The world can be a seemingly chaotic and imbalanced mess, but if you are paying attention, every once in a while, you will notice an intrinsic convergence. Ostensibly unrelated figures following variant trajectories find themselves suddenly aligned. An overlapping of genres and factions that for the duration of their entanglement, make for wonderful bedfellows.

Richard Stewart is the sixth generation of his clan to work the land at Carriage House Farms. It has been nestled into the banks of the Great Miami River in North Bend, Ohio since 1855. Having left the farm to earn a degree in the arts, Richard was drawn back to his family’s business out of necessity but stayed after finding a real passion for growing food. After decades supplying ingredients to Cincinnati’s top restaurants, Carriage House Farms continues to cater to local chefs, growing what has always thrived locally. They’ve built a highly curated menu of produce that is historically tied to this region.

Richard’s vision for Carriage House Farms is one of family, community, and education. A barn was built to house their market to sell what they’ve grown, pickled, fermented, and aged. This summer a patio was added for congregating, and tables are available to enjoy the meals being prepared by Chloe’s Eatery. Barrels of fermenting vinegar labeled The MadHouse Vinegar Co. are stacked inside, a partnership with Cincinnati food powerhouse Justin Dean. Markers have been set for an expansion to make room for brewing and distilling, Justin’s vision for Lost Bridge Beverage Company. They are making room for the curious to experience dinners created by visiting chefs, cooking what came from the ground just a few steps away. Carriage House Farms will be the space for teaching us the meaning of “farm to table” and “sustainable agriculture.”

Richard sees the farm as a destination, a space for people coming together to enjoy a truly local event. A clearing by the barn has been prepped for a stage, a soundtrack for the goings on. It sets into motion the intersection with one of our favorite musical events in the area – Whispering Beard.

At Polly, we’ve spoken a lot about this festival filled with Folk, Americana, camping and the embodiment of a slower paced, laid back, Midwestern summer. Post-quarantine 2021 saw the return of the Whispering Beard Folk Festival, now in its fourth incarnation over a thirteen-year history. Born in a westside yard, The Beard then took up a long-term residence in Friendship, Indiana, moved downtown for a summer, and has now resettled in a more recognizable, comfortable rural setting.

Matt Williams, better known as Catfish and as one of The Beard’s OG organizers, described for us in May a changing landscape of hopeful uncertainty. Vaccinations were just becoming available, venues were welcoming crowds incrementally, and a return of live music was looking to be a possibility again. Like so many of us that had spent our time on the grind for so long, a year of forced hiatus let a little light in and illuminated the idea that maybe the nonstop hustle wasn’t the way. Catfish and crew responded with a diversifying of effort that manifested in a more thoughtful and spread-out Beard. First was a virtual music series hosted by fellow crew mate Casey Campbell. When we were free to creep outside again, May kicked off a Summer Series held on the river bank behind the Ludlow Vets, a welcome return of familiarity and ease.

They teamed up with Deeper Roots Coffee to produce their Harmony Blend Coffee, a philanthropic endeavor, the proceeds from which “are given to organizations working within the community to enrich lives through music.” The first benefactor of their effort is Healing Appalachia, an organization producing events that will raise money to fight addiction in the greater Appalachian region.

Behind each of these ventures, with what time and clairvoyance they could muster, was the dream to put together the summer sendoff festival that they’ve become known for.

The Whispering Beard Folk Festival landing at Carriage House Farms is a beautiful thing. While I loved the riverside, Tall Stacks-esque vibe of the Smale Riverfront Park 2019 festival, it feels right to return to an open field, baking in the sun among the scattered trees and the lawn chairs. It felt less temporary and more like a cohesive partnership.

With much of the venue’s infrastructure not even in place a week before the event, it was quickly pulled together with no sign of haste. There was room to spread out, Chloe’s Eatery brought their culinary A-game, and the complimentary water truck worked tirelessly to fend off dehydration. Any festival that begins with a tractor-pulled hayride from the parking lot will instantly be my favorite festival of the year.

The lineup gave us many of The Beardo favorites like local powerhouses Maria Carrelli, Buffalo Wabs and the Price Hill Hustle, and traditional Friday night closers, The Tillers. There was a special Hall of Fame mashup with Willy Tea Taylor fronting the Frontier Folk Nebraska. And in that darkened field, the stage lights, a lone beacon for all of Ohio’s flying critters, The Hooten Hallers and Senora May sang their hearts out, ingesting a few from the swarm along the way.

Years of planning an outdoor festival for the middle American summer can be a daunting task. There are no limits to the variables that can play out. You have to be nimble and adapt to all scenarios, imagined or not. What other organization could relate to this mindset more than a farm? With two stewards to nurture it, what can become of our favorite Folk festival is boundless. There are already plans of a permanent stage, on-site camping, and activities promoting the growing, preparing, and tasting of food.

All things change, sometimes by choice and other times by necessity. Carriage House Farms and Whispering Beard are not exceptions to this rule. Here is the path we find ourselves on, and for as long as it lasts, I’m really looking forward to watching these two organizations come together, paddling down the Great Miami in the same canoe.

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