The Sustainable Life
photo by scott elmquist
Krista Rahm carves out a greener world. by Natalie Mesnard
ou have to find something you know you can live and do,” Krista Rahm says. Following that impulse led her to a do-it-yourself lifestyle that celebrates the wisdom of nature and the power of education. Rahm is pursuing a career as a full-time farmer, growing medicinal herbs, heirloom vegetables and seedlings on her Louisa County farm. When she’s not in the fields or the greenhouse, Rahm maintains another full-time job: home schooling her children, Dylan and Shanah. Dreams of living a sustainable life became reality in 1992, when Krista and her husband, Rob, bought the 28-acre Forrest Green Farm. “We knew we wanted to raise kids on a farm,” Krista Rahm says. Her parents bought the adjoining 418 acres, which include nature trails and rolling pasture for her husband’s herd of miniature Hereford cattle. The Rahms now live in an old farmhouse at the top of a gentle hill. A large red barn and a row of small greenhouses are visible in the distance, and in the summer, vegetables and flowers are abundant in a series of inspiring display gardens installed and maintained by Rahm. It’s the perfect setting for the children — the chance to connect with the natural world
is a part of daily life, and practical learning opportunities are everywhere. Rahm, who was once in mall marketing, has learned plenty herself. An interest in keeping her family healthy and happy led her to herbal medicine, a practice she studied and learned on her own by reading books and taking courses. “I just couldn’t stop learning,” she says. The hobby blossomed into a small business, and she began teaching courses on herbal preparations and selling plants to other herbalists in the area. The Rahms’ dining room houses the family apothecary, a floor-to-ceiling shelf packed with jars holding dried medicinal herbs. And she doesn’t just use herbs — she grows and harvests some of them. “I realized I can do all this with herbs I’m growing in my yard!” she says. When not studying math, English or history, her daughter, Shanah, is deeply involved in researching the potential purchase and care of a family milk cow. Son Dylan, following an interest in art, has opted to attend an art-oriented school in Charlottesville, managing the application process and finances himself. And two years ago, when Rob’s local branch office closed, he left his job as an engineer to join his wife on the farm.
Now medicinal herbs and herbalist workshops are just one part of a diverse business that offers naturally grown hay, pesticide-free vegetables, plant seedlings and a large set of classes taught at the farm. In 2010, Rahm will teach a summer-long whole living course, which includes instruction on gardening, composting, food preservation and fermentation, foraging, herbalism and botanical art. “This kind of lifestyle is a forgotten tradition,” says Rahm, who wants to keep the tradition alive. “People are really craving it with the way the economy is going.” Rahm hopes the business will continue to grow, helping more and more families to learn and live a sustainable lifestyle. “You’re never going to be wealthy doing this,” she says, “but it’s a different kind of wealthy.” Visitors to Forrest Green Farm are welcome from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. Thursday through Sunday, starting April 15. Pastured eggs and fresh vegetables from the farm are on sale year-round at the Market Street Market in Charlottesville, and at that city’s farmers’ market in the summer.
April 2010 | 15 |