Local farmer is community-minded and education focused

Working on the Clark’s Chapel Road farm is a family affair for Malcolm Banks, his wife, Hannah, and their children, Noemi, Malik and Lucy.

Deena C. Bouknight – Contributing Writer

On land just off Clarks Chapel Road, Malcolm Banks and his family grow a variety of vegetables for their Yellow Mountain Garden business.

Time magazine featured an article a few years ago announcing “Small American Farmers are Nearing Extinction.” And, the U.S. Department of Agriculture reports continuing declines in farms throughout the country. 

But Malcolm Banks wants to change all that. He considers himself a modern-day diversified farmer. On a plot of land just off Clark’s Chapel Road, for his Yellow Mountain Garden business, he plants and harvests produce, sells starter plants, and much more. 

As a 34-year-old African American, Banks is distinct as a new generation farmer. He grew up in Georgia and pointed out, “My granddaddies and great-granddaddies were farmers since the 1800s, but the latest generation has not farmed. Instead, they have mostly moved to cities and taken other types of jobs. But I was around farming when I was younger, and it’s important to me to continue farming and educating younger people about farming.” 

He started out farming at 26 years old and continues to glean ideas, input, wisdom, and more from other farmers. Plus, he shares what he has learned.

Besides selling all that is offered through Yellow Mountain Garden, including hand-made soaps, CSA (Community Shared Agriculture) seasonal produce boxes, houseplants, farm-raised meats, and much more, Banks is community-minded and education-focused. 

“We grow food, give food away, make items, and partner with groups like ASAP (Appalachian Sustainable Agriculture Project),” said Banks. Children’s play dates are offered at the farm as well. In fact, anyone can contact Yellow Mountain to set up a time to see the farm.

“This is more like a community farm,” he added. “We want children to see a farm and see how foods grow … provide as many farm events as possible. It’s a lot of stuff, but I really want to teach the next generation that they can eat local produce and even grow their own food. There are not very many farmers these days, and I’m hoping to inspire next generations.” 

For August, Yellow Mountain Garden offers a late summer/fall CSA box that includes lettuces, radish, corn, beans, zucchini, peppers, and more. But Banks also encourages individuals to try growing a garden this time of year “anything in the brassica family [broccoli, cauliflower, cabbage …], brussel sprouts, greens … anything that can tolerate the cool weather of the early fall. The last frost is between Sept. 17 and into October. So you have to get the plants into the ground, and some of these plants can tolerate cold weather.”

Yellow Mountain Garden is a family affair, with Malcom’s wife, Hannah, handling business aspects, and the couple’s three children, ages 2, 7, and 13 years, involved in various capacities, especially during the summer months. 

“They have helped with chickens, the compost piles, building fences …,” said Banks. 

“The best part of being a farmer is listening to the birds, learning about the soil, meeting other people, and caring for the planet for the next generation.”