PHOTO ESSAY: A Week in the Life of a Beginning Farmer

Raw Logic Farm is starting its first season in the Farmer-In-Training Program at the Elma C. Lomax Incubator Farm.  An organic farm specializing in vegetables, Raw Logic Farm is run by Chuck Danielka who believes farming should be a logical way of life! Chuck shares photos from a week in his life as a beginning farmer.

early-morning_web

Up at 5am driving to the farm to water transplants and then to the day job and back to the farm. Total driving a day is 120 miles round trip and 840 miles a week.

 

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After getting off work at the day job, I water tomato transplants before working in the field.

 

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Washing and packing produce for the market. This takes about 12 hours on Friday to complete unless weather is an issue.

 

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Raw Logic Farm sell produce Wednesday and Saturday mornings at the downtown Hickory Farmers Market!

 

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After our Saturday market, we go back to the field to get the beds ready to put transplants into the ground. 

 

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Bed prep for the transplants normally happens on Sunday at Raw Logic Farm.

 

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We round out the weekend with planting the transplants on Sunday.

 

Think you’ve got what it takes to be a Farmer In Training at Lomax Incubator Farm? We are accepting applicants now. 

Great Outdoors University: Bringing Kids Out to the Farm

by Mary Bures, NC Wildlife Federation

This summer, CFSA’s Lomax Farm partnered with the North Carolina Wildlife Federation to bring students in their Great Outdoors University Program to visit Lomax Farm and the Farmers-in-Training. An important part of agritourism allows children to experience farms and how farmers grow the food that they eat.

 

Photo submitted by Mary Bures, GoU

Photo submitted by Mary Bures, GoU

NC Wildlife Federation’s Great Outdoors University (GoU) has enjoyed an action-packed 2016 season of experiences, including those with our destination partner Lomax Farms.  GoU of greater Charlotte, NC launched its first programs in June of 2013 and has served over 30,000 participants to date. GoU is a conservation-based experiential education program designed to bring life-changing experiences to kids 6-18 years old who have limited opportunity to explore the natural world. The GoU curriculum empowers youth by connecting them with nature using fun hands-on/minds-on inquiry-based teaching methods in outdoor environments like farms, forests, streams and nature preserves.

 

For many of these children, GoU provides their first opportunity to get outside and explore the natural world and its many wonders and benefits.

Great Outdoors University takes a collaborative approach utilizing the strength of North Carolina Wildlife Federation affiliate resources and forming alliances with community partners, like the Carolina Farm Stewardship Association. For many of these children, GoU provides their first opportunity to get outside and explore the natural world and its many wonders and benefits.

 

Mary Bures (Manager of GoU) reached out to Aaron Newton (CFSA’s Lomax Farm Coordinator) and worked to create the “Farm to Table Program,” giving kids an introduction to a working organic and sustainable farm. What some of us take for granted became a first time experience for them.

 

Photo submitted by Mary Bures, GoU

Photo submitted by Mary Bures, GoU

The kids began their adventure at Lomax by participating in an activity to discovering an assigned fruit or vegetable. Then, with Matt Warden, Lomax Farmer-in-Training, half of the group explored the community garden. There they learned about the importance of pollinators as they explored a variety of pollinator plants including bee balm, asters and mint, which the kids excitedly discovered with their senses of smell and taste. The students then learned about the drip irrigation system and one group even assisted in laying a bit of pipe. Finally, they had the opportunity to pick (perhaps for the first time) their own vegetables. We enjoyed a variety of tomatoes, cucumbers, peppers, okra, and eggplant throughout the season.

 

The group would then gather in the common vegetable prep area. The kids learned about this part of the operation and how the participating farmers prepared their crops for market. They assisted in washing the veggies and prepping them to eat.  Of course this was one of their favorite parts of the program!  What a thrill to see kids really enjoying their freshly picked veggies! 

 

Photo submitted by Mary Bures, GoU

Photo submitted by Mary Bures, GoU

In addition to harvesting and preparing crops, the children also enjoyed a hands-on planting session with Aaron. He taught them the importance of soil preparation and they actually had the opportunity to mix it with their own hands. Just as the farmers would start their crops, the kids were able to plant their own seeds and take them home to nurture and grow.

