story & photos by J.T. Stewart
Who has four green thumbs and love to farm? Adam and Renée of Rolling Along Farms, that’s who. They are on a steadfast path to make food healthier and our community better. How? By practicing methods of farming that leave the land better than they found it. A great part of the work they do with the farm is more than working with the earth. Sharing the experiences and knowledge they gain with friends, customers, and anyone with the curiosity to try their organic produce is a huge part of their mission.
Adam was born in Memphis, but raised in Henning, TN, where he has deep roots in farming. He finished high school, failed nursing school and traveled. It took a while before he found his true passion; farming. It seemed a full-circle, since he had begun on the family farm in Henning. However, Adam was surrounded by conventional agricultural practice in his family’s business, Queen Farm. Commonly, these conventional agricultural practices utilize potently toxic chemicals – they are the norm, he tells me. For example, a widely used chemical called Dicamba, which is now being banned in several states, is toxic enough that one drop can kill a plant. Yet many people consider this acceptable. He believes the paradigm needs altering. “I wanted a shift where I could have pride in the practices and products I was choosing and creating,” he says. Even while living on the family farm, he always kept his own organic garden on the side and dreamt of one day taking it to market.
Meanwhile, deep in a Memphis suburb, Renée enjoyed a typically suburban childhood – well, somewhat typical. She attended summer camps (for children like herself who were suffering from bleeding disorders), to which she would later return as an adult and serve in the role of an arts and crafts counselor. This pursuit would lead her to travel the country visiting several similar camps, where she served in the same capacity. Inspired by her mentor, artist Tim Andrews, whose artwork addresses personal issues such as living with HIV, hemophilia and hepatitis C, Renée was encouraged to follow her heart. Her love of teaching, the experiences she had during this time and the desire to help others also inspired her. Renée chose to pursue and eventually attain a bachelor of fine arts concentrating in studio arts. She is now an art teacher at Raleigh-Egypt Middle-High School.
However, before Rolling Along Farms could get rolling, the seeds had to be sown.
The fertile soil that sprouted this partnership started years ago at the illustrious P&H Cafe, where Renée and Adam met for the first time. This relationship would grow into something bigger than they both expected. It started with hour-long drives, one way, nearly daily, by both Adam and Renée, to see the other. Within a year their flourishing courtship precipitated a move. Renée moved to Henning to be with Adam, were they lived in an old, somewhat dilapidated farmhouse built in the early 1900s. Being the hardworking DIYers they are, they threw themselves into making as many repairs and patching up what they could themselves, but over time their efforts proved Sisyphean. They decided to build their own home, affectionately dubbed the “Roundhouse”, an energy efficient and environmentally friendly structure manufactured by Deltec Homes. “We knew we could make it through building a house, it was time to chase Adam’s dream and turn it into reality,” Renée says.
They reached out to a farmers market in Covington–near Henning–and were accepted as vendors. The work on the farm was neverending, all to ensure that their salad mix was ready for opening day. The season was a success. While an adventure and a joy to sell locally and learnmthe process, Renée and Adam yearned to return to Memphis and bring the farm with them. Hard work paid off, and this season they will bring fresh, Certified Naturally Grown greens, salad mix and all manner of produce to Memphis. Including providing greens to restaurants like Wok’n at 409 S. Main, they are planning to expand to other local establishments and will continue to appear weekly at the Cooper Young Farmers Market.
When asked what the move from Henning to Midtown Memphis means for the farm and the Midtown community, he stresses the benefits that the move will have on the community, the farm, and the environment as well. “Being less than five minutes and less than two miles from where our food is sold means it is being sold within the same distance the bees and other beneficial bugs are foraging for their food. This proximity is one of the best possible opportunities for us as a farm to reduce our impact, and for our customers to reduce theirs.”
Today, Renée and Adam are settling with their three dogs/ fur children and six chickens into their new life at Rolling Along Farms 2.0 located on Southern Avenue in Orange Mound. Adam currently works with the Girls, Inc. Youth Farm and has been asked to be on the board of a new co-op, Tri-Delta. Renée is working to build the Raleigh-Egypt Middle School art program into the best program she can. She pushes her students to think outside the box and create art in the process. Together, they are growing great things.