On the outskirts of Smyrna, Delaware, Andrea and Michael Haritos run an un-assuming homestead. While an unlikely and unexpected endeavor for these career real estate agents, the couple has transformed seven acres into a refuge for the hurting, a classroom for the curious, and a shelter for all who wander. Huck and Buck Farm-Sanctuary is all about feeding people, whether it be their bellies, their minds, or their souls.
“It’s comical for him and me to do this,” Andrea says. “I’m supposed to be dressed in heels and makeup every day, not Crocs and sweatpants with dirt under my nails.” Today, Huck and Buck Farm-Sanctuary is home to dozens of chickens, ducks, geese, and turkeys, along with a pair of potbelly pigs and the couple’s two dogs, King and Prince. They sell eggs, chicken meat, and cut flowers from their large garden, which also includes fruits and vegetables. They plan to add pigs and goats to the farm.
But food isn’t the only thing the couple wants to share with their community.
When they first purchased the property in January 2020, the farm was more Michael’s passion project than Andrea’s. However, in taking care of the garden and animals, Andrea found something she didn’t expect.
“The farm has become my therapy,” she says. “It’s where I really have peace.” In 2013, Andrea lost her son unexpectedly. Working on the farm helped her grieve. She wants to share that healing power with the community.
“I just want the farm to be a self-care sanctuary,” Andrea says. “Because of the healing I have experienced on the property, seeing other people come and have fun, and hearing kids say things like, ‘I’ve never actually eaten a tomato straight off the vine,’ or, ‘I’ve never had a handful of fresh blackberries,’ excites me.”
Andrea and Michael have already hosted several events on the farm, such as a community movie night and a field trip for a local Girl Scout troop earning agricultural and cooking badges.
Following a recent “chore day,” a regular opportunity for kids to volunteer on the farm, a young man’s mom called Andrea to share how impactful it was for her son.
“[She said] when he came home, all he did was talk about the birds. He asked if there was any way he could come back to the farm and work because he’s being bullied at school and needs an outlet,” she says.
It was realizing suffering people’s need for an outlet that helped inspire Huck and Buck’s latest venture: grief retreats for anyone of any age enduring any kind of severe loss.
“It could be the loss of a girlfriend, not necessarily by death, but just by something happening in the relationship,” she says. “It could be being fired from a job you’ve had for 25 years.”
Andrea says it may take one or two years to get all the infrastructure in place to execute her vision. Ultimately, she says the retreats will be designed to help people achieve “another level of emotional release and a sense of clarity.”
While healing is the heart of Huck and Buck Farm-Sanctuary, education is the bedrock. There is no mistaking that consumer education is Michael’s passion. Spend enough time with him, and he’ll show you his favorite YouTube videos about how you too can raise chickens. In addition to their organized events, Michael and Andrea have opened the farm for campers and glampers passing through, and for the couple, each visitor is an opportunity. “I enjoy opening people’s eyes to where their food comes from [and] how it gets to them,” Michael says. “I think every so often we’re going to touch somebody that’s going to want to do this themselves.”
Theresa Deakins, a long-time friend of Michael and Andrea, is on the board of directors for Huck and Buck Foundation, a nonprofit focused on using the farm to educate consumers. “I think the more we can bring people together, especially children, in what feels like a safe environment and talk to them about eating healthy, loving nature, taking care of our environment, and taking care of our animals, is really important right now,” Deakins says.
Andrea has even taken the education the farm has to offer on the road. With both Pterodactyl the rooster and garden samples in hand, she recently spent a day with the seventh and eighth grade students at The Bayard School in Wilmington, Delaware. “It was like something mystical really materialized,” says Marcella Little, a teacher at Bayard.
Representing A Community
As a Black woman, Andrea is an example to those in her community not used to seeing a person of color in agriculture.
“There is a big absence of Black farmers in our community,” says Michelle Brown, a longtime friend of Andrea. “Andrea channels her experience and love for farming to teach and inspire young children while making it fun and exciting for the community.” Little, who coordinated Andrea’s visit to Bayard, says the majority of the students are minorities, and interacting with Pterodactyl and handling the mint leaves Andrea brought made career paths in agriculture tangible.
“I cannot even begin to identify the lack of resources these students have within their grasp,” Little says. “For them to see the chicken and to know that [Andrea] lives here in Delaware, not too far from them, was awesome.”
Andrea says many Black Americans may steer clear of farming because it is associated with slavery and not thought of as a legitimate way to achieve success. But she says it doesn’t have to be that way.
“There’s so much value in owning land, understanding how to feed your-self, and understanding how to have healthy food,” she says.
Growing A Future
While Michael and Andrea have been real estate agents for decades, their long-term plan is to focus solely on the farm. Their enthusiasm for the farm and the joy it brings them and others is palpable.
Those closest to them say Huck and Buck is just the latest way the couple is striving to make life better for those around them. Erica Saunders, Andrea’s friend for more than 20 years, has spent a lot of time helping on the farm. “Andrea has shared a lot with me about her vision for Huck and Buck,” she says. “If she has it, she doesn’t mind giving it. She gives freely of herself. She gives freely of her resources…She wants to see everybody win, and that’s what I love about her the most.”