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Meet Our Members | March 2024

Name: Nancy Phillips

Business: Heartsong Farm

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Many of you are familiar with the late Michael Phillips, farmer, orchardist, and author. He was a popular teacher and keynote speaker at NOFA conferences. 

Since the death of her husband and life partner, Nancy Phillips has continued the work she and Michael started 38 years ago at Heartsong Farm in Northumberland, New Hampshire.

Heartsong Farm is a small 57-acre diversified farm with a focus on medicinal herbs as well as 350 apple trees with over 100 varieties in its Lost Nation Orchard. It’s a great place to learn about medicinal herbs and small-scale orchardry. 

Nancy is passionate about locally grown foods, organic gardening, and holistic health. She is also a gifted writer, so we’ll let her tell you about Heartsong Farm in her own words.

“I grew up in a small rural town in Kansas where I could walk out my front door and in five minutes be on a dirt road, surrounded by miles and miles of wheat, corn, and pastures. My folks were both teachers and we lived in town; but many of my friends lived on farms and I always wanted to.

Michael and I met at a group foster home for abused and neglected children where we both worked. The goal of the program was to offer the children natural foods, lots of time in nature, and a stable environment.  Michael did carpentry and eventually became the gardener and property manager. I worked with the children as a house parent. 

Michael got his start planting the large vegetable gardens at the children’s home. We both were passionate about eating healthy, whole foods and holistic health and organic gardening just flowed from those beliefs.

Michael didn’t make much money at the children’s home, so he took off part of each fall to pick apples in Vermont. I think that’s where he really fell in love with apples. He came back to the children’s home inspired and planted apple trees there. 

We lived at the community group home for a few years before deciding that we wanted a farm of our own farther north away from strip malls, McDonalds, and Dunkin Donuts. We found land we wanted to farm and grow apples on in the beautiful North Country of NH.

When we first walked down the long winding driveway and saw the 1860 farmstead with the winding brook running through the property and the open land for gardens, our hearts were singing. We knew this was the place we wanted to make our nest. 

That was almost 40 years ago, and we have been living and loving the land here ever since. The farm, like a garden or one’s life, is always evolving. In the beginning we helped launch the local farmer’s market and sold vegetables, then we started one of the first CSA’s in the state. Over the years we shifted to spending more time establishing our organic apple orchard, and medicinal herb farm. About six years ago, we added a 30-foot yurt to the property to enable us to teach larger groups and to hold weekend retreats and intensives.

We felt compelled to not only live a life we love on the farm, but to share this peaceful place and teach others to enhance their quality of life and the health of the Earth. Co-creating with nature to build healthy soil, grow and preserve nutrient dense food, and ethically use healing herbs for health and vitality are lifelong pursuits for us that we want to share. Our courses, workshops, and retreats focus on herbal medicine, holistic orcharding, organic farming, yoga, and holistic perspectives on health and wellness.

We like to teach what we believe are life skills that everyone has the right to know. Everyone should know how to read, sew, cook, swim, grow their own food, and recognize the healing herbs and edible plants that grow around them and how to use them. Going out and harvesting your own food from your gardens and orchards is such a comforting and empowering feeling. Having a reciprocal relationship with the plants around us is rewarding and gives us a deep connection to the earth.

On a broader scale, all communities deserve access to local food and to not rely on goods brought in from across the planet. There also is more nutrition and life force in local organic food and herbs with less pollution and transportation costs involved. Diversified small-scale farms are an especially important piece of communities. Their small scale allows them to meet the needs to their area specifically and to not outgrow our ability to work with the balance of nature. 

To put it simply, we are all one, connected to everything in the web of life. When we co-create with nature and work from a place of building system health, we promote and enhance all life. Ideally, organic farming does this by feeding, nourishing and working in harmony with all species. When we view the land, the brook, the rivers and all the beings in the community as all part of our family, we want to help all life to thrive. 

I’m always seeking to find balance in my own life and with our land. Guidance comes when we pause and ask, “What enhances life?”  Connecting deeply and listening to our own inner wisdom and the teachings from the plants helps me.

We know that this work is important and that small organic farms will continue to become more and more valued for what they can offer the community as a whole. We learn more everyday about the toxic substances in commercial agriculture killing our pollinators and making us sick, and the growing effects of climate change on our environment. It is critical that as a society we reaffirm our relationship with earth and build the skills needed to care for our own health and the health of the planet.

Following the loss of Michael, the farm has gone through another evolution, but the heart of what we do remains the same. My daughter, Gracie, has returned home to help manage the farm and orchards and teach about herbalism and farming with me. We are honoring Michael’s vision by ensuring Lost Nation Orchard remains an educational space where we share his valuable teachings and connect people to the trees and land. 

This year we launched a new eight-month Holistic Orchard Apprenticeship course and a Holistic Orchard Intensive Weekend program. These will help train budding orchardists how to grow healthy fruit holistically.

We have an outstanding team of experienced orchardists to teach our Holistic Orchard Apprenticeship program beginning in March and running through October 2024. Our guest teachers will honor and carry Michael’s work forward while adding their own experience and expertise to the course.

Topics include: Building Orchard Health, Balancing Diversity in the Orchard, Planting and Training Young Trees, Grafting, Pruning, Holistic Sprays including herbs and effective microbes, Insect Balance, Choosing Varieties for Northern Zones, Heirloom Apples, Livestock in the Orchard, Bio dynamics, Blending and Making Cider, and much more!

Gracie and I also co-teach an eight-month herbal program called Ancient Wisdom for Modern Times: an empowering immersion into the practical, mystical and healing wisdom of Herbalism, Yoga and Ayurveda. Yoga and the sister science of Ayurveda have made a positive impact on my life, and I love to share what I know to help others. The teachings mesh perfectly with our herbal work, adding another level of depth to understanding the energetics of herbs and food. Ayurveda is closely connected to the elements and the changing of the seasons, so it is in sync with an agricultural lifestyle.  

Folks can also join us at Heartsong Farm for weekend retreats about herbs and holistic healing. Every year we bring in some of our favorite teachers to share their own specialties with us. These retreat weekends are designed to be a time for learning, connection, nourishment, and connection with nature.

As a farm we also sell apples, vinegar, fire cider, tinctures, herbal tea, books, homemade baked goods and dried apples in our farm shop. We offer cider for Cider Club members. In addition, we sell locally at the Taproot Marketplace, a local direct vendor and also at the North Country Marketplace. 

I was with Michael more than half of my life, and I’m no spring chick! We were married for 37 years but were friends and then lovers before that. We were like a couple of strong draft horses. One of us would decide to go left and the other one right, but we couldn’t because we were harnessed together. After a little tugging and pulling, we usually would get pulling together and accomplish a lot. 

I certainly miss my brilliant and often cantankerous stallion. I am grateful for what we built together on the farm, and look forward to continued growth and development. As Grace and I reimagine what Heartsong Farm is without Michael, some things stay the same and some things shift; but that is always the way things go on a farm and in life!”

Heartsong Farm has some work-study positions open and also one or two live-in farm intern positions open. People who are interested should email them at: HeartsongFarmWellness@gmail.com.
 

Holistic Orchard Apprenticeship Course | Holistic Orchard Intensive Weekend | Ancient Wisdom for Modern Times CourseHeartsong Farm Retreats | Facebook | Instagram

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