2017 is our 36th year in production, crazy!
We arrived in North Carolina in 1980 with fresh degrees in Soils (Alex) and Forestry (Betsy) from Utah State University and with a dream to live in the country and farm. Just over a year later we had developed a plan, incorporated a business and purchased a piece of land, the adventure was on!
Neither one of us was from a farming background but we had parents that loved growing things and then cooking and eating them. We were also way ahead of the of local food wave. We were young, tough, not afraid of work and naive. In 1982 we planted our first crops, the plan was pick-your-own berries. Four acres of blackberries and raspberries with more to come. We had no money so we moved into a tent so we could be here to work and to save what little money we had.
There were few of us growing for local markets back then partly because there really were no local markets. In 1982 the now fabulous Carrboro Farmers’ Market was only in it’s 4th year. There was no Weaver Street Market or Whole Foods. The fine dining restaurant scene in Chapel Hill was just barely waking up with Bill Neal just having bought Crook’s Corner in 1982, leaving Ben and Karen Barker and Bill Smith with Moreton Neal at La Residence (The Neals had started La Res out at the Fearrington House Inn back in 1976 and moved it to town in 1978, more here on the restaurants we sell to).
From the beginning, as card carrying environmentalists having participated in the first Earth day activities in 1970, we wanted to manage this piece of land in the most responsible way possible. Organic was barely a word in the lexicon of the time, much less sustainable. Over the years we have, literally, worked to define what those words mean and then implement the practices that best support those goals.
Now three decades later we have developed a small farming operation that is diverse, balanced and gives us a quality of life that renews us, our community and the land.
Today we are raising crops on 3-4 acres of our 26, down from a high of 5 acres in production. There are no more raspberries or blackberries left. Our crop mix is very diverse with about 75 percent in vegetables and 15 percent in cut flowers. We do have a quarter acre of the best blueberries on the planet (sorry, no pick your own) and for 10 years we raised up to 100 turkeys a year for Thanksgiving and Christmas.
To get all of this work done, beyond ourselves being full time on the farm (a rare situation for both husband and wife to not have off farm work), we typically hire two people each season. We have been fortunate to have had excellent help for many years and are proud of the fact that nearly half of them have gone off to start their own operations.
In 2012 we began a process to bring one of those people into the business as a partner so that we could begin to slowly step back from the daily field operations as we moved into our seventh decade. While we are still out working daily, Jennie is now doing a great job overseeing the crew and all aspects of production with input from the two of us. The farm continues to evolve!
We also feel that it is important to participate in the larger farming and food communities. It is critical that farmers have a voice and be represented on the boards and organizations that will move agriculture forward to a more sustainable future. We have worked with many groups over the years, you can see some of our favorites here.
Throughout the website and blog you will find more stories and pictures of the farm, it continues to be a great adventure!