Steven Moize isn't your typical farmer. For starters, he spent most of his first 26 years underwater. Certified as a recreational diver at 12, his dream was to "sail the seven seas". By 21 he was a commercial diver and instructor, working up and down the Eastern seaboard and enjoying life. But at 26, a diving injury to his sinuses changed everything. Explains Steve: "my life's path was at a dead end."
The idea of farming came to him a few years later when he was hiking the Appalachian Trail with his dog, Maggie. Thinking about his skills, interests, and the lifestyle he wanted to pursue, organic farming seemed a logical choice. Soon afterwards he moved to Hurdle Mills, to land that has been in his mother's family since 1779. There, The Shady Grove Farm was born. According to Steve, "my decision to be out here [on the farm] was as much a lifestyle choice as an occupational choice as a spiritual choice."
In fact, Steve's spirituality is deeply connected to his farming. He began farming organically but soon realized, as he puts it, that "organic agriculture is just the tip of the iceberg." As time passed he learned more about permaculture and biodynamics, incorporating aspects of different farming philosophies and folk wisdom that fit well with his spiritual and intuitive understanding of nature. Explains Steve, "this whole interconnected[ness] and inter-relationship between systems that permaculture deals with was the foundation of this sense of interconnectedness of all things that I was feeling but couldn't pinpoint."
Over four years Steve has refined and expanded upon his techniques, as well as the farm's biodiversity. In addition to fruit and vegetable production, medicinal and culinary herbs, and aquatic plants, the farm has goats, ducks, guinea fowl, and about 800 chickens. His success in egg production--the farm sells over 100 dozen eggs a week--is partly due to his "chicken tractor", a 1000-square foot greenhouse that slides on skids. It provides a protected and non-restrictive environment for his pasture-raised chickens and, when moved, leaves behind earth that is tilled, fertilized, and largely free of weed seeds and insects. It's one of the ways that Steve minimizes "off-farm" inputs by working with nature instead of against it.
—jj richardson, 2003