Story Hill Farm
Protecting pollinators, one pasture at a time.
Native Delawarean, Helen Raleigh spent her summers growing up in Sussex County. Upon her return home to a vastly different landscape, she wondered about the impact of habitat loss on native plants and pollinators. After learning more about the plight of pollinators, Helen and her husband Steve decided to create a new story for themselves with Story Hill Farm.
In 2019, with no first-hand experience, they purchased farmland in Frankford, hired farmhand Derek Kuebeck and the trio set out to transform barren pastures into meadows to restore pollinator habitats. Regenerative agriculture, specifically rotation grazing, was the key to converting poor soil into a diverse ecosystem. Armed with this knowledge, they set out to source some hooves.
Not one to back down from a challenge, Helen recruited a critically endangered heritage breed known as Randall Cattle. With roots dating back to 19th century New England, at their lowest point, there were only 15 Randall’s in the world and approximately 500 in 2015. Story Hill Farm boasts a herd of 11, including a new bull calf with five more calves expected this year.
With the goal of restoring pollinator habitats, the combined 40 acre east and west farm has six acres dedicated to pollinators; a two-acre native perennial meadow, a four-acre wildflower meadow and a two-acre “Cows Save Butterflies” test plot consisting of native perennials and grasses rotational grazed by the Randall cattle. Sussex Conservation District has assisted with soil sampling and pasture soil health tests and recently conducted a whole farm review for a whole farm plan. These efforts have the potential to assist with funding from the USDA Natural Resources Conservation Services for fencing, pads, watering facilities, structures and equipment necessary to help save American Heritage livestock breeds from extinction, preserve and protect native Delaware habitat and species as well as, enhance their rotational grazing efforts.
Conservation at Story Hill Farm goes beyond the fields and into the farm store where locally made goodies are stocked; Backyard Jams and Jellies from Milton, Local Roasting Coffee Co. from Roxana, Big Joe’s Honey products from Wyoming, Sopra Della Baia pasta sauces from Ocean View, treats from Cape Seasonings in Lewes and The Ugly Pie in Salisbury, Md. Freezers stock grass-fed Angus beef and local heritage pork. Heritage chickens provide eggs while the onsite gardens, interspersed with pollinator-friendly flowers, produce an assortment of fruits, vegetables and herbs. The farm store also stocks an assortment of non-GMO livestock and wildlife feed.
While touring the meadows, buzzing with activity, she shared the trials and tribulations that any new farmer has; she shares the story of where they started, where they are now and where they want to be and through it all she wants the farm to serve as inspiration. Even though she is restoring pollinator habitat on a large scale, she wants others to be inspired to do something, regardless of whether they have several acres, a suburban yard, or a city balcony.
“Plant for pollinators and have fun saving the planet,” she says.
To start or enhance your own pollinator story, visit the USDA NRCS Pollinators & Insects website.