Sweet Peas Urban Gardens: Growing Wake County’s Urban Farming Community

by Lindsey Carver and Tonya Taylor, Capital Area Food Network

Sweet Pea Urban Garden Crop Box

Hydroponic producer Tami Purdue will tell you that her favorite microgreen crop to grow is arugula, but she has also helped cultivate the urban farm community in Wake County, North Carolina.  Three years ago, Purdue left a career in law office administration and purchased a CropBox, a retrofitted shipping container.


CropBox, as described by the manufacturer, is a turnkey agricultural system that is able to grow the equivalent of an acre of field grown crops or 2,200 square feet of greenhouse space within a 320 square foot footprint.  This innovative system boasts that it uses 90 percent less water than conventional and greenhouse cultivation and 80 percent less fertilizer than conventional cultivation. It also promises to produce approximately 1,347 tons per acre while only using 27,000 gallons of water annually.  Compare that to the 270,000 gallons per acre used in a conventional agriculture system and the 321,200 gallons in an evaporative cooled greenhouse.  Those are no small drops in a bucket!


Tami Perdue, Sweet Pea Urban GardensIt is important to note that Tami’s CropBox was among the first prototypes in the country for this new approach to farming. Since her purchase, Purdue has grown microgreens, or immature vegetables and herbs, and educated the local community about their health benefits.  Microgreens are harvested at the formation of their first true leaves and contain between four and 40 times the nutrient density of full grown produce.  After a taste test, we can also confirm that they are bursting with flavor!


Purdue draws her inspiration from the initial crops of tomatoes, arugula, and peppers she grew when she moved to her home 15 years ago.  At the time, she did not know about the resources available to help with her struggling plants.  Purdue and her plants’ fate turned around when she started connecting with local organizations promoting food security, leading her to sign up for a workshop with Will Allen, founder and CEO of an urban farming organization in Wisconsin called Growing Power.  On the final day of the workshop, Purdue found her calling during the microgreens session.


Within two months of farming for a living, the physical issues Purdue felt from years of sitting at a desk vanished.  Purdue said that she started to feel “powerful, connected, like [she] was doing the right thing.”  While her CropBox may be a nontraditional growing environment, she feels the same peace growing and harvesting often described by farmers working outdoors.


Microgreens from Sweet Pea Urban GardensCurrently, Sweet Peas Urban Gardens sells about a third of their microgreens at four local farmers markets, about a third of their products directly to restaurants, and the remaining third of their harvest through Community Supported Agriculture-type programs.  While their top sellers by weight are sunflower shoots and their namesake, sweet pea shoots, manager Spencer Ware likes to create new blends based on availability and flavor.  Their latest iteration is a fiesta mix that includes purple radish, garlic, mustard, and cilantro.


While business and interest surrounding the CropBox and Sweet Peas Urban Gardens has grown over the last few years, so has the farm’s production capacity thanks to help from the next generation.  Purdue employs a manager, videography and photography intern, and volunteers from the World Wide Opportunities on Organic Farms program (WWOOF).  WWOOFers, as they are called, comprise a worldwide movement of linking volunteers with organic farmers and growers to promote cultural and educational experiences based on trust and non-monetary exchange, thereby helping to build a sustainable, global community.


Sweet Peas’ current ventures include growing mushrooms in containers on the floor of the CropBox, shiitake logs outside the shipping container, a wildflower prairie garden, a hugelkultur production area, and honey bee hives.  Sidebar: In case you finished the sentence and are still wondering what “hugelkultur”is, it is a composting process employing raised beds constructed from decaying wood debris and other compostable biomass plant materials. The process helps to improve soil fertility, water retention, and soil warming, thus benefiting plants grown on or near such mounds as defined by The Permaculture Research Institute and in Permaculture Magazine’s article “The Many Benefits of Hugelkultur.”


When asked what challenges seem most pressing for new farmers, Purdue expressed that land access and knowing what resources are available were key.  She believes in the power of experienced and emerging farmers connecting and creatively using resources to help each other.


After a visit to Purdue’s urban farm, there is no doubt that she has faith in the potential for urban farming to save our food system, emphasizing that “This is not just a fad.  This is real.”


Visit the Sweet Peas Urban Gardens and the other amazing sustainable farms on the Eastern Triangle Farm Tour, happening Sept. 23-24, 2017 from 1-5 PM. Plan your tour route and buy your carpass today! CFSA members save $5 on advance tickets! 

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Well Fed Community Garden and its Farmer, Morgan Malone

by Capital Area Food Network Farm Advocacy Circle

Just a 10 minute drive from downtown Raleigh, you can find an escape from the hustle and bustle of urban life at the Well Fed Community Garden, just one of the farms on the Eastern Triangle Farm Tour, Sept. 23-24 from 1-5 PM. Driving down Athens Drive, you immediately notice the pollinator garden bursting with herbs, flowers, and fruit trees. As you pull into the driveway and find your way to the backyard, you notice that this is no ordinary suburban lot.

This 1.5 acre parcel of land with a red brick home, was purchased by the owners of the Irregardless Café, with 4 other families in March 2012. Their goal was to use the acreage to provide fresh local food to supply Irregardless’ kitchen, as well as the community. With the help of many passionate, creative, and hardworking people, the garden has grown into a beautiful example of urban agriculture.

Shortly after the property’s purchase, the new owners surveyed the overgrown yard and were surprised to discover an old well, a remnant of its earlier farming days. The well has been re-dug and a modern irrigation system waters the entire garden. The Garden’s name speaks to the ‘wellness’ that the Garden is bringing to the community and how it reconnects us to the true source of life.


