by Jeana Myers, Horticulture Extension Agent, Wake County Center
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!
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
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: http://www.oldmilburniefarm.com/
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!