 

In the end the kids had a wonderful time digging in the dirt, eating some freshly picked organic veggies and learning about sustainable farming.  Who knows…perhaps some will come back in a decade and join as a Farmer-in-Training at Lomax.

 

Thanks to Aaron and his team, this was one of GoU’s most successful programs this season and we look forward to continuing our partnership with Lomax.

For more information on NCWF’s Great Outdoors University, visit http://www.ncwf.org/GoU.

EXPERT TIP: Growing Good Certified Organic Transplants

by Aaron Newton, CFSA’s Lomax Farm Coordinator

Photo by J.H Photo

Photo by J.H Photo

Providing consistent access to nutrients during the early stages of transplant development is a problem many organic growers face. At Lomax Farm we’ve developed a strategy that addresses nutrient availability in transplant production and uses some key, low-cost equipment to accomplish the task.

This fall we will be testing different seed-starting recipes, and we will share those results with everyone later this year. For this Expert Tiphowever, we will focus on equipment and we’ll be using a standard recipe as an example.

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The Curious Tale of Crouch’s Gourmet Specialties: How a 125-year- old recipe, fond childhood memories, and an odd-ball vegetable inspired a new food business

by Amy Armbruster, CFSA’s Communications Coordinator

Editor’s Note: When we started writing this story, we intended it to be about an upstart new specialty foods company saving summer’s flavors in a jar of salsa. But, this story about Jerusalem Artichoke Relish is too good to keep a secret. Yes, we know that Jerusalem artichokes aren’t harvested in the summer. And, we promise, read to the end and you’ll understand why this story is indeed about saving summer. Sometimes, the story is just so good, you have to follow it where it leads.

 

Angie and Marc Olear, Crouch's Gourmet Specialties

Angie and Marc Olear of Crouch’s Gourmet Specialties
Photo submitted by Angie Olear

What is the flavor of childhood? Those foods that are preserved in our memories so vividly that when we eat them again, we are right back there in our Grandma’s kitchen, 12 years old, helping her make her famous relish. We can almost summon those loved ones back to us with just one bite. For Angie Olear, one particular memory from her Nanny’s kitchen led her and her husband on a peculiar journey: from home canner to farmer to the owner of Concord, NC specialty food company, Crouch’s Gourmet Specialties.

But, it all started with a memory.  Angie told me about her Nanny Crouch, who grew up in the country with a sprawling garden and “eyes in the back of her head.” Her Nanny grew Jerusalem artichokes wild. They were tucked away in hidden places all around her yard and Angie clearly remembers going out with her sister to dig them up. The edible parts of these plants – also called sunchokes – are their knobby roots, which have a crisp texture like that of water chestnuts. “One summer, we were out under Nanny’s kitchen window trying to get some artichokes when we heard Nanny’s voice, loud and clear: “Get out of my artichokes! They’re not ready yet!”

In 2012, Marc and Angie Olear’s supply of Angie’s grandmother’s uniquely delicious Jerusalem Artichoke Relish had run out and they were longing for it. “When I was a child, we would eat it on anything and everything: hamburgers, hot dogs, pinto beans and greens. Marc started adding it to chicken salad, tuna, and egg salad, too.” After Angie’s grandmother, Nanny Crouch, died, the 125-year-old recipe was tucked away and nearly forgotten. So, Marc purchased some of the artichoke tubers and gave them to his mother-in-law for Mother’s Day. They planted seven of the tubers in their own backyard and harvested six full five-gallon buckets that fall.

“That’s when we knew we really had something,” says Angie, still almost shocked at this stroke of good luck.

“What next?” Marc asked Angie.  She responded, “RELISH!!!!” So, after a quick brush up on the canning process, the relish was revived. They had so much relish that they gave jars to friends, family, and co-workers. It was a hit! Over and over, they kept hearing, “You should sell this.”  With more relish than could be consumed for a long time, Angie didn’t know what to do with it until a friend of hers offered have a go at selling it in his specialty store on Barefoot Beach.  Angie and Marc packed his car full of 3 cases. Their friend offered samples that weekend and called them Sunday night with the news: ‘I’ve sold out!’ “That’s when we knew we really had something,” says Angie, still almost shocked at this stroke of good luck. That was the beginning of what would become Crouch’s Gourmet Specialties and not the last time in our tale that a friend would step in to help the Olears on their journey.


