DAUFUSKIE ISLAND - After living here for years, Pat Beichler had an ambitious idea: Why not create a common farm that could provide food -and minimize boat trips off the island to reach a grocery store - and unite the different residents who call this island home?
"I was a farm girl," she says. "I thought it would bring the community together."
Since 2010, the Daufuskie Community Farm has grown from a few volunteers to about 140 members, almost half the island.
It started with two goats and currently has 19 - as well as cows, a turkey house, a hog house, a chicken coop, a rabbit hutch and a vegetable garden.
Jo Hill said she and her husband Jack joined the farm because of its sustainable and community-building aspects - that and the food.
"The idea that we could have fresh eggs and vegetables that were not subjected to pesticides was very appealing," she said. "The farm has the potential to be an important food source, but it's still too new and developing to replace trips off the island for groceries."
The farm leases its land at little cost from Bill Greenwood, and it includes sheds and coops built from wood harvested and milled locally with a band saw. "We did buy treated posts," Beichler says, "because it wouldn't work any other way."
Beichler started by doing much of the work, but the farm's growing popularity has allowed her to step aside a bit.
"Now I think I milk twice a month, everything else is covered," she says. When new residents arrive, Beichler says, "it doesn't take me long to grab them. You've got to find people's talents."
The new manager, Lynell Linke, started small, and her involvement with the community farm grew, well, organically.
"My next door neighbor actually volunteered. I just started coming," she says. "I was helping her milk. I said, 'I can do this.'"
Linke, whose background includes biotech marketing and sales in corporate America, now helps manage the steady flow of volunteers needed to tend and feed the animals and manage the grounds and orchid garden.
"You've got to make sure people keep rotating through the processes so it stays interesting for them," she says, "so they don't just get bored washing bowls."
There's also a garden manager, an orchid manager and a website manager.
With all the new help, Beichler now is concentrating on building a new artisan village next to the farm, a place where the island's 70 artisans -about 20 of which are hard core -can market their goods to residents and visitors. It will feature several looms, spinning wheels and quilting frames, classrooms and a potter's shed.
"The entrance will say, 'Everything made on Daufuskie, Nothing Made in China,'" she says.
Her first building is an eclectic single room wooden house with the front angles level and square but with the sides askew.
"It's an optical illusion," she says. "It's Pat's Whacky Shack."
Nearby, the cows, turkeys, chickens, hogs and goats provide milk, eggs, cheese, poultry, pork and beef, and the farm continues to grow a little every year. Those who don't want to volunteer can make donations to help buy and support livestock.
Future plans include a hoop house for tilapia and micro greens, a hops beer garden, a bee house, and sweetgrass for sewing baskets.
"We have a great board of directors," Beichler says. "Everybody likes everybody. Everybody respects everybody. Nobody monopolizes the conversation."
If the farm faces a challenge, it's local predators.
"I'm sick and tired of losing ducks and chickens to snakes and raccoons," Beichler says. "But as soon as you've got one project done, there are five more in line."
Reach Robert Behre at 937-5771.