What's in a name? Back of Beyond is an Irish reference to those regions where rock and wildness take precedent, some off-the-beat parcel of land, some unkept portion of earth. In choosing this name for our little farm, we're recognizing that our attempts at eco-farming are happening on the edge of where you might consider farming possible.
The roots of this farm are probably rooted in a few others that have shaped me over the years. Today I am thinking about my Grandpa Hurkes and his land in Emmons County, North Dakota. In a land of rolling small grain fields, sloughs, and the occasional tract of native prairie, there was this one piece of land - a sort of "Back of Beyond" (even though it ran right up against a state highway). It remains a haven for wildlife - mostly native wildlife - and as a kid it was a favored haunt for trapping fox or hunting pheasants. We once pulled a couple of dozen quills out of my hunting dog's snout after she had a run in with a porcupine down by a little water hole.
This Back of Beyond piece of land in an increasingly mono-cultured agricultural setting holds the space of biodivirsity for a large area - a refuge and a place from which to stage migrations into newly unkept lands. The health of the whole county - people, water, crops, soul - is supported by these few acres.
When my Grandfather died, my Uncle Jim made the effort to keep this corner of land sacred and the Mike Hurkes Wildlife Management Area was established. Our mountain farm has its roots in that unkept prairie corner and all other stretches of land we can call - The Back of Beyond.