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Down on the Farm with… The Cliftons

“The first supermarket supposedly appeared on the American landscape in 1946. That is not very long ago. Until then, where was all the food? Dear folks, the food was in homes, gardens, local fields, and forests. It was near kitchens, near tables and bedsides. It was in the pantry, the cellar, the backyard.” Joel Salatin

Meet Ken and Becki Clifton of Over the Hoopee Farm. This husband-wife duo aims to provide awareness and education about all of the valuable life skills lost as the supermarket and big box stores became the public’s go-to for everyday needs.

Over the Hoopee Farm, Becki explains, was established in the 1940s by her “Grandpa,” Don Corbin, and her “Granny,” Mary Kirby Corbin. She says she learned so much from her grandparents. They always had big gardens. Additionally, fishing in the ‘Hoopee was their greatest joy, and it provided many of their meals.

The below letter from the Cliftons is meant to be an introductory piece for their inclusion in The Chronicle’s “Down on the Farm” series. Look for updates from Over the Hoopee Farm to continue in this publication here forward.

“Hey y’all, we’re Ken and Becki Clifton, and we own and operate Over the Hoopee Farm. Our vision for this farm started back in 2016, and we have been slowly perfecting our farm model since then.

We are using permaculture and biodynamic practices to bring this little farm back to life. Basically, we are developing agricultural ecosystems that are intended to be sustainable and self-sufficient.

We use the livestock on our farm in rotational grazing systems. This method of keeping animals decreases parasite problems and increases soil fertility on the farm because, as the great farmer and writer Wendell Berry states, ‘The soil is the great connector of lives, the source and destination of all. It is the healer and restorer and resurrector, by which disease passes into health, age into youth, death into life. Without proper care for it we can have no community, because without proper care for it we can have no life.’

Losing several family members in a short span of time made it haunting to be on this farm. I would see them everywhere I looked: in the pretty pink evening primrose my daddy planted that returns every spring, in the magnificent magnolia tree my Granny planted out front that dwarfs our little farmhouse, and in the pecan tree my Grandpa planted in the backyard that provides a shady place to rest during the dog days of summer.

The pain of their loss took us on another journey as over the road team truck drivers. We traveled from coast to coast for three years. During our drives, we would listen to audiobooks and podcasts about our broken food system, permaculture, and sustainable agriculture as we drove through the stench of meat cattle operations in Texas, fields and fields of GMO corn in Illinois, Iowa, and Nebraska, and acres of almond orchards in California that rely on shipped honey bees to be pollinated. This sparked a desire in us to come home and turn our little family farm into a sustainable and regenerative oasis using permaculture practices.

In 2016, we came off the road and started building that dream farm and five years later, we want to share our abundance and knowledge with the world.

For starters, we would like for people to consider and be more aware of the provenance of their food.

• How far did your vegetables travel to get to your plate, and what kind of conditions were they grown in? We grow nutrient-dense vegetables that are fed by our nutrient-rich soil. We use very few chemical fertilizers and no pesticides or herbicides.

• What kind of life did the meat on your plate have? The meat on our plates lives the best life possible. Our animals are treated with love and respect and only have one bad day. We are what we eat and by consuming meat that has been stressed and tortured in a concentrated animal feeding operation (otherwise known as ‘CAFO’), we, in turn, will be stressed.

It is our goal and mission to educate and inspire people to grow their own vegetables and meats if possible, and, if not, seek out a local farmer with whom to contract and fill those needs. If the past two years and current world conditions have taught us anything, being self-reliant and finding a local food source should be top priorities for all of us.

We have created a YouTube channel called Over the Hoopee Farm, which provides a glimpse into our farm life and leaves a lasting encyclopedia of knowledge for our grandkids.

In April, we will have a two-day plant sale here at the farm. Come visit us!

We will also be attending the Swainsboro Emanuel Farmers Market every month beginning April 9. Stop by and get some goodies from our farm and other local farms.

We’re looking forward to an abundant growing season on the farm and in life.”