by Amy Johnson  

Spring at Crosscreek Farm brings new life. When the final litter of piglets has been born and the dust has settled, Colette Nester can look around and take stock of what the year has brought. Baby chicks and ducks roam the pastures, learning from their parents how to live on the 50 acres of free-range farmland. When Colette inherited her share of the 250-acre family farmstead from her uncle, Alex Woodruff, she decided she wanted to teach her two sons, Taylor and Matthew, that same lesson. Now, along with her husband, Jonathon Scot, Colette teaches her boys how to work and live sustainably on their farm.


Just as important as the new life brought by spring is the history behind this farmland. Included in the 250 acres is a quarry with rock that was used to build the Blue Ridge Parkway bridges. There are also numerous barns and outbuildings, a homestead that dates back to the late 1800’s, and the original farm- house from 1907. The farm straddles the North Carolina and Virginia lines, with most of it in Alleghany County, NC, and about 75 acres in Grayson County, VA. Nearly 25 acres is river- front and a quick stroll through the pastures will take you down to the New River, where a world of ecosystems is waiting to be explored.


When Colette began Crosscreek Farm they were given chickens and piglets. Those gifts spurred a passion for raising feeder pigs and providing their own meat for their family. They are now raising about 80-160 heritage breed piglets, Jersey cows, heritage breed chickens, and have Great Pyrenees guard dogs, pygmy goats, and horses this year.


There is a lot more to do on the farm than just watching their ducks and chicks roam the pasture. The heritage hogs are raised on pasture, but also grained twice daily and receive fruit and veggie supplements. The farm also produces grass-fed beef and free range eggs. They are Animal Welfare Approved, a certification meaning the animals are raised from birth to slaughter using humane handling practices. These practices include early castration, no tail-docking, no nose ringing, no wolf-teeth removed, and all animals are on pasture. The farm prides itself on not using growth hormones or antibiotics on their livestock and the fact that all of their animals are friendly and free ranging.


The Nester-Scot family also has a small family garden. The garden is completely organic, using only livestock manure, pine needles, and ash from the woodstove. They have planted 1,200 asparagus crowns (that means plenty for this year’s farmers’ market!), and the rest of the vegetables and fruit are grown for the family or CSA customers.


Crosscreek Farm is overflowing with assets to share with the world. Colette often takes baby piglets, ducklings, or chicks to farmers’ markets, the library, and other public places to let children see, touch and hold baby farm animals. “They love it!” It wasn’t long before the family decided they wanted to share this delicious meat and eggs with the rest of the world!


So, how are they going to do that? They are currently finishing the renovation of the corn granary. This log-building will be the new home for their farm store. The current farm store is in their cinderblock “milk holding room,” and they are excited to show the new granary off! Their farm products can also be found through regional buying clubs or CSAs, as well as at both Cobblestone farmers’ markets in Winston-Salem.


Colette is also busy working with non- profits and economic developers to open a natural foods grocery in the downtown Winston-Salem area. For two years Colette operated an indoor farmers market store in Roaring Gap and wants to move it to a year-round location. “I see the potential downtown Winston Salem has for supporting local foods, healthy pasture-based meats and dairy products, and increasing economic opportunities for farmers in the region… We see it as very important to expose our younger generations to farming, to create a connection of consumers to their food, and assure the next generation finds rewards in feeding people as a way of life.”


If the farm and her two boys didn’t keep her busy enough, Colette is also actively involved in a local non-profit, Grayson LandCare, to fulfill an even bigger vision than the year-round market. That is the creation of a local food hub in the region of Southwest Virginia and Northwest North Carolina. She believes that the local food hub will create short and long- term solutions to ensure food security for the area—including increasing access to healthy foods, educating the public of the benefits of pasture-based meats and dairy products, fresh fruits and vegetables, and methods of connecting farmers to buyers. Colette is also currently working with Blue Ridge Women in Agriculture and the Seeds of Change Initiative to improve the regional food system.


As you can see, Crosscreek Farm focuses on growing their farm, their family, and their community. Colette and her family have begun a farmstead that they hope will inspire others, whether it’s through tasting their free-range eggs and meats or petting their friendly potbelly pig, Crosscreek offers a world of opportunities.


Amy Johnson is a Senior Communication Studies major at Appalachian State University. She is currently a communications intern for Blue Ridge Women in Agriculture.


This delightful farm profile appeared in the Summer 2012 issue of CFSA’s Stewardship News.  To receive this quarterly newsletter in the mail, become a member of CFSA today!  Join us.