"If you realize that all things change, there is nothing you will try to hold on to. If you are not afraid of dying, there is nothing you cannot achieve."
‐ Lao Tzu
In a nutshell, we are "making do" with the hand that we were dealt and growing food with a focus on trees. When humans were still hunting and gathering (aka foraging), we probably consumed food primarily from bushes and trees. And even after the advent of agriculture, Obiora is sure that bushes and trees still played a major role in the food intake of humans.
So yes, what we are doing is different than what many may think of with regards to growing food; however, so is Martin Acres as a farm! Obiora mentioned to Lee Morgan, who interviewed us for the Local Table article, that most farms that you see driving down backroads have very few trees, if any, and if they do, they are usually on the fence line. Obiora went on to say that for those farms that have grazing animals that the animals suffer on really hot days as there is no shade for them and often times no nearby water source. We are fortunate at Martin Acres to have a lot of forest acreage rather than just a handful of trees! Obiora was told by the late James Sleet, our long‐time family friend and mentor, about a decade or more ago that "one acre of Black Walnuts could net $1 million dollars over a 10 year period‐ through the nuts, lumber, and something else.
As multi‐dimensional people, we can see the value in plants and not just those that have been domesticated. So in essence we are utilizing the diverse flora that has thrived on Martin Acres since the days of the Yuchi, Shawanwaki/Shawnee, Eastern Band Cherokee, Chickasaw, and Osage. Even in looking at some of the descriptions of the growing practices of some indigenous people you will see diverse flora, including bushes and trees.
We are also doing as the late Kevin C. Martin suggested to us back in 2013 and taking an inventory of what we have because we had brought sand to the beach. We thought in the beginning that Martin Acres did not have Goldenrod, but Kevin let Obiora know that there are at least three different varieties growing on Martin Acres. On our two acres we have about five or six varieties.
Over the years, we both have started to re‐think southern food as we re‐learn about the indigenous foods of the south that were gathered/foraged from the forest, meadows, prairies, open fields, near creeks, etc. So our products reflect this consciousness as well as the mindset we have when we "go home" to our two acres. We are still actively adding new plants, doing an inventory of what we have (even as we sometimes still bring sand to the beach) and developing diverse food ecosystems as our two acres has different ecosystems where some plants will do better than others. As we are observers of Mother Nature, we are not trying to put "square pegs into round holes" by putting plants in areas where they will not survive (we did that in the beginning with the fruit trees).
Obiora said during the 2019 Martin Family Reunion that he wanted to put Martin Acres back on the map.
In December 2019, Irucka and Obiora did a presentation on "Healing Land and Creating a Vibrant Food Ecosystem" at the 9th Annual Tennessee Local Food Summit. Their father, Jim, did a workshop on George Washington Carver and the Biodynamic Agriculture Movement along with his work on using agriculture to heal women through his business Sustainable Communities Network.
At the final Southern Sustainable Agricultural Working Group (SSAWG) Conference in January 2020, Obiora was in a workshop facilitated by Lara Bryant [Deputy Director, Water and Agriculture Nature Program for Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC)] on regenerative agriculture. Obiora spoke about the work being done by us, as well as his varied thoughts about growing food and regenerative agriculture. Needless to say, after it was over, Lara came up to Obiora and asked about interviewing him for a report her organization was working on. Obiora told her "yes" and that she also had to interview Irucka. The report information is below (as it has just recently been released):
Regenerative Agriculture: Farm Policy for the 21st Century Report
The report details an alternative vision of agriculture in the United States and shows how changes across the farming system can help transition agriculture into becoming a solution to fighting our climate crisis. Here’s a blog that summarizes the report.
Lastly, we produced four videos that summarize topline messages from our interviews with you all. The videos weave together audio clips from our interviews with footage of regenerative farms. Several of our interviewees are featured voices in these videos, so please watch and share via your networks! (from an email from Lara Bryant)
In June 2020, Obiora was the farmer featured in NRDC’s Farmer Friday.
