The Garden Digs

Meet Shelby from Farminence

Meet Shelby from Farminence

We are so excited to announce a partnership with Shelby DeVore of Farminence! Shelby has a wealth of knowledge in the gardening industry (over 20 years!), was a high school agriculture teacher, and has a Master's degree in Agriculture and Natural Resources, so she'll be a wonderful resource for us to learn from. 

In 2018, Shelby started Farminence to use her knowledge and passion to reach and teach more people about agriculture and homesteading.

What Drew Us to Shelby

We love that Shelby's a Southern gal, born and raised in Tennessee, and has spent most of her life raising livestock and vegetables. But perhaps what connected us so closely to Shelby was her in-depth knowledge of the industry, the science behind it, and why something works or doesn't work. Most of us can look at a common garden vegetable and diagnose the problem and solution, but we're excited for Shelby to take us even deeper into our understanding of the garden.

Also, Shelby is a mom of two with a third on the way (due July 2020!). We admire her commitment to her family and how she gets her kids involved in and excited about gardening. We think mothers who read Shelby's work will find her tips extremely helpful.

Get to Know Shelby

Without further ado, let's get to know Shelby and Farminence!

Why Do You Garden?

I can't imagine myself NOT gardening. I think I'm a nurturer by nature and I really enjoy taking care of things, including plants. It's also so fulfilling to grow a large chunk of our own food. Large grocery stores are about an hour from where we live, so if we want vegetables or herbs that are a little out of the ordinary, we have to drive a good ways to find them.

I really enjoy being able to not only grow some staple vegetables at home, like tomatoes, cucumbers and peppers, but I also like to grow some of the vegetables that are harder for us to get normally. Plus, you won't want grocery store vegetables once you've grown your own. There's really no comparison between a home-grown tomato and a those you get from the grocery store.

What Do You Enjoy Most About Gardening?

Probably just being outside and working in the dirt!

Gardening can be hard work but it's definitely worth it. The phrase 'you reap what you sow' is often used in a negative way, but it's so true when it comes to gardening. I really love planting seeds or transplants and watching them turn into big, beautiful and productive plants.

I also can't help but let the teacher in me out occasionally and gardening is the perfect way for me to teach my kids (and husband!) about all sorts of plant biology.

What Are You Most Excited About Growing This Year?

We are trying out a few things this year that we haven't grown before and I'm really pumped about them. We realized about a year ago that we really like parsnips and that's one of the vegetables that I can't get at my small, local grocery store. I'm trying to grow parsnips this year for the first time and I'm pretty excited about that.

I also planted some corn that we can use for popcorn. We love kettle corn and caramel corn in the fall, so I'm really excited to be growing some popcorn at home.

I can't leave out the blue radishes or ugly pumpkins that we're growing either.

Do Your Kids Help You Garden?

Yes! Gardening is a family hobby that we all share.

I have a son, Forrest (9), and a daughter, Dallas (4). They've both been helping me in the garden since they were able to walk. Even before they could walk, we had them out in the garden with us in their bouncers and play pens.

The best way to involve them is to give them tasks that they can do. I also try really hard not to be a perfectionist when they help. If my garden rows aren't totally straight, that's ok! Since they've both been helping in the garden for so long, they are pretty knowledgeable about what needs to get done.

Last year, we had a honey bee hive and had to be really careful about the pesticides that we used on the vegetable plants. Our tomatoes got hornworms on them and nobody wanted to pluck them by hand, so Forrest, being the problem-solver that he is, taught our Airedale how to pull the tomato worms off of the plants. He even made sure that he was doing it gently and not hurting the plants.

Dallas is the queen of picking and she loves to go out there and harvest vegetables, even without me knowing. Thankfully, she knows when everything is ready to be picked or if it needs another day or two.

This year I had to rely on their help even more than usual since I'm pregnant. So I'm really going to turn my head if my garden isn't totally perfect!

What's Your Best Tip for Beginners?

Don't hesitate to get started!

Gardening and homesteading is a journey. There's always something that you'll need to learn, but don't expect to learn everything up front and never make mistakes.

It's good to be prepared, but there is a point where you just have to bite the bullet and get started. Read up on what you need to know to get started and then get started! You'll learn more from experience than you will by just reading about it.

What Animals Do You Have?

The easier question would be which animals do we NOT have... I'm an animal fanatic; growing up I had all sorts of animals. I've pared down on my number of fur babies though now that I'm the one paying all of the feed bills. We have two Arabian horses, 17 chickens, turkeys, a Jersey milk cow, 9 Pygmy and Nubian goats, two dogs, a cat, and goldfish.

