By Eric Dorman

Thereâ€TMs a lot at stake in the world of farming. According to the United States Department of Agriculture, the U.S. lost more than four million farms between 1935 and 2000. Costs to do business in farming are way up, and the payoff is way down. Because of these expenses and losses in revenue, itâ€TMs harder and harder for younger generations in historically farming families to see the appeal in continuing the family tradition. As a result, census data shows that more and more farmers are retiring without an “heir.”

The United States is still in the midst of a decades-long seismic shift in the world of agriculture and millions of people—not just farmers—are being affected. All of that said, it can be difficult to cut through the political noise and remember that working with the ground and with food in community with other people can be fun. It should be inspiring. It can be educational. It might even be a means of charity.

Enter Farm One.

“Growing food is something that Iâ€TMm good at and I felt I should be sharing that with the community,” said Kevin Derkits, founder and director of Farm One. “There was a need. Thereâ€TMs definitely a need in Nashville.”

The needs range from education and community-wide volunteer efforts to food donations and farming trials. Located in Whites Creek, Farm One is a nonprofit, multipurpose farm that exists for the good of everyone. Their mission is “Grow Food, Grow Lives,” and they do it through sustainable agriculture education and first harvest donation.

Kevin has a passion for creating space for people to learn and grow. He grew up going outdoors and he thinks that farming is a good way to spur people on toward realizing their potential.

“All the time, [people tell me] that they canâ€TMt grow. I like to challenge that and encourage them to keep at it and give them some ways to be successful,” Kevin said.

Regarding education, the big word on the scene is “organic.” Kevin says that they are absolutely committed to organic farming, but he doesnâ€TMt think that goes quite far enough.

“We take it a step further,” Kevin said. “[We explain] the importance of building up a soil and how you can do that through cover-cropping, manure and developing your garden space. Think of it like an ecosystem—thereâ€TMs a balance that youâ€TMre looking for. Thatâ€TMll help decrease the overall maintenance needs and [increase] the overall benefit for the environment and everyone involved.”

This is all part of the agriculture education in their mission. Kevin wants people to grow good food, and he wants them to grow it in the best, most sustainable ways. To that end, Farm One welcomes people from all over to the farm to volunteer, ask questions and work with the ground. They have even held formal introductory classes when thereâ€TMs enough demand.

Additionally, Kevin does research and trials. For example, heâ€TMs in his second year of growing moringa, a lesser-known super-food that could have some great benefits as an annual crop. Moringa is highly nutritious and easy to incorporate in the kitchen, so Kevin plans to write his findings down when he determines how well moringa grows in Tennessee.

While education is incredibly important to Kevin and to Farm One, though, Kevinâ€TMs biggest passion is community service. Farm One works closely with surrounding areas for the benefit of the homeless and low-income communities. Plenty of farms and grocery stores donate food to the hungry, but what sets Farm One apart is their commitment to first harvest donation.

“Traditionally, the charity food network gets the leftovers—items from the grocery store that have started to go bad,” Kevin said. “We aim to donate the very best. Itâ€TMs something I feel strongly about. Everyone should have access to the best quality food, and not have to eat what should be in the garbage.”

Another way they serve their low-income neighbors is by providing some meaningful work. People can come to the farm and work the ground, with the benefit of receiving some of the food they grew in order to feed them and their families.

“Gardening is a very therapeutic activity,” says Kevin. And that kind of therapy works wonders for a lot of people.

Kevin is quick to acknowledge that Farm One isnâ€TMt the only place in the Nashville area committed to service and farming education, or to donating good food. In fact, he says he thinks that Nashville is ahead of the game and heâ€TMs proud of the effort everyone is putting in.

Anyone who wants to volunteer and take part in the good work that Farm One is doing can contact Kevin by visiting Youâ€TMll be helping the community and helping to push back some of the noise, yes. But youâ€TMll also be doing yourself a favor.

This endeavor feeds not only the hungry—it feeds Kevinâ€TMs soul. “I often see hope,” Kevin said. “Thatâ€TMs the biggest takeaway.”

Bio – use Eric's bio from spring