Farmer Interview – Morgan Malone

Farm manager Morgan Malone and resident farm dog Bella Pepper

Morgan first started working at the garden part-time as a summer intern with previous farm manager, Jenn Stanford Johnson. While working at the garden, Morgan fell in love with the close connection to the nature environment that she found at Well Fed, as well as the vibrant community of volunteers, students, and staff. As Jenn moved on to her new adventure at Chickadee farms (also featured on this year’s farm tour), Morgan joined the garden team full-time as farm manager.


How did you get into farming?

Morgan – Growing community through urban agriculture is where I find passion in what I do. I fell in love with farming and community based agriculture while I was in college at NC State. I learned that there was more to growing food than just seed and fertilizer. I started studying crop science but also working with community gardens and small farms. The community and people involved were very passionate and I loved being a part of that energy. To me, that’s happiness, plants growing and people coming together. It is how the world works, and being involved with that is really exciting.


What are your favorite crops to grow?

Morgan – The garden is full of a great diversity of crops. I love growing something that is new for people, crops that most people have never seen grown before. I love when someone first discovers that the eight foot tall, red stalked plant with striking white flowers is red okra, or the look on their face when they have tasted their first sungold cherry tomato fresh off the vine. Along with the great diversity of crops in the field, we also grow hydroponic lettuce almost year round in our high tunnel greenhouse. This is a very popular product because the leaves stay tender through most of the harsh summer months that normally turn lettuce bitter.


What do you love about farming? What are the challenges?

Morgan – There is so much I love about farming. I love how I learn something new every day and how there is rarely a dull moment on the farm. I love all the amazing people who I get to meet and work with, whether it is a student bringing new ideas, a volunteer with an interesting perspective, or just a neighbor passing by. We have such a wonderfully diverse community of passionate people involved with the farm.

In the past year and a half I have also had to face many challenges. A big one for me is time management. There is always so much to do it can be hard to step back and just enjoy the work that has already been done.


What advice would you offer new farmer?

Morgan – Farming is a very rewarding job; however it is a lot of work and can be a bit stressful. So much of what we do is dependent on uncontrollable factors, such as the weather. Especially as a new farmer, there can be a lot of pressure to not make mistakes. However, mistakes will happen; don’t let them get you down. Learn what you can and continue to move forward. There are so many wonderful resources and farmers who are happy to help you, so don’t be afraid to ask for help. Lastly, there will be many long, hard, hot days that will be challenging to get through, so never lose sight of your passion, farming should make you happy.


What are people going to love seeing on your farm?

Morgan – Once you walk into the garden you will immediately greeting by Bella Pepper the farm pup and our noisy laying hens, aka the “ladies.”  As you continue through the farm you will find there is so much to explore in the garden.

Using permaculture as a base for design, the garden has lots of exciting features, including seasonal and extended vegetable cultivation, blueberry bushes, black berry brambles, fruit trees, cooking and medicinal herbs, edible flowers, teas, mushroom cultivation, honey bees, and much more. This garden design promotes organic agriculture methods, which minimally disturb the Earth’s natural balance.

When visiting the farm, guest also love to walk through our pollinator garden and see all of the different flowers, herbs, and fruits that we have. Just spending a few minutes wandering through the herb garden or peering into the mountain mint cluster you will notice the wide variety of insects that find food and habitat in the garden. There is an incredible amount of diversity including many native species.

I also recommend that people wander back to the mushroom logs and vermicompost, and check out the hydroponic greenhouse.


What future plans do you have for the garden?

Morgan – I strive to make the garden a place that people can come not only to enjoy gardening and local food, but as a place where people can learn and share knowledge, find peace among the plants, and explore their creativity through art, mediation, and working with the soil.

The Community Garden is funded by the Irregardless’ guarantee to purchase up to eighty percent of the produce grown by the garden. The remaining twenty + percent of the produce is distributed to the volunteers and is given back to the community.


Visit the Well Fed Community Garden and the other amazing sustainable farms on the Eastern Triangle Farm Tour, happening Sept. 23-24, 2017 from 1-5 PM. Plan your tour route and buy your carpass today! CFSA members save $5 on advance tickets! 

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Old Milburnie had a Farm!

by Jeana Myers, Horticulture Extension Agent, Wake County Center

old milburnie farm

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Are you looking for a farm to visit on the Eastern Triangle Farm Tour, Sept. 23-24 from 1-5 PM that will let you see farm animals, crops in organic production AND mushrooms growing in a shipping container?! Drive 10 minutes east from downtown Raleigh on Old Milburnie Road, and you will step into a green oasis of rolling farmland. It’s here that Daniel Dayton started Old Milburnie Farm back in 2013 on over 100 acres of family property.  He brought 10 acres into production, while the surrounding land hosts a beautiful lake, deep woods and green pastures.  With a passion for growing healthy food in a sustainable way, his driving goal is to minimize off-farm inputs and utilize only non-genetically modified organism (GMO) animal foods. His plants and animals live a good life!

old milburnie farm

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Daniel got into farming through his educational experiences, by attending one of only two high schools in the nation that emphasize hands-on work for their students. At Northfield Mt. Hermon High School in Massachusetts, he got his first taste of growing food in their garden program. Wendell Berry’s readings inspired him to continue this applied learning path at Warren Wilson College in the mountains of NC, and as a Peace Corps volunteer in Mali, he put his education into practice. But while in Weed Science graduate program, he decided he wanted to farm full time and Old Milburnie Farm came to life.


What’s Growing on the Farm?

