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ALL IN THE FAMILY

Daughter returns home and helps convert her parents' farm to regenerative model

Brian, Nancy, Natasha and Zach of the West Fork Farmstead. (Photo courtesy of Natasha Wilson)
Brian, Nancy, Natasha and Zach of the West Fork Farmstead. (Photo courtesy of Natasha Wilson)
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In 1982, Brian and Nancy Wilson were laid off from their office jobs and decided to join Nancy’s family farm. For the past 35 years, they have been farming the plot land outside of West Chester.

“They farmed with my grandparents, and my grandpa’s parents before that,” said Natasha Wilson, daughter of Brian and Nancy.

Brian and Nancy raised five children. Their farm has historically raised pigs, corn and soybeans while experimenting with other projects and methods, Natasha said. As time went on, she said her parents always tried to think about improving their soil health.

Last October, Natasha returned home to West Chester with her husband, Zach, and their 3-month-old daughter to create a new venture 17 years after leaving. That venture was West Fork Farmstead.

The West Fork Farmstead works to raise the “healthiest, highest quality, most delicious food possible” while restoring health to the soil.

Natasha said when she considered moving home, her family knew if she did, they wanted to do something different.

“They’ve been researching for a long time on work that is focused on improving the health of your soil,” Natasha said.

Over the last few years, the Wilsons have been working to focus more on the soil health and transform the farm to a “regenerative model.”

Regenerative agriculture is defined as farming and grazing practices that work to reverse climate change by rebuilding soil organic matter and restoring soil biodiversity, according to The Carbon Underground and Regenerative Agriculture Initiative.

“My parents have dreamed of transitioning to a regenerative model on their farm for decades,” Natasha said.

She said they are working toward this so the land can produce more food, retain more water and sequester carbon while having a more diverse array of crops and animals.

Brian and Nancy have started to scale down their hog operation and started raising different animals, Wilson said. The farm now has laying hens, heritage breed pigs, grass-fed cattle, ducks, geese, bees and garden beds. They have planted fruit and nut trees.

Last year, the farm converted nearly 60 acres of farmland into pasture. Right now they have cows on the pasture, but longer term they hope to have a variety of different animals who go out together.

“They all work together to graze … and working things into the ground makes that ground richer,” Natasha said.

She said her parents had started some of these changes before she returned, and her family hopes to one day convert the whole farm.

Even though she doesn’t have farming experience, Natasha said she helps her parents with the sales and marketing of the products. One of the changes she made was creating a website to sell the products in local communities.

Customers order different meat cuts, honey, duck and goose eggs, lettuce, bacon and more.

In March, the family started egg deliveries. Even though they were already doing it on a small scale, the farmstead decided to make it more organized and have a subscription service with a set schedule.

“The makes the logistics easier so we know how many we need every time,” Natasha said.

Customers can add other produce or meats to their egg delivers. Natasha said people have been great in trying different products.

Even though it is moving slow right now, she said, they are able get a sense of what people like and how much product to generate.

In the future, Natasha said she hopes to take over the farm from her parents and is in the process of learning how to take care of the different animals and farm operations.

Change is a continuous process, and it is hard to say what the future will look like, Natasha said.

“I know I’m very fortunate,” Natasha said. “I feel extremely privileged to have that opportunity and to have my parents be so willing to have me be a part of it.”