast grew lots of things trying to survive the transition from a subsistence economy. Government price supports made Tobacco a pretty decent cash crop for folks who had plenty of hands for the labor-intensive work. That worked out nicely, with all kinds of wonderful folkways popping up surrounding this new pursuit; the camaraderie, the methods of cultivation, the knowledge for how to assess and describe a good crop, a good leaf, the right texture and moisture content. If you can believe it, the tobacco farming culture was fully intact just 10 years ago when my husband Todd and I moved here on a youthful whim from our urban, artsy, and somewhat bohemian Philadelphia existence. I arrived with a newly printed Sculpture degree and Todd had the job experience of a native city-dweller. We were qualified for one thing: the lowest wage tobacco work in the county. For several years we planted the stuff, hacked it down in the heat, lifted it sweating foul smelling juices into barn tiers, and stripped away the leaves for bailing. I eventually started working in schools and Todd started studying the ways of agriculture that didn’t involve nicotine-soaked “britches” as the locals would call them.

ProduceIn 2000 we found our farm in Salt Lick Bend (a Cumberland River bottomland). We became committed to growing food sustainably, began an adventure as farmers and got our crops certified organic. We started selling produce directly to families as subscriptions through a CSA (community supported agriculture) model. Today we have 70 memberships constituting over 90 households in Nashville (reinstating a local tradition of taking farm products to that city, though we now take the road rather than the Cumberland River steamboats of days past). During a 28 week season we bring every vegetable you can think of, fruit, culinary herbs, fresh eggs and flowers. We sell our members cuts of beef, pork, and whole chickens that are well fed and treated respectfully here on our farm. We have had our own heirloom corn ground into meal for the last few years and now we have added an antique stone mill to our operation! People are eating our food and experiencing those same flavors that come from the sun, soil, and rain that those past generations used to enjoy.

ProduceWe have hosted young people on our farm as interns for the past 4 summers so that they can learn sustainable farming methods as apprentices. They work hard and receive a small stipend, a place to stay and some of the best meals of their lives (their words, not mine — although I do love to cook). We hope to get them college credit for this in the future.

We know things are changing in this country. Most farmers can’t afford to farm unless they work at a breakneck, environmentally destructive pace with high tech equipment. The re-emergence of small farms in this country has to be a conscious choice.

We are here. We listen to the stories and attend to the needs of our elderly neighbors. We feed a lot of people food they can get nowhere else. We are attempting to create anew that which many Italian farmers still taste; the authentic flavors of food that comes from specific soil conditions and heirloom seeds saved for many generations of plantings. We are working to raise food that is whole and unaltered by genetic experimentation or chemical fertilizers and pesticides; foods, the ingredients of which may someday belong locked in a chamber of commerce vault for posterity.

ProduceTo savor good food is as exquisite a sensory pleasure as standing before any masterwork. A Botticelli painting compels the eye and heart of the viewer, yet it is all the elements that combine to make this happen; the compositional perfection, the glowing under-painting, the intensity of pigments. It is just this way with food. The palate is pleased by flavors that are a culmination of every element involved; the soil, the sun, the seeds, the water, careful timing, and an individual farmer’s hands.

I met a chef in his very small restaurant in Bologna. He said “GMO and non-organic (conventional) foods may be alright for the Americans, but we think about what we would feed to our own families”. If we can treat others as if they were members of our own families, then maybe we may begin to treat all of earth’s ecosystems this way as well. Every person deserves access to safe, healthful food.

Sarah Paulson