by Jared Cates, Community Mobilizer
Grace and Cary Kanoy have been making themselves known in their community in Thomasville, NC. They’ve joined many local boards, they’re leading an effort to develop a food council, and Grace recently gave an address at the annual State of the City and State of the County event. This young couple is stirring the pot with some big ideas; they believe the timing is right to make Thomasville a city of the future.
For the past couple of years, the Kanoys have been dreaming big and exploring Thomasville and Davidson County. They began by pondering the question: what are two things that we need as a family to stay in this area? Their answer: food and fun. By food, they mean locally grown, fresh food. And by fun, they mean outdoor recreation.
Grace and Cary both believe that Davidson County could be a regional destination for food and fun, and they imagine the community as the future Day Trip Capital of North Carolina. They imagine an underground creek running through downtown Thomasville daylighted, or opened up so residents can enjoy it. Its old mill buildings could be transformed into a park site, dotted with enough dogwood trees to draw tourists to an annual spring blossom festival rivaling the cherry blossom celebrations of Japan. They imagine a network of bike trails that could host cyclo-cross competitions and dual-slalom races. They see an economy based on the tradition of small farms: the butcher, the baker, the beekeeper, the cook, the canner, the hunter, and the outdoor explorer. They imagine a Davidson County that draws in the new American pioneer – the risk takers, the economy builders. They imagine a community where physical activity is simply a part of daily life and the economy.
But this was not always the case; in years past they admit to being vocal critics of Thomasville, albeit from the confines of their kitchen. The couple relocated to Thomasville in the early 2000s, moving to the farm that has been in Cary’s family since the 1870s. Although there were not many amenities in Thomasville, they loved the idea of moving back to the family farm and being in the country, as opposed to the big city life of Vancouver.
In 2010, the couple attended CFSA’s Sustainable Agriculture Conference in Winston-Salem, a big turning point for their family. They came primarily because Cary’s dad was growing older; they were concerned about the future of the farm.
“That conference kickstarted the way we look at food and how you can make a difference in your community,” said Grace. “Our mindset started to change in the way that we look at the food system. We’ve always been foodies, but integrating a sustainable mentally into how we actually live has changed our lives in a profound way. That’s when it all started. That conference inspired us to learn more about community food systems and to learn about different farming techniques like permaculture.“
Due to the many opportunities they believe exist for Davidson County, Grace and Cary have now made it their personal mission to get involved in all aspects of their community.
“We complained a lot about our county, but we realized that we have to do something besides complain and actually give it a real effort,” said Grace. “By getting out there and connecting with our community we learned that there are local government structures and non-profit structures that crave citizen participation. If you just ask, then it is pretty likely that you can get on a board and start making a real difference in your community.”
For the past two years the couple has been fully engaged in a handful of groups. Cary is member of the Thomasville Chamber of Commerce Board of Directors. Grace joined the Board of Family Services of Davidson County as well as PACE (People Achieving Community Enhancement), which focuses on downtown enhancement in Thomasville. Cary lobbied to be on the advisory board for the Yadkin Valley Career Academy, a new local STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, Math) school, and is now co-chair of its Executive Board. All it took was asking to join and actually showing up for meetings.
In 2012, the couple started to hear about the different community food councils that were popping up around the state and the rest of the country. They became intrigued and wondered what a food council could do for Davidson County. In early 2014, the Kanoys heard about a webinar hosted by the Center for Environmental Farming Systems and UNC School of Government on food council development. They worked with the Davidson County Health Department to host a viewing site for the community. Around 13 people showed up to view the webinar, and the group expressed a strong interest in pursuing the establishment of a community food council.
Since that time, Cary and Grace have been dropping in on various farms and local farmers’ markets to collect names to add to their growing email list of people who want to join the food council discussion. The more people they speak with, the more they learn about various parts of the food system. The more connections they make, the more they find out about individuals and organizations that are already working towards a healthy, safe and vibrant community food system.
“The number one issue in our community is communication. There are wonderful organizations but all in their own insular areas. There is no intra-organizational discussion,” said Grace.
This is one of the reasons that the couple has launched a blog telling the story of efforts to create change in the community. They are providing a virtual space for all of those in the community who are starting innovative and passionate ventures. “I think that people appreciate that we’re engaged and that we’re good at communicating,” Grace continues, “We are good at finding people and finding out who needs to know what.”