Ready to change the local food system? Join CFSA’s Perennial Givers Guild and your monthly donation of any amount will help us grow local & organic from seed to plate.

 


Jerusalem artichokes, aka sunchokes Photo submitted by Angie Olear

Jerusalem artichokes, aka sunchokes
Photo submitted by Angie Olear

After that success, Angie and her sister went on a road trip to several small specialty stores and produce operations all around North Carolina. “Many people turn their noses up immediately when they hear the word artichoke,” Angie says. Curiously, this unusual root is neither from Jerusalem nor an artichoke. It is a tuber; and, it is a member of the Sunflower Family.  Some say that its name comes from the Italian word for sunflower, girasole, which means, poetically, turn to the sun. The tuber has a sweet and nutty flavor with the texture of a water chestnut. Sunchokes have a great supply of vitamins, minerals, and are also packed with inulin, not starch, which makes it a good choice for diabetics. One of Angie’s early challenges was convincing the store owners and customers that their product was not made with globe artichokes, those green, hard-leaf veggies that look like a pine cone. “Don’t knock it, ‘til you try it!” Angie quotes Nanny Crouch.

Once they tried it, the store owners loved this local, old-timey crunchy, sweet relish and wanted to carry it in on their store shelves, but there was a problem. Angie and Marc needed to pass a rigorous class on proper canning safety, get their kitchen space certified by the NCDA and go through “lots of other legal rigmarole” to get their product in stores. The story of Nanny Crouch’s relish might have ended right there, but Angie and Marc forged ahead, “on a wing and a prayer,” jokes Marc.  Angie has a full-time job as a massage therapist and Marc is a general contractor. Neither had any experience in the food business. “We had no idea what it took.” It took them almost a year, but they were finally ready to share Nanny’s secret recipe with the world.

 

In the Fields

While they were working on getting the business up and running, the Olears had two stokes of luck. When they went to Peachtree Market in Concord to pitch their product, Aaron Newton happened to be in the store (his wife, Jennifer, is the manager). Aaron was still working for the county at the time (he is now CFSA’s Lomax Farm Coordinator) and Marc mentioned to him that they were looking for more land to grow their ‘chokes. “We just can’t keep growing them at our house in our little garden,” Marc remembers telling him.

“Aaron and David at the farm were so helpful. Everyone has given us a hand, helped us figure this out, and connected us to others who can help us. We believed in CFSA. They’re just not going to let us fail,” says Marc.

Aaron invited them to come visit the Lomax Incubator Farm, where they could rent land and learn how to grow their ‘chokes organically.  Marc and Angie had grown up gardening at their parents’ homes, but “nothing too serious,” admits Marc.  Angie remembered that her Nanny’s artichokes grew wild so they figured, how hard can this be? Marc remembers an early conversation with David Goforth, extension agent with Cabarrus County: “You want to grow Jerusalem artichokes! On purpose?” Jerusalem artichokes (Helianthus tuberosus) are so prolific they can become invasive. Because even a small piece of tuber will grow if left in the ground, the plant can ruin fields and can take over huge areas. But Aaron said, “Let’s give it a try.” And so another hurdle on their unusual journey was overcome.

The Olears at Lomax Farm with their Jerusalem artichoke relish Photo submitted by Angie Olear

The Olears at Lomax Farm with their Jerusalem artichoke relish
Photo submitted by Angie Olear

Growing the sunchokes themselves at Lomax made sense because few farmers would agree to grow them on the Olears’ behalf – especially before they knew they had a winning product that would mean years of sales from their ‘choke fields – and they needed a good supply of them to continue making relish, which was by this time becoming a “hot commodity.” By farming at Lomax, they’d also have access to the equipment they needed to clear and prepare the land for their sunchokes and experts to help them figure out how to plant, grow and harvest the tubers. Secondly, farming the sunchokes themselves allowed lower product cost. Lastly, and file this one under, “almost too much of a good thing:” this obscure root veggie is highly productive. As the Olears soon found out, a little land can grow a LOT of sunchokes. Each root can make an additional 75 to as many as 200 tubers during a year!

