North Texas Daily

Urban Farmers carve out their niche

Urban Farmers carve out their niche

February 01
17:59 2017

In 2011, Andrea and Matt Gorham wanted to be in business for themselves while living together in their own apartment.

Now, they are one of the multiple farms in Denton that provide fruits, vegetables and more to the community.

In 2012, the Gorhams started their first urban farm by growing fruits and vegetables in the backyard of their Denton house, funding the project with residual income from a rented house that Matt, a young entrepreneur, leased out during the year.

“We started it because we didn’t want to have chemically grown produce,” Andrea, 29, said. “We just wanted to be a part of it and know where our food comes from.”

This project, which they called Denton’s Backyard Farms, was their business from 2012 to 2013. They dedicated hours to researching and experimenting with different plants, had a knack for producing and growing plants and showed the work ethic to do hard labor.

“We decided we needed a bigger farm to start a business,” Andrea said.

They needed some extra help and guidance, though, being new to the farming industry.

With this realization, they ditched their quarter-acre plot in Denton and moved to a ten-acre farm in North Carolina to learn from host-farmers involved in Worldwide Opportunities on Organic Farms, or WWOOF.

“We learned a lot about agriculture and how to have a better business sense through failures,” Andrea said.

WWOOF is a global organization that connects volunteer farmers with varying levels of experience to host-farmers. Host-farmers offer their expertise in organic farming and their land to volunteer-farmers in exchange for time and labor. Many invest themselves in this organization in the hopes of leaving their host-farm to fend for themselves.

WWOOF has a community of 2,150 farms in America that host volunteers year round. Through WWOOF, the Gorham’s developed their skills to be able to leave their host-farm in North Carolina.

After about a year with their WWOOF hosts, where Andrea and Matt volunteered their time and labor for food and housing, they decided that North Carolina was not where they wanted to start their business.

“There it was kind of a race to the bottom,” Matt, 29, said. “If you had two-dollar-tomatoes, people wanted one-dollar-tomatoes.”

Though they saw their time there as valuable, the Gorham’s saw an economic system in which they had no interest. They decided to return back to the Lone Star State and start their own farm back in Denton. In 2015, after selling Matt’s rent house, they took out a mortgage on a house and began the Tree Folk farm, free from ties by a loan from a bank.

From the ground up

Having grown up on a farm himself, Andrea’s father, Tracy Buxton, 60, said he knows what it takes to work on a farm.

“You get to the end of the day and you’re tired,” Buxton said of his time past time spent working on a farm. He now works in marketing as a multimedia web developer. “I got an education so I wouldn’t have to do that for the rest of my life.”

Andrea has a bachelor’s degree from Texas Tech in animal science and began working with veterinarian office after she graduated college. Matt graduated with a bachelor’s degree in psychology from Tech and quickly decided that he didn’t want to be a therapist because he “didn’t want to hear about people’s problems all the time.”

When Andrea graduated from Tech and began working in veterinary clinics, Buxton said he noticed his daughter was not doing what she truly wanted to at that time in her life.

“She was just going through the motions for someone else’s dream,” Buxton said.

With his daughter and son-in-law fully invested in the lifestyle he left behind, Buxton draws from his experience to aid the Gorham’s in their farming lifestyle. Every Christmas he sends them a new tool, a wood-chipper or a camera, to assist in developing their skills as young entrepreneurs and farmers.

“You don’t give someone a fish sandwich, you teach them how to fish,” Buxton said.

The Gorham’s spent countless hours on research, preparation and experimenting with the science behind farming and growing mushrooms. They spent six months on their farm before they saw a profit. Behind Andrea and Matt was family support through the time where they fought to turn make returns on their investment.

Now, with their first year of operating under their belt, the Tree Folk are busy developing their farm into a fruitful business.

Tree Folk farm

The meticulous organization stands out at the Tree Folk Farm and without it, nothing would work as it should. Among the chickens, trees, fruits, vegetables, seedlings and spores are Andrea and Matt. On their farm, everything has a place and a purpose.