It’s a diverse farm, which can be a challenge to manage for one man and some part-time employees.  He raises about 20 hogs a year, 10 at a time, in a cool forested area on the edge of the garden.  They play in the mud and root for food in the woods and love being squirted with the hose! They’re fed only non-GMO grains from Sunrise Farms, day-old breads from Boulted Bread and Yellow Dog – local and organic bakeries, and enjoy the occasional brewers’ grains from Pinetop Distillery.  Daniel also raises about 3,500 Cornish Cross chickens per year from day old chicks.  After 4 weeks in a large, free range pen, the pullets are put on pasture or in the garden area for an additional 4 weeks, to grow on the weeds and bugs they love to consume. Each Wednesday, the adults are processed on site to be sold at markets and to local restaurants.

In addition to raising animals, Old Milburnie Farm has a 1.3 acre vegetable garden and a large high tunnel filled with mammoth tomato plants in mid-summer!  Another high tunnel is on the way, and along with a new tractor, managing the vegetable production will be much more efficient.  Raising oyster mushrooms in a small, air-cooled, shipping container is his fourth production venture.  The floor to ceiling bags of media are produced on-farm and inoculated with purchased spawn from Field and Forest.  To round out life on the farm, there are 13 bee hives, managed by beekeeper, Alice Hinman, who likes to house her bees on organic farms when possible.


Favorites, Advice, and Where to Buy

old milburnie farm

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When asked his favorite thing to grow, Daniel said he loves growing plants in the chicory family – endive, frisee, radicchio, and pan di zucchero.  Pan di zucchero is not as bitter as radicchio and means “sugar loaf” in Italian. These are beautiful, big plants that are delicious, grow well in our cool fall and spring weather, and are easy to weed!

Daniel’s advice for people wanting to get into farm production, is to start with a sound business plan because it can take some time to actually see a profit.  He also said if you know you are going into a certain type of production, investing in the tools to do the job right and efficiently can be critical to success.  It’s a balance of buying only what you can afford, and buying what you really need to get the job done.

You can find the delicious and sustainably-grown products from Old Milburnie Farm at the Midtown and Downtown Raleigh Farmers Markets, at their Farm Stand, by joining their meat or vegetable CSA, or by dining in restaurants that support local growers. Learn more at:

Jeana is a member of the Capital Area Food Network Farm Advocacy Circle.  The Capital Area Food Network is a community of Wake County citizens working together to support, sustain, and improve Wake County’s food system.


Visit Old Milburnie Farm and other amazing sustainable farms on the Eastern Triangle Farm Tour, happening Sept. 23-24, 2017 from 1-5 PM. Plan your tour route and buy your carpass today! CFSA members save $5 on advance tickets! 

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Experience Food & Farms Firsthand on the Eastern Triangle Farm Tour: Here’s how!

by Cindy Flowers, CFSA 

Tips for Planning Your One-of-a Kind Tour
If you just bought your Eastern Triangle Farm Tour ticket, you’re probably thinking about how to plan your route so you can see every farm, right? Well, this might not be the best approach. With 26 farms, 5 of which are new this year, the 11th Annual Tour requires a bit of planning (but not too much).

When you start planning your route, identify your #1, “Must-See” farm (pick 2 must-see farms if you are planning on two days of farm tour fun). You know, the farm that keeps popping up in your Instagram feed with the fleeciest sheep you have ever seen or the farm that grows that beautifully speckled butter lettuce your favorite restaurant has been plating up. Yep, that’s the one you want to put at the top of your list. Another option if you are unfamiliar with the farms on the list is to think about what you want to see: a dairy, for example, or hoop houses, a farm store or a getting up close and personal with farm animals. The farm descriptions on CFSA’s helpful Interactive Google Map, as well as the downloadable brochure, will help you find the your farm. Once you have settled on your “Must-See” farm, add 1 to 2 nearby farms to your route. That way, you’ll spend more time enjoying the farms and less time on the road.

No matter which way you choose your must-see farm, you’ll want to plan your one-of-a-kind route around it each day. Make sure this farm is the first or second stop, that way you know you won’t miss anything!  Plan for 45 minutes to an hour at each farm, and allow time for travel in-between (check the brochure or Interactive Google Map description for driving directions). Here is a preview of a few farm favorites for 2017:

A Farm With Fields of Flowers

Located in Timberlake, in the southern region of Person County,  Wild Scallions Farm (#25) is a three-time veteran of the Eastern Triangle Farm Tour. One unique feature of Matt & Renee Clayton’s multigenerational farm is their year-round flower production, yielding gorgeous bouquets for your everyday occasions or once-in-a-lifetime moments. Wild Scallions amazing arrangements should not be missed. You can check out their flowers-by-the-season here. According to farmer and owner, Renee, when you visit Wild Scallions Farm expect to see flower fields full of butterflies, hummingbirds, bumblebees, gold finches, and a dragonfly pond—quite a buzzing cloud of life! When you visit, make sure to pick up fresh produce, especially onions, from their new, trial no-till garden.  This short film, “A Farming Way of Life-Wild Scallions Farm” gives you more insight into why and how Matt & Renee farm. When they aren’t opening their farm up for the Eastern Triangle Farm Tour, Wild Scallions Farms’ flowers and produce can be found at the Durham Farmers’ Market.

A Fun Farm with a Unique Past

While every farm on the Eastern Triangle Farm tour is unique, Turtle Mist Farm (#15), in Franklinton, is the only one in a repurposed bull training facility. Turtle Mist Farms also boasts one of the widest range of animals in the Eastern Triangle, including pasture-raised hens, Red Ranger broiler chickens, hair sheep, heritage turkeys, Muscovy ducks, Toulouse Geese, partridges, beef cattle, Berkshire, Ossabaw and Tamworth hogs, peacocks, Flemish Giant rabbits, quail, and one Belgian horse.

