Heartbreak to heartwarming
A Lincoln farmer was pleasantly surprised by community support after his greenhouse was damaged by a storm.
“My cup runneth over,” said 41-year-old Joshua Nash.
The storm that blew across Delmarva on Monday, April 13, was a doozy. Winds were up to 70 miles per hour.
Nash posted a particularly heartbreaking video on YouTube of himself inside a type of greenhouse, called a "hoop house," as the wind blew. He screamed at the sky as he was forced to cut away the plastic cover in order to keep the whole structure from blowing away. He had designed and built it himself.
“Right when I cut into that plastic, that was the only time I had like a sad feeling,” he said. “Once it was done I was just like, this is fixable. I built it once I can do it again. But while it was happening it was shocking. I was very disappointed.”
Nash and his partner, Curtis Hamm, own Nash Veggies. They’re committed “to growing the highest quality, nutrient-dense produce and doing so with the least environmental effect.”
Nash and Hamm’s operation isn’t your average modern farm. Unlike the large swaths of land used by corporate crop-growers, their farm is one acre. Ninety percent of the work is done by hand. Water is sourced from a four-inch well and a garden hose.
“I don’t compete with bigger farms, with the things you can grow with tractors,” Nash said. “What I do is referred to as intensive management – really close plant spacing with no room for a tractor, that way can I make a living off … a half-acre garden instead of having 80 acres of commodities.”
Nash Veggies says they go “above and beyond the standards required by an organic certifier.” They incorporate large amounts of compost, local animal manure and naturally-occurring rock minerals. Any pest- or insecticide spraying is certified organic and used cautiously.
Nash and Hamm’s specialties are salad greens and root crops, sold at farmers markets and to limited restaurants. Much of their harvest goes to a 22-week community CSA (community-supported agriculture) box.
The farm is first-generation. Nash started it six years ago, when he was 35. Recently, he was able to quit his land surveying career and farm full-time.
“I just got tired of the shallowness of life and started to realize this is probably my only shot,” Nash said. “If I’m gonna grind away 40 to 60 hours a week, it might as well be for my dream and not someone else’s.”
He took free beginner farming courses at the University of Delaware and Delaware State University, read a lot of books and watched a lot of YouTube videos. Then, pun fully intended, he just dug in.
Calm after the storm
Nash's farm includes a 16-by-32-foot greenhouse and 16-by-100-foot unheated hoop house.
The hoop house took a beating during the storm, but Nash managed to save the majority of the frame. Fortunately, not many of his crops were damaged. He had to toss some lettuce. But repairs are expensive.
Kim Cahill, of Dover, is one of Nash's customers.
“Not many people choose to go into farming. They’re usually born into it,” she said. “[Nash] made the leap to leave his job and be a full-time farmer. I see his passion.”
Cahill, of Dover, is a plant-based eater. She found Nash Veggies at the Milford farmers market a few years ago. She and Nash aren’t buddies. She’s just a customer, but she’s moved by his Youtube videos and social media posts - especially so by the storm video.
“I get choked up. We’re in such a place of isolation right now. We can’t get in the car and drive down there and help clean up. His spirit just looked so broken,” she said. “I didn’t know what to do, so I thought I’d start a little GoFundMe and raise a couple hundred bucks just to cheer him up and say he’s not alone.”
Cahill donated some of her own money and logged off. But thanks to social media, the GoFundMe effort reached many of Nash’s supporters very quickly, and they were very willing to give.
The initial goal was $2,000. Over three days, $6,595 came in.
“Don’t ever think your small act of kindness can’t have a ripple effect,” Cahill said.
Nash actually asked her to turn off donations when he saw the amount.
“I am a proud and stubborn man I would have never asked for help. I would never in a million years have started a GoFundMe,” Nash said. “For Kim to push me out of my own way and allow the community to help me, that was amazing. It blew my mind.”
In addition to repairing the hoop house, Nash plans to improve his wash station. Wash stations are used in case of chemical exposure emergencies and will help him get his USDA Good Agricultural Practices certification. He’ll also buy lumber for a roadside stand.
“It made me feel … wanted. That Milford wanted me to survive. They really got behind what I’m doing here,” Nash said. “You filled my heart and my pocket.”