On their 1.3 acre plot of land, the Gorhams have chickens, a goat named Oreo, persimmon trees, tomatoes, assorted fruits and vegetables. Most crucial to their farm right now, however, is the 40-60 pounds of specialty mushrooms they grow and sell at $6-$10 per pound to locals and local businesses around the DFW area.

With these mushrooms, the Gorham’s are able to make a living.

“We needed to be busy all year long, and I thought we could do it with mushrooms,” Andrea said.

Lion’s Mane, a form of mushroom, is only grown by them in Texas, according to Andrea. Colin Mitchell

Andrea and Matt said they both like to produce things, which is where a dedication to farming worked in their favor. They re-purposed their home and land in order to cultivate the food they and their business survive off of.

Three different rooms inside their house have been developed into labs for growing and experimenting on plants.

Their home acts as a micro-environment in which they survive off the land, and the land survives with them.

The Gorham’s grow varieties of shiitake, oyster, lion’s mane and trumpet mushrooms as their most popular and profitable product, which they sell a the Denton Community Market, Hannah’s Off the Square and the Cupboard. Batches of mushrooms take anywhere from 6 to 10 weeks before they are ready to harvest. With the controlled environments designed by the Tree Folk, they are able to grow and sell high-quality, organic mushrooms year round without the aid of artificial chemicals.

“We picked this spot for a reason,” Matt said.

Planted on their land right now are persimmon trees, carrots, tomatoes, strawberries, romaine lettuce and more. Soon, another quarter of an acre of their land will be transformed into more cultivation space for seasonal organic fruits and vegetables such as pears, blueberries, pomegranates, kale, Chinese cabbage, romaine and broccoli.

They said their plan is to reside on their micro-system, developing their skills as farmers and their business in agriculture, for five to 10 years.

The Tree Folk see their farm as a catalyst into a larger vision and not an end-goal. Most importantly to them and their business model is growing food in a manner that is both responsible and profitable.

“It’s just a slower way of life,” Andrea said. “It feels better.”

Featured Image: Farmers Ben and Andrea stand in their building where they grow mushrooms. Colin Mitchell

About Author

Kyle Martin

Kyle Martin

Related Articles

3 Comments

  1. Jimbo
    Jimbo February 04, 16:54

    Folks, as a fellow UNT Grad (Class of ’87), and retired lawyer, I legalized Marijuana in Oregon! Its great to see…imagine going to a retirement complex and sitting in wheelchair are happy, old people passing joints!

    Reply to this comment
  2. Jimbo
    Jimbo February 04, 17:02

    Bonny and Clyde got the death penalty in that very court and got hung 250 yards away which is now a parking lot off Hickory.

    Reply to this comment
  3. Zakaria Hbak
    Zakaria Hbak February 06, 12:20

    Plz I’m looking for job

    Reply to this comment

Write a Comment

Search Bar

Sidebar Thumbnails Ad

Twitter Feed

North Texas Daily @ntdaily
RT @austinxshasta: So blessed and honored to be on the cover doing something I love so much, love my university 💕 @UNTsocial @UNTUnion http…
h J R
North Texas Daily @ntdaily
RT @NTDailySports: Mean Green maintain similar focus entering Bonus Play 📝by @deondrejones34 📷by @Tzac24 https://t.co/T6a9k6EpXC
h J R
North Texas Daily @ntdaily
RT @NTDailySports: Mean Green loses seven-game win streak to No. 4 Texas in a 3-2 nine-inning loss 📝by @prestonrios_ 📷by @RyTheCameraman
h J R
North Texas Daily @ntdaily
ARTS AND LIFE: Read about how BSU is honoring Black History Month, through engaging events highlighting topics from… https://t.co/GJLFpLttgw
h J R
North Texas Daily @ntdaily
RT @kiarastclair_: ┃┃╱╲ In this ┃╱╱╲╲ house ╱╱╭╮╲╲ we love ▔▏┗┛▕▔ & appreciate ╱▔▔▔▔▔▔▔▔▔▔╲ The North Texas Daily 📰 ╱ ┏┳┓ ╭╮┏┳┓ ╲ ▔▏…
h J R

Sidebar Bottom Block Ad

Flytedesk Ad