Turtle Mist Farm regularly hosts school groups on its 60 acres, and offers a farm stay opportunity in a lovely home overlooking two stocked ponds. When you stay, you can even accompany Farmers Ginger and Bob Sykes on their daily chores, making this a perfect vacation option for those seeking a taste of real farm life.

On the tour days, Turtle Mist Farm will run hayrides around the farm for a small fee and will show you how to milk a goat at 3pm each day. Snacks, produce, and meat will be available for purchase. SNAP and major credit card are accepted at Turtle Mist Farm.


New to the Tour with a Big Heart

First Fruits Farms (#12) of Louisburg, is one of 5 new farms on this year’s tour. First Fruits was started by former NFL Player, Jason Brown. To everyone’s surprise, Brown quit playing football at the peak of his career to grow food for those in need. Much of what is grown at First Fruits, like sweet potatoes, is donated to hunger relief programs in Eastern Carolina. Jason plans to put more of the farm’s substantial acreage into production each year. Check out this CBS coverage of Jason Brown’s transition from the NFL to farming in the Triangle. Tar River Poultry Initiative, LLC will be on site talking about their Mobile Poultry Processing Unit, and hayrides will be available to tour the sweet potato fields, ponds, livestock pastures and forest farm.


A Few More Ways to support the farms you visit and get more from your experience:

– Help put the farmer on the digital map! Post pictures, check in and use the farm’s hashtag as well as the tours hashtag, #ETFarmTour. Let the world know about our amazing farmers, what they produce and why you love them!

– Wear shoes suitable for the farm and pack an umbrella or rain jacket. The Tour is like farm work, RAIN or SHINE!

– Make sure to bring cash and a cooler for taking home fresh farm goods.

– Meet your friends for a bite at a Farm Meal Stop. Blue Whistler Farm, Carolina Farmhouse Diary, Prodigal Farm, Meadow Lane Farm, Fat Radish Farm and Rare Earth Farm (Sunday Only) will serve lunch. Snacks will be available at Ninja Cow Farm, Vollmer Farm, Turtle Mist Farm, MamaSprings Farm and Bull City Farm.


CFSA’s Eastern Triangle Farm Tour is your backstage pass to the region’s sustainable farms! This year’s tour features 26 farms with 5 NEW farms spread throughout Wake, Durham, Granville, Franklin and Person counties. Don’t miss the unforgettable memories, delicious treats, and farm-fresh fun!

This self-guided farm tour, Saturday and Sunday, September 23-24, from 1-5pm. Tickets cost $30 per carload for both days of the tour, $35 for same day tickets. Information and tickets are available at


Hot Pepper Jelly, Jerusalem Artichoke Relish and Refrigerator Pickles

by Andrea Weigl, cookbook author and producer at Markay Media

Editor’s Note: Andrea shares three recipes: Habanero Gold Pepper Jelly, Ben Barker’s Jerusalem Artichoke Relish and Sweet and Spicy Refrigerator Pickles from her book, Pickles & Preserves: A Savor the South Cookbook.

Pickles - Andrea Weigl

Habanero Gold Pepper Jelly

This recipe was shared with me by an avid canner Rebecca Ashby of Winston-Salem. She not only serves it over cream cheese with crackers but also as a basting sauce for swordfish or pork loin. N.C. She was inspired by a version in the “Ball Complete Book of Home Preserving.” From “Pickles & Preserves: A Savor the South Cookbook,” by Andrea Weigl, (UNC Press, 2014).

Makes about 6 to 7 four-ounce jars


½ cup diced dried apricots (about 12 medium)

¾ cup white vinegar

¼ cup finely chopped red onion

¼ cup finely chopped red bell pepper, seeds removed

½ cup finely chopped habanero pepper, seeds removed

3 cups sugar

1 (3-ounce) pouch of liquid pectin


Place the apricots and vinegar in a large stainless-steel stockpot or enamel Dutch oven. Let the apricots soak for at least 4 hours at room temperature.


Add the red onion, peppers, and sugar. Stir. Bring the mixture to a hard boil, or a boil that cannot be stirred down. Add the liquid pectin, bring back to a boil and cook for 1 more minute.


Pour the jelly in hot, sterilized jars, leaving a ¼-inch headspace. Process the jars for 10 minutes.



Ben Barker’s Jerusalem Artichoke Relish

I grow a patch of Jerusalem artichokes, also called sunchokes, in my backyard. The second year I harvested them, I had more than I could possibly use. I found a willing taker in the James Beard award-winning chef Ben Barker, who along with his pastry chef wife, Karen, owned the now closed-Magnolia Grill in Durham, N.C. (It should be noted that Karen has her own James Beard award.) In exchange for the artichokes, Ben shared his relish recipe and graciously let me reprint it in this book. Although I can’t claim credit, this relish adapted from Barker’s recipe receives many compliments. Be sure to clean the artichokes with a scrub brush to remove all the dirt and cut off any troublesome or soft spots. From “Pickles & Preserves: A Savor the South Cookbook,” by Andrea Weigl, (UNC Press, 2014).


Makes about 7 pint jars.


1 gallon plus 2 cups cold water

1 ½ cups kosher salt, divided

3 ½ pounds Jerusalem artichokes, scrubbed, trimmed and cut into a small dice

2 cups small diced red pepper

2 cups small diced yellow pepper

2 cups small diced onion

2 cup sugar

1 cup light brown sugar

5 cups cider vinegar

2 tablespoons and 2 teaspoons mustard seeds

2 teaspoons pepper flakes

2 tablespoons ground turmeric


Place 1 gallon cold water and 1 cup kosher salt in a large bowl. Stir to dissolve the salt; add the diced artichokes. Soak overnight or at least 5-6 hours. Drain well.