Harvesting sunchokes from Lomax Incubator Farm

Harvesting sunchokes from Lomax Incubator Farm
Photo submitted by Angie Olear

Their first crop was ready to harvest just as the news came that the farm was to be closed by the county. Fortunately for the Olears and other farmers, the Carolina Farm Stewardship Association (CFSA) assumed management of the farm and the crisis was averted.

With expanded land secured to farm, the Olears decided to divvy up the labor: Marc became the main grower in the partnership, leaving Angie to focus on distribution and marketing. At Lomax, the Olears experienced a bumper crop and relish production exploded. That first year, they harvested 4,000 lbs. of artichokes on their ½ acre plot. Each and every tuber was harvested by hand with a pitchfork. It’s difficult, slow work. It took them more than 3 months – and a lot of volunteer help – to bring in that crop.

Marc uses an antique potato digger to harvest his sunchokes at Lomax Farm Photo submitted by Angie Olear

Marc uses an antique potato digger to harvest his sunchokes at Lomax Farm
Photo submitted by Angie Olear

In their second season on the farm, Marc built a vegetable washer, which cut the cleaning process in half. He also bought an antique horse-drawn (now converted to tractor-drawn) potato digger to assist in the laborious job of collecting the tubers. He leaves this equipment at the Lomax farm, allowing other farmers to profit from this time-saving tool.

“Aaron and David at the farm were so helpful. Everyone has given us a hand, helped us figure this out, and connected us to others who can help us. We believed in CFSA. They’re just not going to let us fail,” says Marc.

 


CFSA’s Elma C. Lomax Incubator Farm is growing the next generation of sustainable farmers.  Lend a hand.

 


In the Kitchen

Making the relish is hard work. The Olears wanted to stay true to Nanny Crouch’s recipe, which meant making the relish in small batches, by hand. Angie remembers as a little girl how her sister, mother and Nanny would spend long, sweaty fall days in her Nanny’s kitchen using a stiff brush to clean the artichokes, boiling them, and grinding them and the other vegetables into relish using a hand grinder attached to the kitchen table. “I’d turn the crank about 10 times and get tired, so I wasn’t much help.”

Again, almost as if a guardian angel was at work helping Angie and Marc’s dreams along, a friend appeared with an unexpected solution just when they were getting stuck. A friend of Angie’s who had a catering business was willing to get her kitchen upgraded so that they could use it to make their relish. After making sure, “we crossed every ‘t’ and dotted every ‘i’”, the kitchen was certified by the NCDA. Around this time, another friend of the Olears shared an old family recipe for salsa with them. “We figured, since we already had the kitchen certified and we were going around to stores to sell the relish, we might as well try the salsa to see if that would sell, too,” says Angie. They perfected a recipe for Peach Salsa (“It’s insane how much people love it,” laughs Angie) and a Southern Salsa with corn, black beans and okra. They also toyed with Nanny’s relish recipe and made a hot and spicy version, too.

Making relish in the new kettle. Photo submitted by Angie Olear

Making relish in the new steam jacket kettle.
Photo submitted by Angie Olear

That first year, they made everything the same way Nanny did, with a hand grinder. Sometimes Angie’s family or Marc’s sister would lend a hand, but it was mostly Marc and Angie working as a team to make their products whenever they could get the time off from their full-time jobs – on weekend, nights, whenever the certified catering kitchen was available. They have since gotten a 50-gallon steam jacket kettle for cooking and stirring the relish, which helps, but it is still made by hand in small batches by these two.

 

In the Stores

Angie proudly shows off their display at Lowes Foods Photo submitted by Angie Olear

Angie proudly shows off their display at Lowes Foods
Photo submitted by Angie Olear

Now, they needed more distribution. It was a mistake that led to their next bit of good fortune. In the early days, the name of their company was Crouch Distributors. A food broker called them and inquired whether they would be interested in distributing his brand of pasta. Angie, who had no prior experience in the food business, was curious and Marc and Angie met with him. He liked their business ideas and loved the relish, so he pulled some stings and got them a coveted meeting with the local foods manager at Lowes Foods. The meeting was a success and Marc and Angie thought they were on their way, but then they didn’t hear back from the food broker or Lowes for several months. Undaunted, Marc decided to call Lowes Foods one more time. They had another meeting. Another tasting. And, Lowes agreed to let the Olears sell their products in one Lowes Foods store in Clemmons. The relish and salsa flew off the shelves and Lowes quickly added three more stores. Three weeks ago, they added seven more.