Grace and Cary imagine what their community might look like with new devotion from county government towards making Davidson County a destination for recreational travel and a hub for locally grown foods. They believe that an official food council could help build collaboration and break down silos within the community. The group that met for the food council webinar has reconvened twice since and has plans to meet again in January. Meetings are held in different parts of the county so that all community members have an opportunity to engage in the discussion.
Through all of their networking and conversations the couple has already learned some encouraging facts about Davidson County.
From Grace and Cary:
1. We have discovered that Thomasville City Schools has a grant to supply fresh fruits and vegetables to the students and that the Nutrition Director has been able to get a grant to provide free breakfast and lunch to all students in the school district. We don’t understand the regulations and that is one of the obstacles to actually connecting local producers with the schools.
2. The Health Department has assisted several convenience stores and gas stations to sell fresh produce by providing them with an extra cooler to hold product.
3. There have been attempts in the past to supply local produce to restaurants, but it was a one-man deal. We think we can resurrect this effort.
4. We have re-recruited some of the past pioneers to come back and join the challenge, partially because the timing is right and people are ready to assist.
June Holley, author of The Network Weaver Handbook, describes Network Weavers as people who “identify a network of people with common interest and help them to focus on increased effectiveness of that interest.” She goes on to explain that networks are everywhere, but someone has to help people become aware that they are actually part of a web of relationships for them to make a real difference. Grace and Cary Kanoy embody this definition of Network Weavers; they are working to strengthen their community food system by networking and connecting people across their county towards a common goal. And all they had to do was ask and engage with their community!
Well – ask and engage, go to many meetings, keep up with their blog, their garden, and their kids. They acknowledge that it has taken a lot of work, but they are excited about the prospects for the future of Davidson County. Plus they have met a lot of new people in the community. If you ever have the pleasure to visit the Kanoy homestead, you will likely leave with an armful of homemade jam, some veggies, a link of venison sausage, and maybe a rabbit or two if you’re lucky; it’s no wonder they’re making friends across the county!
For more information on these efforts, on June Holley and Network Weaving, or on food councils in general, please email CFSA’s Community Mobilizer, Jared Cates, at jared@.
|Farm/Organization Name:||Highgate Farm|
|Contact Name:||Melissa Harwin|
by Stephanie Morrison, Simple Living Farm
In 2013, after two years of debating if a career change to organic farming was wild and crazy, I decided to take the leap. After completing an eight-week farming workshop series, I was ready to become a farmer.
My plot was located one hour from my house. I would pack my car up with tools and plants and take the hour trip to rural North Carolina. The ride gave me a chance to dream precious dreams of agriculture and sunshine.
I had dreams, folks. My color-coded Excel farm plan showed me exactly how many transplants I needed per row. Now, I had never grown my own transplants before, but I did learn something about this in my classes. So, I set up some grow lights in my spare bedroom. I watched as the seeds begin to sprout, grow frail and die. After researching where I went wrong, I learned I didn’t have enough light. So, I purchased more grow lights and hoped the government didn’t raid my home for “suspicious activity.”
Planting season had begun, and I had only three trays of sunflowers. Determined not to let my failed attempt at growing transplants stop my dream of being a farmer, I marched to the farmers’ market and ordered enough transplants to fill my plot.
But where would I sell my hundreds of pounds of produce? During the fall, many farmers’ markets in my area issued a call for vendors. They were looking for unique produce, artisan bread and crafts. I had unique produce, right? My produce was going to be organic and of the highest quality. Well, maybe not certified organic, but organically grown. People would understand that. I applied to markets in my area knowing that my “organic,” high-quality produce would knock the socks off customers everywhere. I hadn’t seen so many rejection letters since post-grad job hunting. Among the reasons, “We have enough produce vendors.” Not to mention I wasn’t organic certified.
And then came the rain – more than nine inches above normal. It seemed to rain every day. I was happy I didn’t have to irrigate since it rained so much, but with the rain came the weeds. The hay I put down in the spring seemed to disappear within weeks. After work when the rain let up, I weeded. At first it was at my ankle, then my knee. Next thing I knew it was taller than me. Me and my trusty weedeater couldn’t keep up with it. At one point, my husband suggested using something with “teeth” because the plastic was no match for the trees growing around my tomatoes. Coming to the farm after work I just would look at the weeds getting taller and laughing at me and get sad. Finally, the farm manager made the decision to till my plot in and suggested I look into a farm incubator program closer to my residence.
