“What you raise, you don’t need to buy” – our visit to Rivendell Farms

  • Met with Chris and Jeffie Hardin
  • Owners of Rivendell, Chris teaches and UNCC and is trained as an environmental engineer
  • Chris Hardin of Rivendell Farms

  • A few numbers:
    • Overall 75% carbon neutral, 75% recycled
    • Raise around 50% of their own food
  • Chris and Jeffie are not only farmers, they help others set up farms:
    • They have been successful at setting up or they have set up programs at UNCC as well as at CMC schools.  Rivendell is set up not only as a business, but also as a training farm to help new farmers and those interested in alternative farming methods
  • How Rivendell works as a CSA:
    • Instead of charging exorbitant amounts to join the CSA, the Hardins charge around $35 for a 6 week CSA and families who join are required to work the farm.  There are hourly work requirements for the various beds that families are assigned.  Also, families can help purchase or donate seed, plants, etc.
    • How we could adapt this for Davidson:  Allow people to join a CSA over the summer.  Instead of money payments, allow people to donate time and skills in return for the excess food produced over the summer.  There are still many logistics to work out in this area
    • Chris and Jim King discuss various aspects of farming

  • Rivendell’s outdoor beds:
    • Their beds undergo 3-4 successive plantings of various crops, allowing almost constant production as well as maintaining healthy soil. Chris is an expert at soil maintenance and keeps track of soil composition, pH levels, and more to ensure productive soil.    The beds are always planted which keeps weeds down.  Chris and Jeffie can quickly put small hoop houses over to keep heat in during cold periods.
    • Chris shows us his Kale

      The soil is a balance of partial organic matter, lime, and piedmont clay.  Kale and Collard greens are used as cover crops, keeping the soil healthy as well as providing even more food.  Barley also used, and then the barley can be used to make beer.

    • “Green manure”:
      • Weeds not necessarily bad, they keep up the biodiversity of the land.  Low tilling of plants means less runoff, less weed seed activated, and less need to add nutrients to the soil.  This means the soil is so soft and healthy there’s no need to deep till.
    • Biodiversity is crucial, helps with bugs, soil productivity, and much more

      Charlie asks questions about the biodiversity of Rivendell

  • Hydroponics:
    • Hydroponics are 10x more efficient and use 1/10 the water.
    • A 4×4 foot module can produce 4-5 heads of lettuces per week.  Chris and Jeffie built their systems using food grade pipes for the set up.  They have groundwater with a nice blend of minerals meaning they don’t need to add a lot to their water.  This depends on the bedrock and water composition, which is why testing, would be crucial.
    • The process:  The seeds are started in spongy material under lights.  When they grow 3-4 leaves, they are transplanted to the hydroponic system where it takes 6-8 weeks to grow to a full head.  They also grow herbs, but Romaine and Bibb lettuces are the best. The water flows under the plants, allowing roots to grab nutrients.
    • Using swamp coolers, fans, and shade cloths, the greenhouses are kept under 80 degrees.  The process took about 3 months to set up and required many little tweaks.

      Growing hydroponic lettuce

    • Costs: about $500 for a small start up, another $500 to set up a system for tomatoes, and about $300 for the lights in the winter.  Energy costs also need to be figured out.
    • Benefits:  more nutritious than regular organic produce, maintenance is easy, and it’s a learning process

    The group looks at a preliminary hydroponic set up

  • Goats:
    • Rivendell has goats!  For sale!
    • Goats are good because they eat weeds and not necessarily grass.  Hay and grain can be used to supplement their diet.  Portable 5 wire electric fences mean we can keep the goats under control and mobile.  And it’s an easy project


  • Other important details:
    • Following organic principles can be better than being certified organic.
    • Recycling all the biomass cuts down on waste and provides many benefits to the rest of the biomass.
    • The traceability of food system is huge. The Carolina Farm Stewardship Association can be helpful
    • We can bring on Rivendell hourly as advisors to help with set up and maintenance.
    • What you raise you don’t need to buy
    • Now it the time – combination of enthusiasm, opportunity, and support.
    • An active set up

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