“It’s just crazy. People don’t know how we do it and some days I don’t either.”

The Olears found distributors but they still had more sunchokes than could be utilized at the time. Marc discovered they could be dehydrated, resulting in an unexpectedly flavorful chip.  They have since added this treat, as well as a Cranberry Pecan Spread, to their list of products. He also went to Michigan to meet with a farmer to learn how to store the artichokes so that they won’t spoil. They lost almost 3,000 lbs. of product that first year to rot. Marc cobbled together a system that seems to be working. Nine months after this year’s fall harvest, the sunchokes are still “good and crisp,” sitting in wax-coated boxes in the walk-in cooler at Lomax Farm.

Angie heard about a local food fair in Huntersville held by Whole Foods Market. They pitched their relish and salsa and Whole Foods agreed to give them a try in one of their stores. Again, they sold like hotcakes. Whole Foods Market gave them the opportunity to add more stores, but about this time, the travel and time it took to grow and harvest the ‘chokes, make and bottle the relish and salsa, and personally deliver their products to each store that carried it was taking a toll on Angie and Marc. “It’s just crazy. People don’t know how we do it and some days I don’t either.”

 

In the Future

Angie and Marc with their sunchokes at Lomax Farm

Angie and Marc with their sunchokes at Lomax Farm
Photo submitted by Angie Olear

I asked Marc what his vision for the future of his fast-growing business is and he answered honestly, “We’ve been doing this so quickly that my vision is still a little out of focus, but I’d like to see us partnering with the growers at Lomax and other farms to source more of our ingredients. We want everything to be as natural as possible, but we need to find a balance. We can’t keep growing at this rate and still be the farmer, canner, distributor, and salesforce.” Marc has already partnered with Dylan Alexander of Alexander Acres, another Farmer-In-Training at Lomax, to start his peppers for their salsa. And, he’s been talking to other farmers who are GAP certified (a certification of safe food handling required by many wholesalers and grocery stores) to source the cabbage. His goal is to do 3,000 cases of relish next year.

He’s also been talking a lot with Thomas Moore, CFSA’s NC Local Food Coordinator, about the possibility of hiring a co-packer, or a kitchen that will make larger batches of their product – 400-500 cases at a time, or working with the proposed incubator kitchen at Gibson Mills (a project on which CFSA is consulting). “Tomatoes with soft spots or cabbage with cuts in it won’t sell at the farmers market, but we can cut out the bad parts and use them in our products if they are good quality. We can buy what farmers can’t sell when they have tons of product coming in during the summer and fall. Flash freeze everything, except for the sunchokes, which don’t freeze well, and use them to make our products in the winter,” muses Marc, getting excited.

And, so, as promised, this story is about saving summer. It’s also about saving family traditions – of home gardens, treasured recipes, and flavors that remind us of childhood. It’s a story about old-fashioned ingenuity and hard-work – with a little luck thrown in along the way.  I think Nanny Crouch would be proud.

 

Crouch’s Gourmet Specialties, Inc. continues to flourish, offering delicious family recipes “too good to keep secret.”  For more information about the Olears and Crouch’s Gourmet Specialties Inc. and for some great recipes that use their relish, visit www.crouchsgourmet.com.

Lomax Does Kinston and A Chef’s Life Premiere!

By Ben Street, Lomax Farmer in Training and grower of some very fine onions.

Premiere of A Chefs Life

The geographical location of “Down East” North Carolina is a baffling concept, one that continues to elude me. This past Labor Day weekend, Aaron Newton, farm coordinator at the Elma C. Lomax Incubator Farm, his wife, Jennifer, owner and manager of Concord’s local grocery, the Peachtree Market, and myself, farmer-in-training at the Lomax farm and all-around farming rockstar, set off from Lomax in their fresh-from-the-mechanic’s Volvo station wagon on an excursion to the fabled “Down East,” Kinston, NC specifically, as invitees to the third-season premiere party of Vivian Howard’s PBS television program, A Chef’s Life.