You would think after all of this I would quit farming and try another career. Well, you’re wrong. I’ve learned so much this year by doing things wrong that next season has to be better. I am not promising a record breaking year, just an improved one.
Unbeknownst to me, I started thinking like a farmer and a good businesswoman. I moved to an incubator farm 10 minutes from my house. They provided space in their greenhouse to grow my transplants. Next, I got a farmer mentor to help me transfer book knowledge to the field. If you don’t get anything else, get a mentor. Lastly, I found a small farmstand and CSA to squeeze my produce in. As you move into my second year, I can tell you that it gets easier. The more you dig the more you learn. If you fail, that’s okay. Learn from your mistakes and keep moving forward. Ultimately, you will find your rhythm and your way.
Stephanie spent summers and holidays on her grandparents’ homestead. She watched her family raise hogs, chickens and grow vegetables in their home garden. It wasn’t until her early 20s that she started gardening. After maximizing the space at her home she decided to try her hand at farming on a larger scale, and in 2013 she started Simple Living Farm. You can reach Stephanie at Stephanie@simplelivingfarm.com
by Diana Vossbrinck
Cleopatra. Cinderella. Sokrates. They make interesting family portraits, covering the walls of the back parlor in Joe and Gloria Williams’ home. Joe points to each picture in turn, naming them with a twinkle in his eye, much like any proud papa. Displayed are the alpacas of Lucky Acres Farm, where these beautiful, gentle creatures are indeed a part of the family. Learn More
HURRICANE CREEK FARMS
Hydroponic Vegetables & Herbs • Beef Cattle • Heritage Corn Grits
JESSE & DEBBIE ADKINS
220 Moores Mill Road Pelzer, SC 29669
Local vine-ripened tomatoes at Christmas? Tender lettuce in the heat of August? Taste the freshness for yourself and see how Hurricane Creek makes season extension possible with state-of-the-art hydroponics, where veggies are grown indoors and pesticide free! Tour greenhouses featuring 1,400 towering tomato plants, ten varieties of lettuce, as well as cucumbers, bell peppers and herbs. Enjoy demonstrations on corn grinding and honeybees.
Heritage Turkeys • Eggs • Vegetables • Honey
GAIL & MIKE COOLEY
309 Trotter Road Piedmont, SC 29673
The Cooley family will give guests an informative and entertaining tour of their beautiful, pasture-raised heritage turkey farm. Patient Wait is Animal Welfare Approved and features an egg-to-breeding learning experience. Children will love seeing the hatchings, turkey poults, goslings and ducklings on the farm. Visit the barn to see the Nigerian Goats and resident ponies. Visitors can reserve a fresh turkey for the holidays and pick up some heirloom vegetables and goat milk soap from the farm.
WALKER CENTURY FARM
Heritage Cattle • Pastured Pigs
NANCY & WILLIAM WALKER
110 Walker Road Anderson, SC 29621
Returning to the tour, this beautiful homestead has been in the Walker family since at least 1880 and farmed continuously since its early days in cotton production. Now home to pastured heritage cattle and pigs, guests will enjoy a hayride through the green fields, learning about the farm’s history and its sustainable production methods.
Buy your tickets now for the 10th Annual Upstate Farm Tour, June 18-19 from 1-6 PM!
Visit www.carolinafarmstewards.org/uft for all the details.
HARP & SHAMROCK CROFT
Goats • Eggs • Vegetables
PAUL & JENNI CALLAHAN
1296 Woods Chapel Road
Duncan, SC 29334
This homestead was created with a self-sufficient mindset at its heart. The Callahan family started this farm in 2013 with goats, chickens and vegetables. They now produce an abundance of fresh and natural food, which can be found at Upstate farmers markets.
Goats • Pigs • Eggs Poultry • Heritage Turkeys • Honey Bees • Vegetables • Soaps
THE KAISER FAMILY
39 Varner Street Woodruff, SC 29388
On just a few acres and free of GMOs, the Kaiser family raise pigs, chickens, dairy goats, honey bees, and produce heirloom vegetables. New to the farm this year are grass-fed cattle and quail. Visitors will be able to also see baby chicks in the brooder and goats with young kids.
