Cary, NC – Good news for local agriculture: farmers who do business in Cary are on the rise. Here are three of their stories: a cheese maker, a grower of fresh produce and a farmer of lambs and turkeys.
50 Farmers in Cary
Living in a large town such as Cary has many benefits, one of which is availability of fresh produce from three (count ’em!) farmers markets. This week, I had the opportunity to see the market through the eyes of some of the farmers.
Western Wake Farmers Market (WWFM) lists 50 vendors. It’s a large market.
WWFM has been located in Carpenter Village for four years and serves the western part of Cary and Morrisville. A shopper can find just about everything they need for the week grown by those selling here including: eggs, produce, fish, meats, jams, honey and baked goods.
I visited with 3 farmers who are regulars in Cary: Chapel Hill Creamery, dairy farmer and maker of cheeses and sausage, In Good Heart Farm, a grower of fresh produce, and Little River Ranch, who raise lambs and turkeys.
Ckay from Chapel Hill Creamery told me that their operation has expanded during the 12 years they have been milking cows. They have added tewo additional rooms to handle cool storage and packing. Their Jersey cows produce rich milk that is ideal for cheesemaking.
At Chapel Hill Creamery every cow has a name given them by Allison the woman in charge of the herd. Allison monitors the 2 annual calving seasons and puts the cows on 2 months rest before they give birth. On the farm there are about 90 cows total, 40 milking, and then some who are 1-year-old (too young) and 2-year-olds, plus others who are resting between births. In addition to the milking rotation, the cows have a rotational grazing system around the 35 acre farm to have access to quality grass.
The farm also raises pigs which are fed the whey bi-product of the cheese. It makes for tender pork and helps with a waste that would otherwise be thrown away. They sell sausages and tender cuts of pork at the market too.
Of the cheeses they sell, some require pasteurization, and others are aged about 7 months making for a harder cheese which eliminates bacteria naturally. Saturday she had some fresh mozzarella that customers were stopping in specifically to eat with the market’s locally grown tomatoes. I picked up one of the aged Calvander to eat on crackers later in the day.
Meats: Lamb and Turkey
Bruce Roberts of Little River Ranch in Hillsborough has been farming all his life.His herd of Katahdin Dorfer hair sheep do not need to be sheared and are raised for the quality of their lambs.
He started raising sheep in 2005. Even though now he also works “in town”, he likes raising sheep because they graze and hang out and take care of themselves. He described farming as an “addiction my father gave me”. His family has raised hogs and run a dairy.
On the farm there are about 25-30 ewes and a couple of rams. They give birth twice a year, usually to twins. They graze happily on 16 acres of pasture and hang out with his flock of turkeys who are penned but not caged. Currently his wife, son and daughter help with the tasks required of the farm. His family has been on the same land in Hillsborough for more than a century. He spoke with pride of being the 5th generation to live in their house.
At the Market, Bruce sells ground lamb, lamb bratwurst (that customers are crazy about) stew meat, ground turkey, chicken eggs which his son manages, and whole turkeys for Thanksgiving (place your orders now!). His turkeys and lambs live together and are grazers meaning they can forage and eat in a pasture on high quality grass and grains. The meat he carries won’t be found in the grocery store, and if you have ever tried to cook a quality Indian dish and looked for lamb, you understand what I mean.
In Good Heart Farm had a wonderful variety on Saturday despite our very rainy June. Patricia Parker & Ben Field’s farm rests on 350 acres in Clayton where the sandy soil is great for the abundance of tomatoes they were selling. How is Patricia raising these in this wet weather? She told me they have their tomatoes under “hoop houses” which keep the fruit dry so that it doesn’t split. She admitted they have had less harvest than usual.
The farm produces 75 varieties of produce all year long, grown mainly on 5 acres of the property. With the mild climate, and crop rotation, something is always ready to pick. This week they had carrots, eggplant (at least 4 varieties) , potatoes (several of these too) , garlic, cucumbers, summer squash, and zucchini.
Besides selling at the market, Patricia has 66 member families of her CSA – (Community Supported Agriculture). This membership runs for 14 weeks in the Fall and 16 weeks in the Spring/ Summer. Members purchase seasonal shares (small, medium or large) which entitles them to pick up bags of weekly seasonal produce. Members pick up at the Western Wake Farmer’s Market, a location in Raleigh’s Five Points, or at the farm.
Why Farmers Like Cary
Portia McKnight, the owner of Chapel Hill Creamery, told me that what they love about coming out to the market is meeting the customers and representing their own product. “You don’t get that from selling whole sale,” she said. The Creamery also ships to some distributors and can be found at Whole Foods Markets.
This sentiment was repeated by the other farmers. Bruce of Little River Farm said that “the rapid feedback cycles (of the market) allow you to get better.” He added that vendors “can get an appropriate price for a high quality product.” He values the personal relationship he has developed with his customers.
“Being part of a real community is unfortunately a rare experience in modern America and the market is a true community.” – Bruce Roberts of Little River Ranch
Patricia Parker of In Good Heart Farm remarked that “Where else can you ask about how the food was grown, when it was harvested … from those very people who grew or made it?”
She added “It also allows us to form relationships with other farmers! Every week we feel good about the food we grow and provide for others. And, we feel good about the food we buy from our fellow farmers.
“Every Saturday is truly the highlight of our week!” – Particia Parker, In Good Heart Farm
Story and photos by Lindsey Chester.
Food and agriculture coverage on CaryCitizen is sponsored in part by Western Wake Farmers Market.