Vivian and crew visited Lomax back in May to film an episode revolving around her cooking a fundraising dinner for the farm, of which my first attempt at growing onions was the featured ingredient! I can honestly tell you that I have no recollection of what blabber I regurgitated while on camera, but I’m hoping I was as confident and charming as I am in my own mind. The dinner was a roaring success, and my onions came out deliciously, if I do say so myself.

The four-hour trek went smoothly, and making such great time, we were even able to make a few pit-stops to CFSA headquarters in Pittsboro, the Chatham Marketplace, and drive-by the Central Carolina Community College’s on-campus sustainable farm. Super neat. Then back in the car, refueled with energy-chunks, yogurt-covered pretzels, dark chocolate and kombucha, to the home of Vivian Howard and her restaurant of renown, Chef and the Farmer.

Chef and the Farmer restaurant

Kinston met us with open streets and closed establishments, not too surprising on a Saturday afternoon in small-town North Carolina. We managed to find a bite to eat at the Olympian Greek restaurant thanks to the guidance of Christopher, owner of Christopher’s Cafe in downtown Kinston. He caught us eyeballing his joint. Then it was off to the hotel to check in and get pretty for the evening’s festivities.

We were met in the lobby by Joe and Dani Rowland, farmers at Rowland’s Row and former Lomax farmers, as well as mentors of mine. Being farmers, we had to shirk our Saturday farmers-markets in order to attend this event. However, also being farmers, we were happy for the opportunity to have a little respite from the long season!

Not thirty minutes later, we met back in the lobby, dressed to the nines in our farm-formal attire (a term affectionately coined by our own Aaron Newton) and greeted by the final two members of our Concord group, Gina Guthrie, owner of Bocca Felice, a farm-to-table catering service, and Julie Holland, active member in the Concord local-food movement and A Chef’s LIfe super-fan. Then we rolled out in force to join in the fête du jour.

The evening air was still and humid, as I imagine many evenings are in Kinston, being so near the shore. We met our hostess, Holley Pearce, personal assistant to Vivian Howard, at the BuyLocal Gallery and Wine Bar. On display were original paintings by Ben Knight, Vivian’s husband, and Alex Matisse, a ceramicist from Asheville. After a couple drinks and some socializing, we were off to make our reservations at the critically acclaimed Chef and the Farmer.

The decor of the restaurant was rustic and cozy, with ambient lighting and wrought with reclaimed wood that contrasted nicely to the colorful and energetic paintings of Ben Knight adorning the walls. The seven of us sat at a long, rough-hewn wooden table and were greeted promptly by the staff, many of whom we recognized and recognized us from the dinner in Concord. Then came the food. It’s really all a blur.

We tried all the appetizers: ham wrapped peaches, flash-fried collard chips, fried okra with ranch ice-cream (what!?), shrimp and grits and wood grilled pizza.

I knew that if I kept eating at this rate, I wasn’t going to have any room for my entree! But alas, out came a ribeye the size of Gina’s head, cooked to perfection and garnished with roasted potatoes and a tangy green puree of I-can’t-even-remember-what. Then finally, after deciding that I was too full myself for dessert, here it came regardless. Of course, I had to indulge. The tres leches cake was something special, let me tell you. The evening was filled with great food, good laughs, and even some pitching of possible business ventures to Vivian as she made her rounds amongst the guests. I think I can say with confidence that we all left dinner that night a little delirious with full-bellies.

Some of us said our goodnights, but the rest of us made our way to Holley and her boyfriend Eliot’s new house not a mile from the restaurant for the after-party. We tried some of the offerings in the way of local spirits, and more good conversation ensued. After contemplating locking Dani in this creepy little cellar they had in their house, we decided it best to call it a night and retire to our hotel rooms to get some well deserved rest, much needed for the day to follow. Joe, Dani and I did make a pitstop at the Red Room in town to listen to the first set of Paper Crowns, a bluesy, folksy duet from Asheville. Check them out!