Place the peppers, onions, ½ cup salt and 2 cups water in another large bowl. Let soak 1 hour. Drain. Combine with the artichokes.


Combine the sugars, vinegar, mustard seeds, pepper flakes, and turmeric in a stainless steel saucepan.  Bring to a simmer and simmer gently for 2 minutes. Pour over the artichoke mixture. Let cool to room temperature. Pack in the hot sterilized pint jars, leaving a ¼-inch head space.


Process the jars for 10 minutes. Let sit at least 2 weeks before enjoying.


Spicy and Sour Refrigerator Pickles

I first tasted these pickles while judging an office cooking contest at Burt’s Bees corporate headquarters in Durham, N.C. This recipe is adapted from Beth Ritter’s winning entry. Ritter says the recipe appeared in the Ft. Worth Star-Telegram years ago and was attributed to Dock and Opal Everett who used to own a produce stand in Waco, Texas. I use a mandoline to make quick work of slicing the cucumbers, jalapeño and onion. From “Pickles & Preserves: A Savor the South Cookbook,” by Andrea Weigl, (UNC Press, 2014).

Makes 2 quarts
2 pounds pickling cucumbers, such as Kirby, cut into ¼-inch slices (about 8 cups)

1 jalapeño, sliced

1 onion, peeled and sliced

4 cups distilled white vinegar

1/4 cup pickling salt

3 1/2 cups sugar

1 ½ teaspoon celery seeds

1 ½ teaspoons turmeric

1 ½ teaspoons mustard seeds

1 tablespoon black peppercorns
Combine the cucumbers, jalapeño, and onion in a large bowl. Set aside.

Heat the vinegar, salt, sugar, celery seeds, turmeric, mustard seeds, and black peppercorns in a medium stainless-steel saucepan over medium-low heat. Stir about 10 minutes, until the sugar and salt are dissolved.

Pack the vegetables into two quart jars. Ladle the hot brine over the pickles, leaving ½-inch headspace. Seal the jars with lids.

Let these pickles sit in the refrigerator for 5 days before eating. These pickles are good for a year but best within 3 months.

Pies for September

by Sheri Castle, award-winning professional food writer

These recipes are from my book, Sugar, Butter, Flour: The Waitress Pie Book. It
is a companion cookbook to the hit Broadway show. The producer and publisher
hired me to develop the recipes based on the script and lyrics.

I picked these three pies because pears and apples are just coming into season in September – depending upon where you live in the Carolinas, they should be easy to find at the farmers market. Pear will be in season until about October, but you should be able to find good apples until February. Blackberries, on the other hand, have an amazing – and fleeting – second season in September. This savory meat and winter squash pie makes the best of them before they’re gone until next summer.


Almost Make You Believe Again Pear and Cranberry Pie


Makes one 9 1/2-inch pie



One 9-inch deep dish pie shell



1 cup unbleached all-purpose flour

¾ cup packed dark brown sugar

1 tablespoon poppy seeds

1 teaspoon ground ginger

½ teaspoon ground cinnamon

¼ teaspoon ground cloves

¼ teaspoon kosher salt

5 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted

1 tablespoons molasses



6 pears (3 pounds) peeled, cored, and cut into bite-size chunks

2 cups fresh or frozen cranberries (do not thaw if frozen)

½ cup granulated sugar

1/3 cup quick tapioca

1 tablespoon apple cider vinegar

1 tablespoon brandy

1 tablespoon finely grated lemon zest

1 teaspoon ground cinnamon

½ teaspoon kosher salt

½ teaspoon ground ginger

1 tablespoon unsalted butter, cut into bits and chilled


Position a rack in the center of the oven and preheat the oven to 400°F. Place a rimmed baking sheet on the rack as it preheats.


For the streusel: Whisk together the flour, brown sugar, peppy seeds, ginger, cinnamon, cloves, and salt in a medium bowl. In a small bowl, whisk together the melted butter and molasses. Drizzle the butter mixture over the flour mixture and stir together with a fork until small clumps form. Chill until needed.


For the filing: Toss together the pears, cranberries, sugar, tapioca, vinegar, brandy, lemon zest, cinnamon, salt, and ginger in a large bowl. Pour into the pie shell, dot with butter bits, and sprinkle with streusel.


Place the pie on the baking sheet and bake for 20 minutes. Reduce the heat to 375°F and bake until he filling is bubbling vigorously and the crust is baked through, 50 to 60 minutes more. Transfer to a wire rack to cool.


 The Apple of My Eye Rum Raisin Hand Pies

Apple hand pie - Sheri Castle

Makes 6



1/3 cup golden raisins

3 tablespoons dark rum

1 cup granulated sugar

2 tablespoons unbleached all-purpose flour

¼ teaspoon kosher salt

¼ teaspoon ground cinnamon

¼ teaspoon ground mace or freshly grated nutmeg

1 cup sour cream

1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract

5 apples, peeled, cored, and cut into ½-inch cubes (4 cups)



Dough for a 9-inch double-crust pie shell


Egg Wash

1 large egg

2 tablespoons water

1 tablespoon coarse sugar, such as Demerara


Preheat the oven to 400°F. Line a rimmed baking sheet with parchment


For the filling: Stir together the raisins and rum in a small bowl. Microwave on high for 20 seconds then let stand until the raisins plump and absorb the rum.


Stir together the granulated sugar, flour, cinnamon, and mace in a large bowl. Stir in the sour cream and vanilla, Fold in the apples and raisins.


Working with half of the dough at a time, divide each dough ball into thirds. Roll each portion into a 1/8-inch-thick round on a lightly floured surface. Repeat the rest of the dough to make a total of six rounds. Divide the filling among the round, and then fold the pastry over the filling to make half-moons. Crimp the edges tightly.


