Background and History
Martin Acres, the farm
Martin Acres is a seventh generation black‐owned family farm. In the mid‐1800’s, Lourenza Dow Martin, an enslaved person, bought himself out of enslavement and a short time later he paid for the freedom of his wife, Minnie Malvina Reynolds Martin. Lourenza, Minnie, and their 12 children established a home in the Rhodes Chapel Community of Greenville (Muhlenberg County), Kentucky. As the children got older, some of them moved out of state; however, one of the sons, Finis Martin, bought a farm and settled near the Rhodes Chapel Community—also the name of the one‐room Julius Rosenwald school on the property.
Finis was a very industrious man who gave his 5th child, Herbert Leslie Martin, 100 acres of land, upon which 100 acres more were later purchased. Herbert learned how to farm from his father and became a very successful and widely respected farmer. During Herbert’s lifetime, he amassed over 1000 acres of land (now referred to as "Martin Acres"). Upon his death in October 1968, the ownership of the farm went to his wife, Beatrice Tutt Martin (aka Mom Bea or Mamma Bea) and their 15 surviving children.
Martin Acres, Inc.
In an effort to ensure that the farm stayed intact, the children of Herbert Martin formed a corporation, Martin Acres, Incorporated ("Martin Acres, Inc.") in 1984. Martin Acres, Inc. owns and manages the family farm.
Martin Acres has been in a state of transition since the untimely death of Herbert Martin (and the migration of many people in this Black family to the north for factory jobs); however, family interest in actively using the land was resurrected in 2012. In December 2012, twin brothers, Irucka Ajani and Obiora Embry (sixth generation descendants of Lourenza and Minnie Martin), decided to lease two acres of land from Martin Acres, Inc.
Our initial idea was to develop an edible forest garden using a variety of herbs, (primarily native) flowers, (heirloom) fruit trees, and native nut trees. In March 2013, we visited the leased land for the first time. And we learned that it was former grazing land that had been left fallow. We planted stakes in the ground, took photographs, discussed how it would be an uphill battle to turn the desolate looking land into a thriving edible forest garden, but we had something to prove and were up to the challenge that we faced.
After two to three years of working to improve the soil, we realized that something was happening on the two acres...some of the trees that were dying when we first arrived had started to come back to life. Our family land was healing itself after years of neglect and we felt that some of it was because of the love that we uttered and gave to our neck of the woods.
In November 2014, we were assisted, in the transplanting of the heirloom and/or native trees, by Obiora’s friend, Josephine (aka Josie) Dykas, who is part Yaqui. With her assistance, we smudged the perimeter of our two acres. In addition, Irucka dowsed the land with a biodynamic preparation.
In 2017, Obiora was a co‐presenter in the "The Healing Power of Sustainable Agriculture" workshop at the 2016 Southern Sustainable Agricultural Working Group (SSAWG) Conference in Lexington, KY. For the conference he created an Impress slide show presentation about the edible forest garden. That same year we were selected to discuss our on‐going work at Martin Acresat at the Environmental & Water Resources Institute (EWRI)‐American Society of Civil Engineers (ASCE) World Environmental & Water Resources Congress under the Water‐Energy‐Food Nexus Session of the ASCE‐EWRI Sustainability Committee. The proposed title was "Establishing an Edible Forest Garden to Minimize Human Inputs While Maximizing Ecosystem Production". For different reasons, we were not able to presnt at the Conference. The following year we submitted a workshop proposal for the SSAWG Conference, but it was not accepted.
Four years into the project we faced many setbacks with the soil, among other things, so we decided to rethink our vision for the two acres. In developing a new vision we decided to stop working against Nature, but rather decided to work with Her! We realized that the mistakes from the past needed to happen so we could learn from the past as we plan for their future.
Getting Back to Nature™
Thirteen years ago, Obiora developed a business name, logo, and brochure for Getting Back to Nature™. His idea was for the business entity to perform agri‐tourism—this was before Obiora even knew about the term—activities at Martin Acres, the family farm. Ten years ago, Obiora and two relatives worked on creating a holistic business plan for Getting Back to Nature™.
In 2017, through our, Irucka and Obiora, respective businesses, EcoC2S and EConsulting™ we decided to look to the past while moving forward and form a partnership to revitalize the dusty concept of Getting Back to Nature™. After the re‐introduction of Getting Back to Nature™, it seemed that puzzle pieces began to fit together as we began to develop a more holistic vision inspired by the collective ideas of the past 13+ years.
We are a collection of our past experiences and the personalities that our loved ones observed during our early days and weeks after our births. We grew up in an Afrocentric household that believed in the power of names so our names were given to us in a naming ceremony after our perceived personalities were identified. The family belief (that Obiora still holds true) that your name should reflect you (and your personality) is how we came to have African names: Yoruba and Ibo/Igbo.
We were raised within a forward‐thinking household in which we were allowed to explore, play, learn, observe, and eat whole foods (some of which we grew on our property). We were surrounded by a diverse community of loved ones (family and close friends of the family) that allowed us to "see the world" differently starting at an early age. Growing up we went camping, white water rafting, hiking, fishing, grew food, and spent time at our maternal family farm, Martin Acres, and the family farm of a paternal great‐uncle, now referred to as Ballew Estates—in Richmond (Madison County), Kentucky. We loved being outside, exploring, spending time on both family farms, and learning about our collective family's history.
As adults, individually, we both started growing food in different years, but decided to collaborate on a project at Martin Acres. We tossed around a few ideas and settled on developing a forest garden. We both had read about permaculture, but Irucka was more familiar with the concept in practice. We purchased books and in March 2013 we started to try to work our plan.