First on the agenda the next day was brunch at Brother’s Farm, the principal farm that supplies food for Chef and the Farmer, hosted by the farmer himself, Warren Brothers. The biscuits were made fresh from scratch by friend of the family Lilly, served with local sausages, eggs and jams. This was followed by a tour of Brothers Farm with Warren, where he showed us his pigs, laying hens, geese and vegetable production. I couldn’t believe how sandy the soil was! We discussed his tow-behind transplanter for some time, then made our way back to our cars for meandering ride back to the hotel. We’ll blame Aaron for the questionable route back.

Pig at Brother's Farm

We boarded our bus for the party at four o’clock. It was humid again, and had started raining. I was dressed in my finest Canadian tuxedo. Denim on denim, baby. The bus was stocked with Mother Earth Brewing beer, who brews right there in Kinston. The first two episodes of this season played on the screens in the bus. Very well done Vivian and crew! The party was held at Broadslab Distillery in Benson, NC. We had pork belly, butternut squash soup shooters and grilled watermelon, all supremely scrumptious. The rain fell steadily, and we huddled under the tents. There were snowcones featuring Broadslab’s moonshine, beer by Mother Earth and wine for the ladies. Pulled-pork barbecue was for dinner, with coleslaw and potato salad. The pork was taking longer to cook in the rain than expected, but it wasn’t a problem. We just decided to bust into the cake in attempts to spoil our dinners. We met a very interesting group from the Biltmore Estate who regaled to us misty-eyed farm-folk tales of tenured farmers in colonial houses on thousands of acres of land. A folk band picked their instruments under an awning, kids splashed in the puddles, Vivian made a riveting speech, we took some shots of flavored moonshine, and made our way back to the bus. We were on the brink of sending a search party for Warren, when he caught sight of him, ball-capped and barefoot, sandals dangling by his side.

It’s been a hard season for me trying to start my farm business while working a nine-to-five in the city. The reality of this dream I’ve been working towards for going on three years really hit home. It’s easy for anyone trying to make a go at farming to question the many reasons why this is what they want to do in this life, but this trip reinforced for me one of these reasons why I want to farm: to share experiences and grow in this group of like-minded individuals that have welcomed me with open-arms into their community. That’s one reason I want to be a farmer, so I can build this community. We headed back to our home of Concord, west and only three degrees north of “Down East,” refreshed and eager to get back to work. I’d call it a success.

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An Evening to Remember

When Scott Avett, Joe Kwon and Bob Crawford of the Avett Brothers and Vivian Howard of Chef and the Farmer come together to support the Lomax Farm beautiful things happen

by Elizabeth Read, Communications and Development Director

avett-group

Ben Knight, Vivian Howard, Scott Avett, Bob Crawford and Joe Kwon

When CFSA stepped up and took over the administration of the Elma C. Lomax Incubator Farm in September of 2014, how to financially support the operations of the farm was at the top of the priorities list. Through many funding sources, CFSA has worked hard to put the Cabarrus County training farm on sound footing.

 

One of the awards in our successful crowd-funding campaign to benefit the farm was a seat at a dinner with Scott Avett. As details emerged about the dinner, it was clear that this was going to be an evening to remember. Through the assistance of The Avett Brothers cellist, Joe Kwon, award-winning chef Vivian Howard signed on to be the chef for the dinner. Vivian is the chef at the acclaimed Kinston restaurant, Chef & the Farmer, and is the star of the Emmy-winning PBS television series “A Chef’s Life.”

 

Chef Vivian Howard visits Lomax Farmer in Training Ben Street of Street Fare Farm

Chef Vivian Howard visits Lomax Farmer in Training Ben Street of Street Fare Farm

The “A Chef’s Life’s” production team follows Vivian as she cooks at interesting events around the country; and indeed, her crew came to Lomax last month.

A Chef's Life production at Lomax Farm

A Chef’s Life production at Lomax Farm

 They interviewed Lomax Farmer in Training, Ben Street, who grew the green onions that would be featured in the meal the following evening, and talked to Lomax Farm Manager, Aaron Newton, about the mission and practices at Lomax.