My two horses are both rescues that I took in. One of them I've had for nearly 20 years and I rode him competitively in endurance when I was younger. I really enjoy our goats, especially the babies! Our goats are smaller, with the biggest ones only weighing about 75 pounds so the babies are really small and super cute when they're born. There's nothing as cute as walking outside and hearing a newborn baby goat fussing!

Let's Dig Deeper

Below, dig a little deeper in Shelby's background, learn about her experience, and what you can expect from our new partnership.

I’m excited to begin a partnership with GardenTrends. I have over 20 years of experience gardening. My vegetable gardening experience is just the tip of the iceberg, so let me tell you a little bit about myself and what you can expect from my partnership with Garden Trends.

I grew up on a small, one-acre hobby farm in West Tennessee. My parents moved to the country from Memphis so that we could live a slower life and be more self-sufficient. I grew up planting a ½ acre vegetable garden each year with my mom. We grew all of the basic garden vegetables: cucumbers, tomatoes, squash, okra, peas and beans. We also raised chickens and pigs at home, which helped to fuel my love of animals. My mom and I spent the summer preserving the extras that we harvested from the garden and putting up delicious jams, jellies and syrups from the grapes, blackberries and muscadines that we grew.

In high school, I joined the FFA chapter, which is where I met my husband. We ended up becoming the president and vice president of our chapter and went to every FFA competition and event that we could. I dabbled in livestock judging in high school and learned that I was pretty passionate about almost everything that had to do with agriculture.

After high school, I went to Mississippi State University. My initial plan was to go to vet school. I majored in Animal and Dairy Science and minored in Biology. I spent two years working at MSU’s College of Veterinary Medicine. I started working in the equine department since I had a ton of experience with horses. Later, I switched and worked for half a year in the food animal department where I helped veterinarians work on cattle, pigs, goats, sheep and even llamas and a giraffe. I realized while I was working in the vet school that I didn’t really want to go to vet school. I enjoyed working around the animals, but it just wasn’t my calling.

I stopped working in the vet school and started working in the MSU Meat Science Laboratory. I learned how to properly harvest livestock and process them into various meat products. I learned a ton about food safety and food production working in the meat lab. I’ve been able to apply many of those concepts to our lives now since we raise a large portion of the food that we consume.

After graduation, I moved back home. The year that I moved back home, my former high school agriculture teacher and FFA advisor retired. I was hired on and took over the agriculture and FFA program. This is when I found my true calling: helping people and teaching agriculture.

I was baffled at the disconnect my students had with where their food comes from and how gardening, raising livestock and agriculture in general works. At one point, I asked a group of high school students where they thought eggs come from. Their response? The grocery store! These were country kids that were supposed to know about livestock and gardening! After a few years of teaching agriculture, I realized that the gap between what people knew about agriculture was huge and it wasn’t just in kids. There were a ton of people that wanted to garden and just didn’t know where to start.

Since I was the only agriculture teacher at our high school, I taught a wide variety of classes. Some of the courses that I taught were also dual-credit classes, meaning that students also received college credit for the class. Some of the classes that I have taught include: honors biology, plant science, soil science, hydroculture, greenhouse management, large animal science, small animal science, agriscience, crop management, natural resources management, wildlife science and food science.

Of course, there’s a difference between lecturing kids about agriculture and actually practicing it. While I managed the agriculture program, we raised the funds for a large 80’ x 30’ commercial style greenhouse. I wanted my students to experience greenhouse growing in all forms. We started bedding plants, grew vegetables, grew hydroponic tomatoes, cucumbers, peppers and lettuce and even started vegetable garden plants. It still fascinates me how we can manipulate a plant’s environment and grow crops wherever we live.

Another aspect of teaching high school agriculture that I enjoyed was being the advisor for the FFA program. I’m a huge fan of FFA and the impacts that it can have on kids. I enjoyed competitions and FFA events just as much as my students, so we competed in nearly every event that was available. I coached teams for floriculture, nursery and landscaping, livestock judging, poultry judging, horse judging, soil judging, forestry and veterinary medicine.

While I taught high school agriculture, I started working on my Master’s degree in Agriculture. My M.S. is in Agriculture and Natural Resources from the University of Tennessee. I’m a big believer in always educating yourself, so it was natural for me to continue my education.

In 2018, I decided that I wanted to reach more people with my knowledge and passion for agriculture than just the students in my classroom. I started my blog, Farminence, as a way to share knowledge and help people get started with their home gardens and become more self-sufficient. It also helped me to not talk my husband’s head off about the latest agriculture news and updates that I had read. :) My blog has reached countless people in almost every country. In 2019, I retired from teaching to work on my blog full-time. I’m excited to be able to share my same knowledge and passion about gardening with the GardenTrends family.

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