In 1979 Nick started organic farming on a commercial basis on rented land in Purcelville, VA, having experimented first on a smaller scale for almost a decade. Concerned about the soil, environment, energy conservation, and fresh, local, healthy food, he began selling vegetables he grew on small rented plots of land to restaurants, local food coops, and at farmers markets. Nick and his wife, artist Tory Cowles, were able to purchase their own farm near Buckeystown in the 1990s. (Go to Tory’s website here: www.torycowles.com.)
Committed to developing local and regional food systems, Nick has helped establish and operate several farmer cooperatives. He is also active in many local, state and national organizations dedicated to organic and sustainable agriculture. He is a founding member of the Maryland Organic Food and Farming Association (MOFFA), the Maryland Small Farm Cooperative, and Future Harvest-Chesapeake Alliance for Sustainable Agriculture (Future Harvest-CASA). Nick has also worked closely with other farmers and scientists at the Organic Farming Research Foundation to publish the National Organic Research Agenda.
Nick is called upon as a speaker, is quoted in the press, has appeared on local and national media, and has been called to testify on organic issues at both the state and federal levels. Because of his interest in developing more organic research and his knowledge of organic farming methods, Nick also serves on peer review panels to evaluate organic research grant proposals.
Secretary of Agriculture Tom Vilsack appointed Nick to a five year term as a member of the National Organic Standards Board (NOSB) starting in January 2011. Nick has also been recognized for his efforts to advance organic farming, recently receiving the “Spirit of Organic Award” from Natural Foods Merchandiser magazine and the Organic Farming Research Foundation for 30 years of service and advocacy on behalf of organic agriculture.
Tory is an abstract painter and sculptor, and for many years had a studio at the Torpedo Factory in Alexandria VA. She is a member of the Touchstone Gallery in Washington DC., and she also teaches Abstract Art at the Yellow Barn in Glen Echo MD. You can check out her website at www.ToryCowles.com
As Nick’s wife, Tory helps at the farm by answering customer questions about our products, helping with distribution days and farm tours, and processing chickens and turkeys.