NEW – CRESCENT FARM
Certified Organic Vegetables
3111 Highway 56 South Clinton, SC 29325
Crescent Farm is a small family farm located south of Clinton, SC on 6 acres. Crescent Farm is truly a family farm as Margie Levine is joined by her daughter and son-in-law, Holly and Jon, and their two children. While only in operation for three years, Margie brings years of organic farming experience in the Northeast to the operation. Visitors will see where vegetables are grown for some of the Upstate’s best restaurants. In addition to their CSA, Crescent Farm’s Certified Organic vegetables can be found at the TD Saturday Market in downtown Greenville and Swamp Rabbit Cafe & Grocery.
Buy your tickets now for the 10th Annual Upstate Farm Tour, June 18-19 from 1-6 PM!
Visit www.carolinafarmstewards.org/uft for all the details.
By Marianna Spence, CFSA’s Membership Coordinator
Their children, Fermin and Fiamma, were four and five years old when the Lujan family moved to the United States 16 years ago to an apartment in Burlington, NC.
In Argentina Fabian and Sandra were beekeepers, with more than 80 hives at one point. Even so, they considered beekeeping a side job and wanted to take the next step as farmers.
“We were about to move to a very isolated farm with the idea of being self-sufficient,” said Sandra. “We got the place ready to move and a gigantic flood ruined the space. We lost 20 hives and couldn’t access the farm for three months because of washed out roads. It wasn’t a good way to start.”
After losing that momentum, Fabian started working as a photographer but the economy in Argentina lost stability. The family decided to move to the United States in 2000 and didn’t farm for four years.
“I had two or three tomato plants in some pots, and that was all my farming,” laughed Sandra.
In 2004, the family moved to a house and added bees, chickens, and a garden with the idea of starting an herb farm. Fabian and Sandra mastered herbal jellies – rosemary and orange, thyme and merlot – to sell at market with honey but noticed that the jellies and honey didn’t equal weekly return customers.
“People were excited when we first came to market, but we weren’t selling products they needed every week,” said Sandra. “That’s when Fabian started making artisan breads – also because we really missed fresh baked bread from Argentina!”
In the early 2000’s artisan bakeries weren’t common; Sandra doesn’t remember any in Burlington. The only bread the Lujans liked was a take-and-bake loaf from Harris Teeter.
“It’s funny. Now we always sell out at the farmers’ market so we STILL don’t have our own bread,” said Sandra. “One day we went from the farmers’ market to Harris Teeter to buy bread to eat with dinner!”
The Lujans had developed a customer base and began considering their next step. Sandra had recently read a story about a Georgia meat farmer who raised everything from cows to rabbits. This farm experienced more success by honing in on cows and producing cheese. Sandra mentioned the idea to Fabian one summer as they were playing with their family at the beach.
“It was something we could do no matter the weather, and it would pair well with our current products, creating a cohesive storefront of goods” said Fabian. He was ready to run with the idea.
One small challenge – Fabian had never made cheese, they didn’t have a license, they didn’t have cows or a creamery or a cheese aging room. Nothing to make cheese.
They met with their friends, the Gerringers of Calico Farmstead Creamery, and worked out a plan to buy their cow milk and rent use of their creamery on Sundays. Jackie Gerringer also gave them books and moral support. Fabian set out to create raw cow’s milk cheese, which requires an aging process of two months.
“In order to have a real idea of what was going on with the cheese, we had to wait two months,” said Fabian. “After only a month waiting and making new cheeses along the way, we couldn’t wait anymore. We sliced into a wheel and it smelled like cheese! We tried it and we were like ‘Look at that! It’s real cheese!’”
After they got a license, Fabian started making eight wheels of cheese at a time using 50 gallons of milk. Their fridge was packed within three weeks. First batches were ready to sell in November 2013 and sold out by December (without selling at a large farmers’ market because most were finalizing the season).
They have continued making small batches of 8-10 wheels per week of three varieties. They’ve also continued selling out.
The Lujan’s shared a traditional recipe for Gnocchi with their Don Gabino cheese - yum!
“We have Don Agustin, a manchego –inspired cheese named after my grandfather who was from Spain,” said Fabian. “We have Don Gabino, a montasio-inspired cheese named after Sandra’s grandfather from Italy. We have Old Glencoe, a simple homestead cheese, and finally, Italiano, a cheese with some bite!”
A year after their first cheese had aged to perfection, they moved to Piemonte Farm and saw endless possibilities for the 1880’s Greensboro farmstead, which hadn’t been loved in a quite a while. Again, Fabian and Sandra tried their hand at new things.
