It’s been said that the best fertilizer is a farmer’s foot-steps, that a relationship with the land you tend predicts success far better than the Old Almanac. Keith Copp of D-Bar Farms exemplifies this truth with the dirt in his truck, boot prints in the fields, and a yield that’d make any farmer beam with pride. As the Dallas Farmers Market team arrived at D-Bar Farms, Keith rolled in from the fields to give us a tour and glimpse into a day on the farm. How does a third generation farmer honor his roots while staking a claim in the ever changing culinary world of Dallas? Surely heart, commitment, and creativity drive any worth-while venture, and a farm is much the same.
Many of us think of our life in seasons and for farmers this more than a helpful analogy, it’s a fact of life and each season brings it’s own set of challenges. Life can seem like a series of outsmarting challenges as they arise, while some may allude us for a season. Keith is not a man to be easily outsmarted. Nine large greenhouses stand tall at D-Bar Farms each with their own dedicated purpose. At the outset of his farming career, Keith hadn’t planned to use greenhouses as a central aspect of his operation but they’ve proved far handier than anticipated. “First it was just one, then another and another all to way to what we have here today,” Keith explained. The greenhouses are invaluable for protection from the elements year round. Many of the greenhouses currently house kales, cauliflowers, cabbages, mustard greens, and swiss chard. Insulated from the cold, they are not vulnerable to frost damage that can devastate a field overnight. Greenhouses provide a form of season extension allowing farms to control the climate inside and lengthen the growing season of crops. Take for instance, the beautiful strawberries that are beginning to bud in the warm greenhouse interiors. Strawberries outside in January? Good luck! But with a greenhouse, we may be lucky enough to enjoy some early sweet strawberries.
While many of Keith’s crops begin as seeds sprouted indoors, others are grown the old fashioned way–right in the fields. We crossed through the fields of winter greens, many of which are two season crops. “Kale, cauliflower, broccoli–we can go through spring with those. We’re always thinking through transition seasons to keep up with orders and have a consistent supply,” Keith, the always strategic farmer knows how to build a customer base. With the wet weather we’ve experienced the past couple of weeks, the fields were muddy but the water is a welcomed relief. The rain that plagues city dwellers with traffic delays and a thick gray haze is a blessing to farmers and their crops. Keith’s well-watered greens saluted us from their rows like eager soldiers, knowing they’ve served us well.
For Keith farming isn’t just what he does, it’s who he is. On the surface, buying local can appear like any other fad–cool for now but really what’s the point? Supporting local farms goes such much deeper–all the way down to the roots of our culture. Agriculture–Agrarian Culture–is a lifestyle based on a relationship with the land. The food we eat, the clothes we wear, and many of the comforts we enjoy are directly sourced from the land by farmers and ranchers. While a downtown office feels far from the farm, we never go a day with a connection to agriculture. Supporting farms with a commitment to responsible land stewardships means we will always have nutritious food to enjoy. Thank you, Keith, for showing us the farm! Here’s to happy, healthy farmers and the communities they feed.