30 Days: Kelly Owensby and George O’Neal, Sustainable Agriculture Tool Lending Library

“Nobody does anything awesome by themselves.”

If you live in the Triangle area of North Carolina, you may have heard this prolific declaration over the summer after George O’Neal of Lil Farm made it in the local paper.

George and his girlfriend, Kelly Owensby, quickly realized after a couple of years of farming that collaboration was key to helping Lil Farm and their peers’ farms thrive. Through a RAFI grant in 2011, they started a local sustainable agriculture tool lending library with the basics, like a tiller, a sealer, a hand-seeder. These simple necessities kick-started a cooperative among ten farms in which they share tools, knowledge and an enduring camaraderie.

“Not having these expensive tools was like a logistical nightmare,” George says in the video below. “Why do we need to all have a tiller if we only use it once a month?”

Big communal purchases have helped simplify life for the cooperative, now up to 11 farms. It serves as a reliable resource and long-lasting network of support. Kelly told us this week that the group has been putting money aside from member dues to save up for a secondary trailer.

“We thought this could really help more people,” she says.

She dug into the nitty gritty details, explaining how a manure spreader does just that. It’s one of her favorite purchases, which spreads an even layer of anything you need onto the field, cutting the labor time in half (if not even more) and enriching the soil’s fertility. It may not be what most beginner farmers think about when they decide to act on their passion to connect with the land, but it’s among the necessary chores that keep a farm alive.

We thank these young farmers for their innovation and organized approach to creating a sustainable future for their farming community!

Watch this fun video and let George tell you the rest:


To nominate your favorite farmer or food hero for RAFI’s 30 Days of Thanks, click here.

Follow along every day at rafiusa.org/30daysofthanks

Ask your legislators to support farmers’ access to credit and co-sponsor the Fair Credit for Farmers Act!CALL