In February 2020, Irucka went to eat by himself at a local Indian restaurant. His friend, Ursula King, saw him and she invited him to join her and her friend, Lisa Shively, for lunch. Lisa was the publisher of the Local Table magazine. Ursula and Lisa were talking about the future Local Table issues, including the Annual Guide. Ursula requested that Irucka tell Lisa and her about our maternal family farm—Martin Acres—and the work that we are doing there.
After lunch, Irucka contacted Lisa about writing a couple of articles about our maternal family story and the regenerative agriculture work that we are doing there. Instead of Irucka writing two separate articles, Lee Morgan was contracted to write a story melding together the family history along with the regenerative work that we are doing on our two acres. Lee interviewed us at Martin Acres in May 2020. Lee titled the article: "Martin Acres is the Place to Be". And Nathan Morgan was contracted to take photographs of us in March 2020.
DeBora Mapp came for the interview and Lourenza Drake was at Martin Acres for the photograph shoot.
Due to the "Martin Acres is the Place to Be" article in the Middle Tennessee Local Table Magazine’s 2020 Annual Guide, we were invited to speak in Pennsylvania at a business where one of Obiora’s friends worked (this did not pan out).
At the 2020 SSAWG Conference, Irucka was the Technical Assistant for a workshop in which Monica Clark was the presenter. During one of the meals, Monica sat with us and we talked about our work on our two acres. Obiora shared the "Martin Acres is the Place to Be" article with her and soon after Monica let us know that she wanted to interview us together for her podcast: Dig This!. Obiora told her "no" because we are in two different states and more importantly that we are two different people (even though we are twins). Thus, she should interview us separately. Monica did so and also interviewed our father, Jim, as well. She is supposed to be combining the three interviews into one, but to our knowledge, this has not happened yet. However, you can access our interviews below:
Obiora sent the "Martin Acres is the Place to Be" article to Georgie Donovan, who handles Fundraising, Communications, and Evaluation for the Biodynamic Association. She enjoyed the article and she enjoyed learning about what we are doing through our Web site. She asked to profile us for their fundraising campaign. She interviewed Obiora on the phone and we were featured in the Spring 2021 Biodynamics journal.
Obiora sent the "Martin Acres is the Place to Be" article to Community Montessori School (all five of us attended it). After email exchanges with the middle school [Montessori Middle School of Kentucky (MMSK)], Obiora and Irucka were asked to talk with the middle school students about our professional backgrounds and the work that we are doing on our two acres. Thus, in October 2020, we spoke to the middle school students and we toured the school grounds to see the good work that both the students and the staff are involved in with regards to their ecosystems.
Jennifer O’Flanagan found us through LocalHarvest in 2020 and she asked to do a written interview. It was published on her Instagram page (feastonfarms). She asked some really good questions and our written response is much longer than what she included.
Obiora reached out to Maria Bailey, the HarvestFest Coordinator, after she sent out a request for speakers to a list serv that he is a part of. In September 2021, we did a presentation on our agroforestry (combining agriculture and forestry) work at Martin Acres. Maria informed Obiora the week of the presentation that the Mayor of Madisonville was going to be attending our presentation.
In January 2022, Ursula requested that Irucka participate in a panel discussion about land loss and access in Tennessee and the greater Southeast for the 11th Annual Tennessee Local Food Summit. In part, it was because there wasn't any person of color on the original panel & also Ursula knew that Irucka could talk about Martin Acres. Irucka agreed to participate and did some background research to be able to talk confidently about the issue with regards to Tennessee (and to a lesser extent the greater Southeast). He also researched both the historical and present‐day issues surrounding land loss with regards to Black farmers. During Irucka’s talk, he gave a brief history of Martin Acres and the regenerative work that we are doing. In addition, he created a document to guide his discussion.
Obiora also shared the "Martin Acres is the Place to Be" article with the Board for Gallery on Main, a fine arts gallery in Richmond, KY (Obiora is the Vice President of the Board). Pat, the President of the Board, wanted to feature Obiora, the article, and Martin Acres in an upcoming exhibit. Obiora was reluctant at first, but agreed to do so. At the 2021 December Gallery on Main Board meeting, it was decided by the Board that it would happen in April 2022. Instead of just having framed photographs, Pat, insisted that Obiora include other items too.