Storey Family Farm is a sustainable organic farm in South Bend, run by Stephen and Raquel Storey, who met while working on an organic vegetable farm in the summer of 2019. Their website says, “It was on that farm, amid hours and hours of gardening, that Stephen and Raquel became friends, fell in love and began dreaming of farming together for years to come.” Stephen and Raquel are both passionate about sustainability and their Catholic faith.
Both Stephen and Raquel came from Catholic families who fostered their faith. While growing up, Stephen envisioned himself becoming either a priest or a farmer, and his parents always encouraged his pursuits. In high school, Stephen felt a tug to follow a career in farming. This was difficult because he did not come from a farming family and farming is expensive, so he entered college to pursue a different career.
During his years at Holy Cross College, Stephen became acquainted with the Franciscan Friars Minor, a community into which he entered discernment. While begging for food, a part of the poverty the Franciscans embrace, Stephen’s desire to grow and cultivate his own food nagged at him. Stephen discerned out of the community after two years and started a job with Catholic Charities. Unfortunately, this job kept him from working on the land. Stephen kept finding ways to work the land, to keep his hands in the dirt. It was during his stint on an organic vegetable farm in South Bend where he met Raquel.
Raquel was not born into a farming family. She received her Masters’ of Divinity from the University of Notre Dame and worked in different ministries through the Church for nearly a decade before entering farming full time. One of her major influences to follow the agricultural path was Dorothy Day. Raquel agreed with Day’s idea that food should be grown locally and provide for the community. She spent time working with the Catholic Worker farm in South Bend where she became acquainted with farming techniques. Raquel continued pursuing farming as a passion and was working on the same organic vegetable farm as Stephen when they met.
When Stephen and Raquel were married, starting their own farm sustainably and organically was never in question. Storey Farm grows more than 40 different varieties of fruits and vegetables. Stephen said, “I was so amazed and inspired by the reality that nature is an intelligent design!”
He continued, “In my opinion, the brilliant coherence that one finds in natural systems is a great argument for the existence of God.”
“I think regenerative farming is ultimately the practice of humbly observing the way nature functions optimally and imitating that on the farm. It’s collaborating with nature (and, of course, brings our own ingenuity to the table) rather than trying to overpower nature.” Through proper agricultural practices, Stephen and Raquel cooperate with God’s design for nature and produce healthy soil and flavorful produce.
Storey Farm developed using the ideas of Dorothy Day’s urban farming techniques. The farm consists of seven urban lots that are around three-quarters of an acre each. Making these spaces suitable for farming was a challenge. They had to remove the concrete and gravel in order to reach the soil. It is also challenging because the lots are not contiguous; instead, Stephen has to drive to and from each lot to check on them.
Despite the rewards of this profession, Stephen and Raquel still face numerous challenges. Being able to spend hours on the farm is a peaceful part of the job, but at the end of the day, the farm is still a business. Every day something could go wrong.
Stephen remarked, “If I’m not diligent, our plants don’t thrive and the farm might not be able to support our family. That’s stressful. We don’t have automatic doors on our chicken coops anymore because they didn’t always work. They wouldn’t close on time and chickens would be eaten by predators. That was stressful. Our exhaust fan on our greenhouse burnt out and hundreds of dollars of microgreens began overheating. If I checked a few hours later, they all would have died. That was stressful.”
Because of the uncertainty that comes along with owning a farm, Raquel says that it is a constant exercise in trusting God and discerning what He is asking of them. Although the unknowns are frightening, the future is also exciting. Raquel said, “I am reminded every day what a privilege it is to grow food sustainably for our community.”
The farming lifestyle forces the Storey family to deepen their faith and trust in God. Farming in such a way deepens the personal connection Stephen and Raquel feel towards the sacraments — especially the Eucharist, which is the summit of a Catholic’s life. Through farming, Stephen is able to see the sacrificial nature of life and carry a cross in a personal way. Witnessing the seasonal progression of plant and animal life, he is able to connect with the seasons of life and understand how sacrificing some things leads to greater goods. Stephen spoke of Father Edward Leen, who said: “The heart of religion is two things: Communion and Sacrifice.” Storey Farm embraces this in how they pursue Christ in their lives and especially in their faith.
Pope Benedict XVI said, “More than a few young people have already chosen this path; also many professionals are returning to dedicate themselves to the agricultural enterprise, feeling that they are responding not only to a personal and family need, but also to a ‘sign of the times,’ to a concrete sensibility for the ‘common good.”
This is how Stephen and Raquel truly approach this professional pursuit. They have a belief that through their work, they will be able to impact the community around them — both now and into the future. With so much in the world being stripped of personal interactions and truth, Storey Farm looks to participate in the world more simply. They are excited to work together as husband and wife, build a community in South Bend and that their son, Maximilian, will grow up “surrounded by nature and real things” rather than television screens.
Raquel and Stephen attend St. Matthew Cathedral where they have a great community. They encourage others to come and visit the farm and see all work they are doing in their community.
A shift toward the methodology Storey Farm embraces could lead to a stronger local farming community, particularly for those who would like to begin their own urban gardens. For those considering starting a farm or learning about farming, the Storey family is happy to share the passion they have for farming to anyone who will listen. For more information, or to subscribe to their newsletter, visit storeyfamilyfarm.com.
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