Makes an egg wash by whisking together the egg and water in a small bowl. Gently brush the hand pies with the egg awash and sprinkle with the coarse sugar. Place the filled hand pies on the prepared baking sheet and bake in the center of the oven for 25 to 30 minutes, until deep golden brown. Place the pies, still on the baking sheet, on a wire rack to cool for 20 minutes before serving.


A Little Wild, Wild Berry Pie

Wild berry pie - Sheri Castle

Makes 8 individual pies



1 1/2 pounds venison shoulder or bottom round roast or beef chuck roast cut into 2-inch pieces

2 teaspoons kosher salt, plus more to taste

1 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper, plus more to taste

1 tablespoon bacon fat or vegetable oil

1 large onion, chopped (about 3 cups)

2 tablespoons unbleached all-purpose flour

2 teaspoons paprika

1/2 teaspoon ground allspice

1/2 teaspoon ground cayenne pepper

2 cups pinot noir or other dry, fruity red wine

2 cups beef stock

3 cups winter squash such as pie pumpkin, butternut, red kuri, or kabocha, peeled and cut into 1-inch cubes

1 cup peeled and diced parsnip

1 cup peeled and diced carrot

3 garlic cloves, finely chopped

1 small sprig each fresh rosemary, sage, and thyme

1 pint fresh blackberries, crushed

2 tablespoons packed brown sugar

2 tablespoons whole-grain Dijon mustard

Juice of 1 lemon


Pumpkin Drop Biscuit Topping

2 cups unbleached all-purpose flour

1 tablespoon sugar

2 teaspoons baking powder

1/2 teaspoon kosher salt

1 cup canned pumpkin puree

3/4 cup heavy cream

Freshly ground black pepper, to taste


For the filling: Blot the meat dry and season with salt and pepper. Heat the bacon fat in a Dutch oven over medium-high heat.  Working in batches, add the meat and cook 2 to 3 minutes per side or until deeply seared and browned, turning with tongs. Transfer the browned pieces to a bowl.


Add the onion and a big pinch of salt to the pot and stir to coat. If the brown glaze on the bottom of the pot begins to scorch, add a couple of tablespoons of water to loosen and stir into the onions. Cook 8 minutes or until tender, stirring occasionally.


Whisk together the flour, paprika, allspice, and cayenne in a small bowl. Sprinkle over the onions and stir to coat. Cook 2 minutes, stirring continuously.


Add the wine and stir to loosen the glaze on the bottom of the pot. Stirring continuously, add the beef stock in a slow, steady stream.  Bring to a simmer, and cook 3 minutes or until thickened, stirring all the while.


Return the meat and any accumulated juices to the pot. Stir in the squash, parsnip, carrot, garlic, and herb sprigs.


Partially cover and cook at a bare simmer for 2 1/2 to 3 hours or until the meat is very tender, stirring occasionally. Discard the herb stems.


Stir in the blackberries, brown sugar, mustard, and lemon juice, and heat through. Season with salt and pepper. Keep warm over low heat.


Preheat the oven to 425°F.


For the topping: Whisk together the flour, sugar, baking powder, and kosher salt in a large bowl. Whisk together the pumpkin and cream in a small bowl. Pour the pumpkin mixture into the flour mixture and stir to form stiff dough.


Divide the warm filling among eight individual skillets or baking dishes that are about 5 inches in diameter. Drop a biscuit-size mound of dough evenly over the stew. Brush the tops with a little cream and sprinkle with coarse salt and pepper


Bake in the center of the oven for 25 minutes or until the biscuits are firm. Let stand 10 minutes before serving.


Sheri Castle hails from Watauga County, but came down off the mountain to go to Carolina and now lives in Fearrington Village. She is a writer, recipe developer, cooking teacher, and popular public speaker. She is fueled by mountains, excellent bourbon, farmers’ markets, and searching for the right word. Sheri believes that stories happen only to those who can tell them. Check her out at

Green Tomato Pickles and Spicy Ginger Pickles

by Rebecca McKinney, Academic Program Director, Sustainable Agriculture
Culinary Institute of the Carolinas at Greenville Tech


Summer vegetables can be enormously productive in September through early November. Some years, my tomatoes have had hundreds of green fruits on them right before our first frost.  The fastest way for me to preserve the end-of-season of tomatoes, peppers, squash, and cucumbers is pickling.


Green Tomato Pickles

Pickling works especially well for green cherry tomatoes. So many tomato recipes are based on pecks or bushels – but here’s one that’s great for small batches and easily adaptable for larger quantities, based on a version available at  If you leave out the dill and peppercorns, this recipe also can be used to pickle peppers.   



If you’re using green currant or cherry tomatoes, pickle them whole.  For larger green tomatoes, cut them into wedges.  For each 1 lb. of green tomatoes or 2 pints of pickles, you’ll need:

1/2 cup apple cider vinegar

1/2 cup water

1½ tsp sea salt (or pickling salt; you just need to avoid salt that has anti-caking additives)


In each hot, sterilized pint jar, place:

1 tsp dill seed

2 garlic cloves

¼ tsp peppercorns



  1. Combine vinegar, water, and salt and bring to a boil. Turn off.  This is your brine.
  2. Pack stemmed green tomatoes or wedges into the jars. Pour brine into the jars. Use a wooden spoon or chopstick to remove the air bubbles and add additional brine if necessary, to ½” of the rim. Wipe rims, apply simmered lids, and screw on the bands.
  3. Process in a boiling water canner for 10 minutes. When time is up, remove jars from canner and let them cool on a towel-lined countertop (8 hours or so). When jars are completely cool, remove rings and test seals by grasping the edges of the lid and lifting the jar. If the lids hold fast, the seal is good. If they don’t, refrigerate immediately.
  4. Store in a cool, dark place.  They can be eaten after a week, but are best if left for a month before opening.  Store in refrigerator after opening.



