I needed help.
Sure, I grew up on a dairy farm. But we sold out when I was just 12 years old and I never made the jump from farmboy to farmer. It was the mid 90’s and dropping commodity prices forced our family off the farm before I could make it my livelihood.
More than two decades later, I was on a customer service team for an attachments company doing my best to help people resolve their dirt and gravel work issues. The problem was, more often than not, the issues involved the tow vehicle not the attachment. If I would have had a couple more years on the farm I knew I could be so much more helpful. It seemed like my knowledge base of tractors was just too small.
So I did what any 30 year-old would do. I Googled. One quick search for “best tractor to use around a small farm” and I came across this goofy looking guy with a beard from North Carolina. I had stumbled upon The Stoney Ridge Farmer.
It was magic.
Here was a man who not only loved the land so much he was willing to risk everything to pursue the dream of a farm, but he also wanted to pass on what he was learning so others could do the same.
This is a guy I wanted to learn from.
So after a shameful number of hours on YouTube, I was “Stoney Ridge trained.” I was able to answer a few pending customer questions and also file away a host of great information for later.
Then I had an epiphany: the Stoney Ridge Farmer loves dirt as much as ABI does. He loves investing in the land to make it healthier and more productive. Us too. He loves empowering others by sharing his knowledge. That’s why ABI is in business!
I knew I had to reach out to the Stoney Ridge Farmer. We had too much in common to miss out on an opportunity to work together. He’s a self-proclaimed tool-o-phile and I had a hunch he’d have some fun testing out some of our attachments.
A handful of calls and emails later, my colleague Ryan and I were driving through the foothills of the Blueridge Mountains, bumping down a dirt road toward Stoney Ridge Farm.
When we first got out of the truck, the air was hot and the dirt was dry. (Later on, a neighbor left a comment on the vlog saying it was “drier than popcorn fart.” … I’d never heard that expression before, but you know I’ll be using it till the day I die.)
Josh, the Stoney Ridge Farmer, greeted us yankees warmly and gave us a tour around the farm. Even in the blinding afternoon sun it was easy to see why he loved his property. The old tobacco plantation acreage rolls over hills and valleys forming some natural creeks that have allowed Josh to create some beautiful ponds and waterways. The natural woodland provided the ideal wind protection and contrast to the new pastures he’d been creating.
As we rambled in the Kubota, we talked about the history of the countryside, soil composition and pH, water and erosion management practices, and local companies he’s been collaborating with. Josh’s passion for his farm, his land, and his neighbors was contagious. By the time we finished the tour, Ryan and I were eager to see ABI’s tools get in the ground and be part of the Stoney Ridge Farm story.
The first project to tackle was the giant pile of manure Josh had brought on the farm to nurture his developing pastures. When I first started at ABI, I had never met a group of people so excited about manure. But after meeting Josh, I know we’re not the only crazy ones. Josh talked about “butt-fertilizer” like it was gold. He understands the value of nutrient-rich organic material and the role it plays in developing a quality seedbed for turf and pastures. He therefore loved the way our ABI Classic Spreader pulverized the big clods of manure so that the smaller particles could more quickly benefit the pasture.
I think the most fun was discussing the similarities between our ABI Classic Spreader and Josh’s 50 year-old manure spreader. Josh had a hand-me-down New Idea spreader that at one point was used on Turtle Island Preserve by Eustace Conway. It had been used for years in land rejuvenation projects and I loved comparing the design with how we make our spreaders today!
The only person on the farm who wasn’t having a blast working with the manure spreaders was my teammate Ryan. Check out the next 10 seconds of this video footage and imagine being the guy behind the camera! 💩😷
Next up on the project list was prepping recently cleared land for seeding. Josh has been dreaming of a cow-calf operation since he began purchasing land four years ago. He knows high-quality pasture is essential for healthy cattle so we wanted to spend the time preparing his soil for maximum root growth.
As soon as I saw the area we’d be working with, I got really excited to put the TR3 in the dirt. Kevin Keigley, the inventor of the TR3 and founder of ABI Attachments, has been tackling projects like this for decades. I knew Josh was about to be blown away.
To my surprise, Josh was a bit skeptical at first. He said the TR3 looked like a puzzle. He’d never seen a piece of farm equipment like it. After a quick walk-through of the components and operation techniques, Josh was willing to humor us and give it a shot.
After two hours kicking up dust, he said the word that we’ve heard so many times before, “Unbelievable.” We’d taken a rutted, debris-ridden, washed out hilltop and groomed it into the ideal seedbed for his future pasture. Josh was thrilled with the efficiency and effectiveness of the TR3 and I was (once again) proud to be associated with a product line that empowers people with better ways to get their outdoor work done.
What I didn’t realize was that the best part of our visit with Josh was still to come.
Our day with the Stoney Ridge Farmer ended on a powerful note. After the tractor and the newly broken-in attachments were put away for the day, Ryan, Josh, and I made our way down to the creek. There’s a special spot on the farm that brings Josh and Mrs. Stoney Ridge both rest and inspiration. As the sun set, we gradually moved from talking tools and dirt to talking life and dreams. It turns out Josh has an incredible life story of hope, loss, and restarts. His desire to live simply from the land and help others do the same comes from a natural progression in his life from chaos to stability. I was inspired by the ways Josh is learning from his journey and paving a new way forward.
Meeting and working with the Stoney Ridge Farmer was a rare treat. I think getting to know others and seeing their passions first-hand helps us identify how we can best live out our own. My time with Josh got me thinking… how can I best pass on my love for the land and what I’ve learned about it?
How are you sharing your passion for the soil? Let me know below and we can learn from each other!