“We wanted to eventually have sheep’s milk so we bought a ram, wether, and 5 ewes – all were pregnant and we didn’t know,” said Sandra. “When we went to see them before buying, Fabian said the ram was so sweet – this fat, fluffy, friendly sheep that looked like something you put your feet on by the couch!”
Turns out, that was the wether (castrated male sheep), not the ram. Then came two goats, a calf, and a pig to the farm. Finally, a plumber who helped with leaks in the basement also noticed the menagerie of animals and the care they received. He asked Fabian if they want to rescue a horse…the answer was no, then yes. Then they got some more books.
The Lujans give a lot of credit to the community for their success, though clearly the family’s faith in each other has had more than a little to do with it.
From using their church kitchen to bake their bread and a friend’s creamery to make cheese, to receiving Slow Money loans for their first cheese cave and being awarded the beginning farmer’s scholarship to CFSA’s Sustainable Agriculture Conference, the Lujans say it’s easy to see how community has helped Piemonte Farm grow.
Last but not least, the Lujans recognize the weekly support from customers at the farmers’ market. In appreciation for this, they started a monthly pizza club which anyone can join – for free. Friends, customers, neighbors gather for wood fire pizza, made by Fabian using ingredients grown at the farm. At the last pizza night of 2015, 60 folks celebrated community, fresh food, and this wonderful family.
Now young adults at 20 and 21, the Lujan’s children help out with everything – daily farm chores, customer service at the farmers’ market, photography and marketing. Fiamma’s fiancé loves the farm, too, and just got a goat named Onion from the Lujans as a Christmas gift.
While Fabian and Sandra aren’t sure yet if their children will be second generation farmers, they are sure their kids and their community love Piemonte Farm as much as they do.
Full disclosure: The Lujans sent me home with a bag of Piemonte Farm goodies including a wedge of their Don Gabino cheese. It barely made it back to Pittsboro.
by Susanne Blumer
A few years ago I was a happy city girl. I owned a fancy bridal salon and spent my days surrounded by pretty brides and pretty dresses. Then my husband intervened and decided he needed “land”—something to leave our children…a homestead. Since I love this man beyond reason, what could I do? The search for land commenced.
In a short time, we found it. A beautiful 110-acre parcel with cleared pasture land, miles-long views (much like the mountains of Western North Carolina that we love), and 10 acres of ponds. My husband thought it was perfect. I thought it was nice. Before I knew what was happening, we made an offer.
My realtor called to ask if we also wanted the animals. Animals? Were there animals? My husband was out of the country on business so I made an “executive” decision and said YES! Why not? What’s a farm without animals? The children (4 and 8 at the time) and I piled into the car, drove to the country, and arrived to see our new land and meet our animals. Seven goats, two donkeys and a mule. To be fair, I didn’t really know the difference between a mule and a donkey back then. I do now! All I knew is that they were horse-like animals. My daughter insisted on naming the goats after the Seven Dwarves. I ran to the computer to do some research on raising livestock in the dead of winter. It was the first week of January. Cold and blustery.
Fast forward two years. I have given up my city girl life. I’m a farmer now. And so are my kids. My farm book said chickens were good to raise because they are hard to kill. Sounds good for us! A few hard-to-kill chickens have ended up being a thriving business. Thanks to our flock, we sell our rainbow-colored eggs commercially and to friends and the community. We breed three chickens: Silkies, Ameraucans and Marans. We have spent hours and hours and dollars and dollars on our chickens. My husband probably regrets wanting land at this point, but he’s too far gone to admit it. We still have two of our original goats: Dopey and Bashful. The other five were lost to an unfortunate dog-killing incident. Dopey recently had twin kids and Bashful had one. We also have eleven sheep and our donkeys had a baby. We also acquired one more donkey. The mule left us quickly after we bought the farm thanks to him ripping off our female donkey’s lip. That’s a story for another time.
My city girl roots are long gone. I wake up in the morning to a rooster crowing (many, to be honest), a mist over the pond and a gorgeous sunrise. We have planted an orchard, berries and a vegetable garden. We have lots of dreams,lots of plans. Do I miss going to the beach for long vacations? If I stop to think about it, I do…a little. But normally I’m too busy playing with my chickens, watching the goats and their antics, or planting a new tree to think much about it.
I’m an Accidental Farmgirl. My life goal was not to be a farmer. I love makeup, cute shoes, and US Magazine. I still do and always will. But I also love my farm, my chickens and days full of nothing more than enjoying the world the Lord gave us. My blessings are many.