CFSA’s Vision – 

A Vibrant, Sustainable, Local Food System in the Carolinas that is good for the consumer, good for farmers and farmworkers, and good for the land.


by Stephanie Campbell, CFSA’s Outreach Coordinator

The food we eat, and the agricultural practices that produce it, have a bigger impact on the environment than anything else we do on this earth. The third principle of the CFSA vision, “good for the land,” is the foundation for all we and our members do as sustainable and organic farmers.

Carey and Natalie Howell, of Howell Specialty Farmz in Fort Mill, SC, are farming on 18 acres depleted from decades of growing cotton. They are managing their land with the goal of regenerating the soil.

 “As we began to learn more about our food supply and the chemicals in our food, we decided we wanted to do something about it”

Carey is a veteran who served in the Army National Guard. Natalie had been in nursing and continues to work at home in health-care consulting. They were living in a townhouse and wanted to grow vegetables in their backyard, but the neighborhood landscape crew kept inadvertently destroying their vegetable beds. “As we began to learn more about our food supply and the chemicals in our food, we decided we wanted to do something about it,” says Natalie. “We found this land three years ago and jumped in head first, taking every class and opportunity we could find to learn how to care for it and to farm.”

The Howells attended the Clemson New and Beginning Farmer program where they met CFSA staff and learned about CFSA’s farm services. They attended the Sustainable Agriculture Conference for the first time in 2015. “It was three days of amazing resources, presenters and a huge network of inspiring farmers,” said Natalie. “We want to become one of those presenters eventually, sharing what we have learned and becoming more involved.”

They began growing specialty vegetables – heirloom tomatoes, asparagus, graffiti cauliflower, and purple varieties of radish, okra, beans and other vegetables – but as they began to learn the needs of their soil, they added enterprises which contribute to their farm income while also contributing to the revitalization of the land.

They have begun thermophilic composting, have goats to clear the underbrush, and are proud of their AWA Certified (Animal Welfare Approved) flock of pasture raised laying hens which produce eggs for market while “working” to improve the soil across the farm. Carey also became a beekeeper and has had their honey analyzed each year for the flavor profile. Carey is excited about the new grove of walnut trees he has planted and inoculated with Black Winter Truffles.  He expects them to begin producing truffles in 2018. He is training their Blue Heeler dog, Dakota, to hunt and identify the truffles.


Most recently, a chance encounter with a developer in the area led to many free dump truck loads of dirt to fill a huge, highly erodible gulley on the property and to construct of a series of terraces. This area will be used for events and agritourism, providing income to enable the Howells to expand their soil-building efforts on the rest of the farm and to offer educational opportunities for their community.

“We really have a heart to salvage this place because we want the community to have a healthy understanding of the things our grandparents just knew and understood,” Natalie explains. “The services of CFSA have been essential in helping us learn the skills we need to achieve our goals.


CFSA Farm Services have provided the technical consulting the Howells needed to establish and develop their farm plan. CFSA staff are working with the Howells on a Conservation Activity Plan (CAP-138) and a plan for transitioning to USDA Certified Organic. CFSA has helped evaluate and explain their soil samples, advised on inputs for soil health, and recommended practices which will improve the quality of their soil. The Howells have also taken advantage of the new CFSA High Tunnel consulting services and received help with their high tunnel choice and installation, as well as production.

Carey and Natalie are working hard to regenerate this land and leave a legacy which will give future generations the opportunity to learn about and experience the benefits of a healthy, sustainable farm in their community.


Farmers like Carey and Natalie can’t do it without you.


Your gift today will provide the training and support another new farmer needs to succeed and provide us ALL with the food we need in the Carolinas.
Please give generously.