Spicy Ginger Pickles 

For cucumbers and squash, I start with the Ball Blue Book bread & butter pickle recipe, but adapt it to my own tastes.  I use grated, fresh ginger and turmeric from my garden, and add hot peppers.  The brine recipe also can be used in making watermelon rind pickles.


Pickled squash

Ingredients for 4 pints:

2 pounds cucumbers, squash, or a combination, cut into 1/4-inch slices

1 pound onions, thinly sliced

1/6 cup sea salt or canning salt

1 cup brown sugar

1 TBSP mustard seed

1 TBSP freshly grated turmeric

1 TBSP freshly grated ginger

½ tsp peppercorns

4 small hot peppers of your choice (I use 4 Rooster Spur or 2 cayenne peppers, halved)

1 ½ cups apple cider vinegar



Combine cucumber and onion slices.  Layer with salt in a large bowl.  Cover with cold water and ice cubes. Let stand 1 ½ hours.


Drain and rinse twice to remove as much of the salt and excess water as you can. Combine the remaining ingredients in a large saucepot and bring to a boil. Add drained cucumbers and onions and return to a boil. Pack the hot vegetables and liquid into hot jars, leaving 1/2-inch headspace. Make sure that each jar contains peppercorns and a hot pepper (or pepper half).  Process in a boiling water bath for 10 minutes.


Rebecca McKinney, a long-time CFSA supporter and member, is Academic Program Director for Greenville Technical College’s Sustainable Agriculture Program and Executive Director for SC Organization for Organic Living (SCOOL).  SCOOL produces an organic growing conference in late winter/early spring each year.  Rebecca and her husband, Jay, enjoy growing, cooking, and preserving much of their own food.

Eastern Triangle Farm Tour Featuring Master of Kung Moo: Dan Moore of Ninja Cow Farm

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.

Ninja Cow

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 CowNinja 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.

Ninja Cow logoMoore’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.


Eastern Triangle Farm Tour Sept. 23-24, 2017
Visit Ninja Cow Farm and other amazing sustainable farms on the Eastern Triangle Farm Tour, happening Sept. 23-24, 2017 from 1-5 PM. Plan your tour route and buy your carpass today! CFSA members save $5 on advance tickets! 

Buy Now

Hayrides and Horses at Hilltop Farms

by Janie Hynson, member of the Capital Area Food Network Farm Advocacy Circle

Hill Top Farm Photo by Mary Kay Flick

Hill Top Farm
Photo by Mary Kay Flick

Down a beautiful road in Willow Springs, you’ll find Hilltop Farms, run by Fred and Virginia Miller. Virginia was born and raised on this land, which used to be family-owned JC Rowland Farm, and many of their family members still live close by. As a 44-acre certified organic farm, Hilltop Farms is committed to using no chemicals on their crops and only uses non-genetically-modified (GMO) seeds. I talked with Fred about how they got into farming and what they hope to share with visitors during the Eastern Triangle Farm Tour, Sept. 23-24 from 1-5PM.


How did you get into farming?

In 1999, Fred read an article in the News and Observer about organic farming and community supported agriculture (CSAs). At that time, there were only about seven CSAs in North Carolina. The article inspired Fred to leave his job working in corporate sales to begin farming. In his first year, his CSA had two members. In the second year, membership rose to seven then 16 in the third year. When Fred became a member of CFSA in 2002 and was also featured in another N&O article about CSAs around the same time, his CSA grew from 16 to 84 members in one month!


Number of years farming?

Fred Miller, Hilltop Farms.

Fred Miller shows off his organic fields on the Eastern Triangle Farm Tour in 2010. Photo by Addie Ladner.

Fred has been farming for seventeen years and full time since 2002. He primarily runs the produce side of the farm, while Virginia manages their eight-stall horse barn.


Most unique product/top seller?

Hilltop Farms’ top seller is tomatoes though Fred says they are not easy to grow! Their most unique product is organic strawberries. Since 2004, Hilltop Farms has been the first and only certified organic farm in Wake County, so this makes the farm very unique and a must-see on the tour.


Where you can buy

Hilltop Farms sells their produce at the Raleigh Downtown Farmers’ Market, Apex Farmers’ Market, and through their CSA. They also have an on-farm produce stand, though it’s not open this summer.


What advice would you offer new farmers?

Before getting into farming, Fred recommends that new farmers get experience working on someone else’s farm.


What are people going to love seeing on your farm?


Photo by Addie Ladner

When you come for the farm tour, be sure to check out the organic fields at Hilltop Farms. They’ll be offering hayrides about every half hour, which will take you by the fields. Visit the horse barn to see the horses up close and learn about them from Virginia. You can also feed the goats and say “hi!” to the chickens, if they’re not hiding!


What do you love about farming?

Fred considers himself very lucky to have the opportunity to have a job he loves. Farming motivates him to get up every morning and to feel that he has accomplished something every day.


What have been your biggest challenges?

It’s important to remember that the produce in the grocery store or at the market is the very best that a farm has to offer. What customers don’t see is all the hard work that goes into produce which never makes it to a market. Just because it may not be pretty enough or ends up in the compost, a lot of work is put into growing every fruit or vegetable on a farm.


Eastern Triangle Farm Tour Sept. 23-24, 2017
Visit Hilltop Farm and other amazing sustainable farms on the Eastern Triangle Farm Tour, happening Sept. 23-24, 2017 from 1-5 PM. Plan your tour route and buy your carpass today! CFSA members save $5 on advance tickets! 

