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Fancy farmin’

These days, a sustainable existence can include grit, a little bit of lace and a whole lot of heart.

Molly Evans October 2nd, 2013

Six acres of vast Oklahoma landscape sit near Alameda Street in Norman.

Samantha Lamb milks one of her cows.
BY: Shannon Cornman

Tall, sun-dried grass sweeps the broad borders of the old, abandoned barn, weaves in and out of the wooden stables and encircles the surface of a moss-topped pond. 

No livestock or domestic friends inhabit the space yet, which is a change of pace from Lamb’s beloved and fast-paced Early Bird Acres in Hobart, Okla.

The only noticeable wildlife taking refuge among the dense trees were the birds and bees, and a symphony of end-of-summer cicadas buzzed loudly on this particular Saturday.

Samantha Lamb, in her magenta cotton dress and worn-toe cowboy

boots, sat Indian-style in the scene of her brand-new outdoor space, envisioning its possibilities. This is her canvas. This is her farm.

The art of farming
As a young girl, Lamb dreamed of becoming a farmer, and now, at 28, she has worked almost six years in the agriculture industry, operating her own local, sustainable farm.

She began her agricultural adventure in 2008, revamping her great-grandparents’ farm, Early Bird Acres. Lamb faced some reservations about her post-college lifestyle, but she knew that her complete “love of the land” and its animals validated her decision.

“There’s no way you can be a farmer and not be enamored with nature,” Lamb said. “Being able to witness the growth of seeds, the growth of animals, the comings and goings of animals and the peace that they provide — that in itself, combined with my artwork, set me in a life of agriculture.”

Lamb quickly spread the word about her endeavors through her artwork, which is pastoral-based photography, she said.

Lamb said an inseparable relationship between her visual creativity and agricultural passions makes her new farm, called The Farm & Fiddle, easily embraced by the Norman community. The fiddle accounts for her boyfriend, Daniel Foulks, who plays the instrument with Norman’s bluegrass beloved Parker Millsap.

Samantha Lamb
BY: Shannon Cornman

New MacDonald
“People were actually kind of astonished that I moved away from Hobart,” Lamb said.

Lamb, however, did not leave her home-sweet-Hobart and farm dog, Harold, without some bigger plans for the bigger city.

Lamb represents a budding niche of farmers that has the liberty to operate local, sustainable farms in a time of mass production, GMOs (genetically modified organisms) and inescapable debt faced by large-scale farmers. And she’s plowing through these contemporary struggles by returning to the basic practices of “holistic farming.”

“There’s a whole generation, even up to two generations that [think] holistic farming is irrelevant,” Lamb said. “I’m just trying to tell people that you don’t have to be a large scale of farming to survive; they’ve just made it [seem] that way.”

“Holistic farming” is a term used to identify a type of farm free of pesticides and mass-produced crops or herds of animals. It’s an environment that fosters individuality and equality between animals and humans, and the approach aims to find roots in a truer, more natural ecosystem.

To farm or not to farm?
Lamb said she has experienced opposition not only for being a woman in the industry but also for the centuries-old practices she uses to operate her smallscale farm.

“Knowing there are farmers in Hobart who haven’t eaten a single thing they’ve raised is kind of scary,” Lamb said. “There’s many different ways to farm, but you have to do it your own way.”

On Lamb’s farm, the animals work together to fertilize the land, eat insects and aerate the ground. It’s not just the animals who contribute. The members of the community collaborate and support Lamb’s agricultural pursuits, as well.

A bushel and a peck
The formal title for Lamb’s creative and community-driven farm life is Community Supported Agriculture (CSA), a cooperative partnership where members each have a $100 (vegetarian)-$120 share in Lamb’s farm, and in turn, she provides the shareholders meat, dairy, seasonal vegetables and honey that she produces each week.

“[Norman] was hungry for a CSA,” Lamb said. “We’ve gone down a path for way too long with the way we eat, the way we curate our own lives.”

Lamb made CSA membership available on The Farm & Fiddle website, not knowing what to expect. The sign-up filled in one and a half hours, forcing her to cap the wait list at 150 people.

The Farm & Fiddle CSA has accepted 10 test members, and in October, Lamb will open up five more spots. If she employs interns or a full-time farm assistant, she plans to grow her membership to meet as much demand as possible.

A typical CSA share serves two peoples’ CSA-recommended diet each week, Lamb said.

Amyie and Daniel Kao at Mariposa
BY: Mark Hancock

Beans, leaves, grounds
Two of those people include Daniel and Amyie Kao, owners of Mariposa Coffee Roastery, 1120 Garver St. in Norman. They were the first to express interest in Lamb’s CSA, back when she was still at Early Bird Acres. 

“We both don’t compromise on the quality of our craft,” Amyie Kao said.

The Kaos reconnected with Lamb as she was transitioning to Norman through her art show at The Social Club, a hair salon and gift shop on Main Street in Norman.

As CSA collaborators, the Kaos give Lamb one pound of coffee every month for each individual or family who invests with Lamb in exchange for her locally grown meat, dairy and produce.

“Without individuals like her, there would be a disconnect in how we receive our food,” Daniel Kao said. “It’s just a stark reality that it’s important that the local market is supported and is protected in Norman.”

Amyie Kao, an adjunct nutrition professor at Oklahoma City Community College, said Lamb is able to connect with the younger, academic culture in Norman that may not understand the implications of the word “local” but who have a strong curiosity.

Farm study

“I think she’s able to offer a piece of what a genuine local farmer looks like,” Amyie Kao said. “I think she’s very important to the city and a very progressive piece towards the local foods movement.”

Lamb was the Oklahoma representative for the National Young Farmers Coalition (NYFC) for a year and a half. Though her involvement has slightly regressed because of the move, she can be found in the field, in the garden or on, curating her next photography show or her next batch of crops.

“No matter how hard it is, no matter the fact that I’m never going to be a rich person, I get to eat really amazing food. I get to live a really wholehearted life. I work very hard every day. There [are] some days I’m too tired to take off my clothes before I go to bed. There [are] some days I’m too tired to eat, but I love it. It’s a good tired. It’s fulfilling.” 

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