Winding 115 miles, the Harpeth River flows northwest through Franklin and Kingston Springs through cities and past expansive farmlands to eventually reach the Cumberland River. Nearly 250,000 people call this watershed home along with fish, mussels, amphibians, birds and other critters. Over 25% of the Harpeth River Watershed is agricultural land, so there is ample opportunity to drive change with sustainable agricultural practices.
The Harpeth River is not immune to the impacts of pollution. The most common water issues within the Harpeth River Watershed are sediment pollution (aka dirt), high levels of nutrients, altered streamside vegetation, and pathogen pollution. The nutrient overload along with low dissolved oxygen levels and siltation has landed the Harpeth River on the state list of impaired waterways. These water quality issues lead to habitat loss for aquatic species, fish die-offs, and unsafe recreational use during the summer or low flow months. While the threats to water quality may seem daunting, there are many people and places dedicated to keeping the Harpeth River clean. Harpeth Moon Farm is one!
Located on the banks of the Harpeth River, Harpeth Moon Farm strives to be a steward to the river, the land and the people.
Harpeth Moon Farm is an exemplary farm that is making a difference through sustainable agriculture. Stewarded by Hayley, Max, and Bruce, the land at Harpeth Moon is farmed in a way that reduces the impacts of farming on the river. Hayley’s love for the outdoors started when she was young and growing up in the Arkansas delta. She went on to study sustainable agriculture at Warren Wilson College and interned with several farms in North Carolina that shaped her into the farmer she is today. Hayley brought her vast knowledge to the farm, along with her now-husband Max and father Bruce, and the journey of Harpeth Moon Farm began.
Harpeth Moon Farm takes a “Whole Ecosystem Approach” with their conservation practices to protect the soils, the water, the plants, the pollinators, and the wildlife. They are Organic Certified and go above the standards to provide healthy produce for the community. Conservation practices like those on Harpeth Moon Farms help mitigate issues, such as erosion and nutrient runoff, often found on lands that are in traditional agricultural production.
Harpeth Moon Farm Conservation Practices
High Tunnels benefit the farmer with an extended growing season, improved plant and soil health, and reduce nutrient and pollen drift. With an extended growing season farmers can provide local produce to communities for longer periods of the year. In turn, this requires less energy and resources to transport fresh foods to people. With the use of High Tunnels, Harpeth Moon is able to provide to the community nearly year-round at local farmers markets.
No-till practice helps restore compacted soils to healthy conditions while decreasing erosion and enhancing moisture retention in the soil. Conventional tillage creates compacted soils that are barren of adequate nutrients. At Harpeth Moon, they use a broadfork to gently aerate the soil to help the crops establish a deeper root. The broadfork is a great alternative to conventional tillage as it leaves the soil structure in place by not mixing the layers of soil.
Riparian Buffers are adjacent to the river on the land between the water and upland land uses. Buffers protect the water by stabilizing the land with plant roots and filtering out pollutants that may have runoff during rain events. This lessens the dirt and nutrient runoff from upland production. Added bonus: this area can also provide great wildlife & pollinator habitat!
Providing Pollinator Habitat enhances the overall diversity of the ecosystem. Pollinators are important to our overall food system and agriculture production. They can also help improve the quality and yield of crops. These plants will provide a buffer for the river if placed properly. Let’s call that a WIN, WIN!
“There’s always something on the soil!” Whether it is cropped land in production, cover crops or temporary tarps, Harpeth Moon Farm has the soil covered. By keeping the soil covered, erosion of the soil is minimized, protecting both the soil and waterways.
Crop rotation is a practice of growing different crops on the same land at varying times. This helps with long term soil health limiting the need for fertilizer, pesticides and herbicides.
Read more information on Conservation Practices.
Conservation practices like those employed at Harpeth Moon can be implemented throughout the Harpeth River Watershed and beyond. With a little help from landowners, residents, community organizations, and leaders like the Natural Resource Conservation Service, we can make this beautiful and scenic river thrive once again!
So, next time you are planning a meal, head on over to your local farm or farmers market to support healthy waterways!