Buy Now

Saving the Delaware Chicken and Other Rare Breeds at Chickcharney Farm

by Emily Mueller, Wake County CES

Chickcharney Chicken Coop

Dr. Julie inspects her flock at Chickcharney Farm in Wake Forest, NC. Photo by Emily Mueller

How it all got started…

Walking from one vivacious, active pen to next, it is hard to imagine how Dr. Julie Gauthier, owner of Chickcharney Farm, initially got started over eight years ago. Driving up to the farm entrance, I didn’t find any showy marketing signs, nor any of Hansel’s or Gretel’s breadcrumbs to lead the way. Just a few acres of green pasture with a variety of poultry herds healthily grazing within electrically fenced-in custom-built “mobile homes.” Not many people get the chance to see this beautiful farm in Wake County, but, you’ll be able to visit on the Eastern Triangle Farm Tour, Sept. 23-24, 2017 from 1-5 PM!

Being a single-person farm operation, Dr. Julie quickly guided us into what was happening at the farm. As she introduced me to the individual poultry breeds, I asked how she got interested in raising birds. It was clear that Dr. Julie strived to farm with a purpose; and that purpose, she later explained, is driven by a strong commitment to conservation. Growing up on small suburban lot in Michigan, she and her family raised much of their own food, growing organic vegetables and raising domestic animals for either meat or eggs. Looking back, Dr. Julie reflected that her concept of conservation farming didn’t come to fruition until she peered at some “old” heritage livestock breeds depicted within the pages of a picturesque coffee-table book that attracted her eye during her tenure at the College of Veterinary Medicine of Michigan State University (MSU). From there, more than eight years ago, Dr. Julie began nurturing her agricultural skills – raising micro-greens, growing mushrooms, and raising heritage poultry and thus, Chickcharney Farm was born.


What is “Chick-Charming” about Chickcharney


Photo by Emily Mueller

Heritage preservation. More than eight years ago, Dr. Julie began raising Delaware chickens as an effort to conserve this rare breed from the brink of extinction. Since then, she has taken on multiple other breeds categorized, beginning with most endangered criterion first, as “critical”, “threatened”, “watch”, “recovering” or  “study” on the Livestock Conservancy’s Conservation Priority List. Currently, the farm raises Delaware chickens (Watch), Magpie ducks (Threatened), Saxony ducks (Threatened), Pilgrim geese (Threatened), Narragansett turkeys (Watch), Beltsville Small White turkeys (Critical), dark Cornish chickens (Watch), Delaware blue hen (beyond ‘Critical’), Aylesbury ducks (Critical), and Myotonic fainting goats (Recovering). More information about these breeds can be found on the Chickcharney Farm or Livestock Conservancy websites.

Providing alternatives to the standard commercial poultry fare. Simply put, Dr. Julie states, “I like choices” when it comes to food. She then explains in detail the importance of these heritage breeds and how they all “play their part in the food system.” Many folks ask her why the traditional breeds are so expensive and the reasons are many. First of all, they are not a “food for the masses,” meaning that it will take longer for these birds to put on weight than the average commercial hybrid type. These breeds are meant to naturally forage in pasture and they gradually increase in size, which provides a better flavor and more interesting culinary qualities than industrial breeds. Furthermore, the heritage breeds are selectively bred, which means that Dr. Julie selects the best performers within each generation to pass on their genetic traits to future progeny. Such selective breeding in few generations can quickly lead to top-performing herds that are best-adapted for their local environment.

Chickcharney coops

Photo by Emily Mueller

Minimal environmental impact. Dr. Julie continues to follow the sustainable principles she learned in childhood. Contrary to many commercial poultry standards, Dr. Julie does not use medicated animal feed for her birds but allows them to naturally graze on what they were originally bred to eat. This allows the animals to naturally build up their immunity to local diseases and infectious pests. Those that naturally succumb to infection or are not ideal representatives of the breed are culled out of the breeding population. Heightened sanitation is required to maintain healthy animals in this system. Such a management system is more labor-intensive but helps build up a hardier breeding stock that becomes better adapted to overcome adverse local conditions.


A constant roller coaster ride for any resident farmer…

Photo by Emily Mueller.

Photo by Emily Mueller.

When I asked Dr. Julie what her main challenge was in maintaining the farm, she quickly answered (in a particularly disgruntled expression), “PREDATORS.” She always tells any poultry enthusiast to invest in electric fencing – it is well worth it. It was a hard-learned lesson that she wished she had learned years before. She also brought on board Louis, a guard donkey, who is a fierce deterrent of ground predators. In addition to Louis, Pilgrim Geese are additional herd guardians that help protect the birds against aerial predators: hawks and owls.

On a good note, Dr. Julie is known for her quality breeds and word-of-mouth marketing has led to increased sales over the years to buyers from many states. The initial threatened breed that the farm began rearing, the Delaware chicken, has since moved off the “threatened” list and is currently under “watch,” indicating a significant increase in numbers in recent years. Dr. Julie got a sparkle in her eye as she told me, then smiled as said, “I’d like to think that Chickcharney Farm contributed to that rise [in the Delaware chicken population].”


Eastern Triangle Farm Tour Sept. 23-24, 2017
Visit Chickcharney Farm and other amazing sustainable farms on the Eastern Triangle Farm Tour, happening Sept. 23-24, 2017 from 1-5 PM. Plan your tour route and buy your carpass today! CFSA members save $5 on advance tickets! 

Buy Now


Current Conservation Priority List of Poultry Breeds, the Livestock Conservancy;

Raising Chickens – Breeds to Consider, P. Allen Smith Home Garden;

The American Poultry Association;

The Virtual Grange and Growing Farmers Initiative,

Chickcharney folklore,