A Farm to Last for Generations
Keeping farmers on the land is a central part of American Farmland Trust’s mission. For more than 40 years, AFT has used research, training programs, on-the-ground projects, public policy, and other strategies to address short and long-term needs. Programs like the Brighter Future Fund provide resources to producers that face challenges accessing opportunities and endure barriers in our agricultural system. More than 96% of the Brighter Future Fund grantees in 2020 were farmers identifying as BIPOC, LGBTQ+, female, and/or beginning. Many partners have led in this space for so long, and AFT is grateful for the opportunity to engage more deeply.
AFT received hundreds of applications for this grant. I was given the opportunity to look through all 131 of the applications for the Midwest region and had the hard task of deciding which individuals and farms might benefit from this grant the most. One such farm that is deeply impacted by this grant is Barton Brothers Farms.
-Ashley Brucker, ACI Program Manager and Outreach Coordinator
For a farm to last for generations, it must be able to adapt. Barton Brothers Farms—run by six Barton siblings and their uncle—is no exception. Over four generations, the 1,400+ acre farm of corn and grain in Kentucky’s Bluegrass region has shifted to meet changing times and consumer needs. When James Barton, the family patriarch and an agricultural leader in the community, died in 2017 from a farming accident, the challenge presented Meg Barton and her siblings the opportunity to work together as a cohesive team. All trained in a variety of professions, they assumed unique roles within the farming operation based on their specialties.
Meg is a fourth-generation farmer and was raised watching her family commit themselves to being stewards of the land and the community that they fed. Meg’s role has been developing organic pollinator gardens, reintroducing beekeeping to the surrounding fields, and establishing a truffle plantation.
As a granddaughter and daughter of farmers I knew no other way of life. I was raised watching my grandfather and father commit themselves to the land and the role as stewards to the land and the community that they fed. Now as a farmer, beekeeper, and chef I see how important the role of the farmer is to our community not only as a food source but also as an educational tool to teach others about farming practices and sustainable food sources.
-Meg Barton Galvin
Diversification and implementation of environmentally sustainable practices to the farm has been the key to success. In fact, Barton Brothers Farms were one of the first farms in the state of Kentucky to implement best management practices, specifically no-till and precision planting technologies.
We incorporate best management practices to reduce surface run off from fertilizers, animal waste, and pesticides. These practices are important to us because one of our farms is in the watershed for a local water municipality.
-Meg Barton Galvin
To date, Meg and her siblings have planted 300 white oak and hazelnut trees inoculated with Black Périgord or Burgundy truffle spores. Over 40 pecan trees have been planted between the truffle varieties to reduce intermixing of the truffle selections. Unfortunately, the field with the best orientation and mineral composition for truffle production was not near a water source; therefore, water had to be manually transported for irrigation.
Barton Brothers Farms used a grant from AFT’s Brighter Future Fund to invest in a rainwater harvesting and solar drip-irrigation system that will replace the need for manually transporting water. This much-needed sustainable watering system will nourish the trees inoculated with truffle spores, while the solar-powered catch system allows the farm to conserve water resources and be less dependent on fossil fuels.
Meg and her siblings hope to continue to find more sustainable practices within crop production and further diversify their operation. Meg expresses that her father held education to the highest level and he would be proud that his children are now using their specialized areas of expertise to contribute to the success of the farm.