Noah Sanders teaches the basics of agriculture

Noah Sanders believes farming should produce joy and that simplifying agricultural methods produces happy vegetables and animals.

When he opened Rora Valley Farms in Coosa County in 2009, Sanders not only started a farm business but also created a homestead for personal consumption. Sanders’ family moved from Auburn when development exploded, since they prefer the lifestyle of country living.

“It’s been a good experience developing the land. I enjoy working with my hands and growing food,” said Sanders.

His dad, brothers and other family live on the 150-acre land, and the farm is operated with the help if his wife, Dorothy, and three young sons, Enoch, Patrick and Edwin. They also have a new baby girl, Brielle.

Sanders is responsible for the vegetable portion of the operation, while his cousin, Luke Sanders, maintains the livestock, which includes cows, pigs, rabbits and chickens.

The main focus of Sanders’ mission, aside from selling retail and feeding his family, is to teach the basics of agriculture to others. Redeeming the Dirt is a faith-based educational company that provides valuable skills to motivate more people to farm. He advocates that less land and hands-on work creates higher-quality, higher-yield produce.

“I want to teach farming in a way that produces joy.  I’m learning to grow food, so that I can train others to live healthy lives. It’s a skill and a craft that’s been lost,” said Sanders.

His main principles revolve around maintaining natural elements of the land. Using surface cultivation and never deep plowing; always having a ground cover, such as mulch; and valuing crop rotation and diversity, will lead to high production with little infrastructure, Sanders said.

“This produces work ethic, motivation and creates a balance,” he added.

Communicating this method to those interested in small farming operations is important to Sanders, who is still learning a lot himself.

“I have the humility to recognize I don’t know it all, but I practice simplified education. Not because of a lack of information, but it can be overwhelming. I want to communicate in a way where people can more easily apply these techniques,” said Sanders.

On his farm, he is set up to teach classes, and he always welcomes guests to come practice hands-on and see a sustainable farm in action.

Having gained a lot of information from mentors as far away as Africa, Sanders said his passion is to share his knowledge and connect with people.

“Productive and abundant growth brings hope. I want to help bless people in this community,” he added.

Sanders has had great success in cultivating produce on a plot that is only 1/4-acre. He grows three to four times a year and has a farm membership available, which is customizable. All food remains seasonal, and currently, he sends a lot of his production to a Farmers Market or customers in Birmingham. On a local level, SpringHouse restaurant incorporates some of his produce in its dishes.

“There is a relationship aspect to selling my produce. Buyers learn to trust you, and it also keeps me accountable with my food,” he said.

Sanders focuses on minimal waste, as he appreciates all resources available on the land. Everything is done by hand, often with the help of his children who love running around in the dirt, and all scrap is thrown into piles for compost.

There is a green pile and brown pile, which reflect sugars and carbon respectively to be broken down by microorganisms. By combining equal parts of those piles with 20 percent nitrogen, the end result returns to the soil for further growth.

The homesteading aspect of the operation is managed differently than the garden that produces retail product. Sanders said it is less stressful, but it is a lifestyle.

“You have to eat one bite at a time and develop baby steps. You can be fruitful with just a small amount of area. Maximum food with minimal land is the framework,” Sanders said.

Future goals for the local farmer/teacher include creating additional educational tools and videos and hosting more classes, with a hands-on conference each year.

For more information about the educational classes, visit RedeemingtheDirt.com. Online training is available at RedeemingtheDirtAcademy.com. For information about the local produce, eggs and meat, visit RoraValleyFarms.com.