 

The next day, serious set up for the event took place at Ritchie Hill, the location of the dinner. This historic house near downtown Concord has been restored as an event venue and was the perfect location for the dinner. Ritchie Hill was even once a farm!

Ritchie Hill in Concord, NC

Ritchie Hill in Concord, NC

 

Craig Rogers of Border Springs Farm and his Ewe Haul

Craig Rogers of Border Springs Farm and his Ewe Haul

The main course arrived before lunch with farmer Craig Rogers of Border Springs Farm. Craig is a shepherd, and his lamb roasting on a spit would become the main course for Vivian’s Mediterranean twist on a traditional pig picking. He got the television crew going with lamb cheese steak sandwiches for lunch.

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Flowers (with Lomax radishes!) from Poppies Floral Design

The real setup for the evening started then, with main logistical support from Gina Guthrie of Bocca Felice catering in Concord. Flowers were arranged by Colleen Rett from Poppies Floral Designs with accents from Lomax Farm vegetables and looked beautiful on the farmhouse tables on the Ritchie Hill front porch. Everyone started to realize just how delicious the evening was going to be as the menus designed by Jennifer Ritchie Lancaster were placed on the table. Jennifer also photographed the evening, including several of the images on this page.

Menus designed by Jennifer Lancaster Ritchie

Menus designed by Jennifer Lancaster Ritchie

This meal was going to be cooked by James Beard nominated Chef Howard after all.

Our guests of honor, Scott Avett and Joe Kwon arrived, and as a surprise to all of us, they brought their instruments AND The Avett Brothers’ bass player, Bob Crawford. The night’s dinner guests walked into the beautiful space at Ritchie Hill to the lovely sound of Scott, Joe and Bob playing a few songs.

Gina Guthrie of Bocca Felice Catering preps her staff.

Gina Guthrie of Bocca Felice Catering preps her staff.

Bob Crawford, Scott Avett, and Joe Kwon of The Avett Brothers play at Ritchie Hill

Bob Crawford, Scott Avett, and Joe Kwon of The Avett Brothers play at Ritchie Hill

Highlights of the dinner included delicious hushpuppies, an onion gratin featuring Lomax Farm onions, and the slow-roasted lamb.

 The meal finished with a delicious twist on a pig picking cake.

 

It was indeed an event to remember, and perhaps best of all it was to support the farm and the farmers in training at Lomax Farm.  Thank you again, to ALL of the people who made this event happen.

For more information on becoming a farmer in training at Lomax or how to support Lomax Farm, visit our site.

CFSA and the Elma C. Lomax Incubator Farm

On June 16, the Cabarrus County Board of Commissioners voted to eliminate county funding for the Elma C. Lomax Incubator Farm. For six years, the Lomax Farm has operated as the only certified organic incubator farm in the Southeast. The farm provided land to beginning farmers and the chance to share knowledge and equipment.  It also supported the growing local food community in Cabarrus and surrounding counties. When the Commissioners broke ties with Lomax, farmers were left without access to coolers, freezers, power and water, and it was unclear as to what was in store for the future of the crops currently in the ground.

Elma C. Lomax Incubator Farm

Elma C. Lomax Incubator Farm

CFSA’s Board of Directors recognized the farmers’ dire situation and voted to offer organizational oversight to the Lomax Farm while its future is determined. On July 21, the Cabarrus County Board of Commissioners approved that plan. CFSA and Lomax Farm stakeholders have until the end of 2014 to determine how the farm will operate in the future.

In the meantime, financial needs of the farm are urgent, both to operate the farm through the end of the year and into the future. We are thankful that the Avett Brothers, Concord locals, have stepped up and contributed to the Lomax Farm Fund. The musicians have given the plight of the farm nationwide exposure.

However, the financial needs of Lomax are great, and we are looking to a variety of sources to help fund the farm’s future. Part of the financial puzzle includes donations from community members like you.

To donate to the Lomax Farm, contribute online or make checks out to CFSA and designate Lomax in the memo.  Checks can be mailed to CFSA: PO Box 448, Pittsboro, NC 27312.

We could not do this important work without financial contributions like yours. Thank you.