by Taylor Fish, Wake County Farm Bureau, member of the Capital Area Food Network Farm Advocacy Circle
New residents to the Triangle area are often surprised to learn that Wake County, a mostly urban community, is home to over 750 farms and contains around 530,000 acres of farmland. The Carolina Farm Stewardship Association is hoping to introduce you to a few of the sustainable, local farms in Wake County on their Eastern Triangle Farm Tour September 23-24, 2017 from 1-5PM. Reserve your tickets here.
One farm on the tour you do not want to miss is Ninja Cow Farm. Located just 15 minutes from downtown Raleigh, it’s easy to miss the entrance to this farm hidden off Old Stage Road. Driving up this country lane you will find yourself teleported to a small farm oasis in the heart of Wake County. You will learn how owner/operator Dan Moore uses his proximity to the city to his advantage in this sprawling urban county. Moore, the self-proclaimed “hippie farmer” will share the many environmentally friendly practices on his farm – from rotational cattle grazing to eliminating food waste. I can almost guarantee you have not visited a farm like it in North Carolina. There is also no other farm in NC that has a name quite like Ninja Cow, the story is very much worth the read.
Dan Moore’s family moved to this plot of land in 1980, it was then that he started learning about farming. Growing up in Garner, NC, dreams of the future never included life on the farm. After working 20 years in corporate America, Moore saw an opportunity to farm full time in 2015 and traded his old career for a more family oriented business. Farming is in Moore’s blood. Before relocating to Garner, his family had been farming in Flat River, NC dating back to 1793. He and his wife decided it was important to eat healthy food and wanted a sustainable product they were happy feeding their family of five. Moore claims that his “number one customer is still his wife.” Now Ninja Cow Farm has turned into a popular attraction for those truly interested in knowing where their food comes from. Unlike many farmers who choose to have multiple outlets to sell their product, 95% of sales are directly to his consumers from a small store open at Ninja Cow Farm Wednesdays and Fridays 2-6pm and Saturdays 8-5pm.
Ninja Cow Farm offers a very unique meat product. His animals have a diet unlike the any other. In an effort to supply his animals with the best feed available and reduce food waste, Moore feeds his animals left-over produce from the Raleigh Farmers Market. Many customers have become regulars because there really isn’t another meat like it available on the market. His top sellers fluctuate between the beef and pork. Most often it is beef and his ribeyes are all presale. There are only 24 ribeyes per cow; so many times you will find a waiting list for that superior cut of meat.
Moore’s favorite product from his farm is his Boston Butt Steaks. Ironically, the way he discovered them was by mistake. Moore had ordered a Boston Butt from the butcher but when he received it, it was not cut the way he had requested. Moore stuffed it in the back of his freezer and had almost forgotten about it until his wife cooked them one night just like a pork chop. Come to find out, they are tender like a porterhouse or ribeye, had great marbling, and seemed to resemble a steak…Moore ate it up, licked the bone, and then ate the kid’s unfinished portions. They became his favorite cut sold at the farm.
It is no secret that farming comes with a lot of challenges. Every operation is different, and you can learn from those trials over time. After talking with Dan Moore about his operation and what challenges he faces he states, “I have been blessed with good people working here.” With any business employing the right people makes all the difference. Luckily, he has retained almost everyone that he has hired over the years.
Moore’s biggest challenge continues to be marketing and learning how to bring more customers in, because once they are hooked on his product customer retention is easy. His second daily challenge is production. Moore’s production method is different than all others. He cannot call upon an expert from NCSU about his feed, because no one knows how to get cows to eat onions, carrots, and bananas like Dan Moore does. Many of his practices result from trial and error, and this can be very expensive. There is little to no research on the way he has chosen to care for his animals. For example, he learned that certain produce will make the cows bloat after having to perform an emergency surgery at 6 am. While managing life on a farm, there will always be something that you are recovering from or constantly improving.
What advice would Dan Moore give to new farmers? Financial planning is a must before starting any operation. Moore listened to a presentation last fall at the CFSA’s Sustainable Ag Conference, by Scott Marlow from RAFI titled “Why Farms Fail:” the answer is poor financial planning. Moore claims that it should be required before opening an operation to attend a farming “How to not go bankrupt” seminar. It is important to know your numbers, your expenses, to set your prices, and research the market.
What are attendees of the Eastern Triangle Farm Tour going to love seeing on Ninja Cow Farm? Many attendees will be impressed by the personal attention you receive when visiting Ninja Cow. Everyone who works on the farm lives on the property and has a direct connection to the farm. Especially in small groups, the customer service and time spent with employees will be the most valuable. As stated many times above, this is not your typical farm. Set aside a few hours to get to know Dan Moore and his family at Ninja Cow Farms.