And it’s not always the rooster. NC farmers are as diverse as the state itself. So we talked to them about their wins, their losses, and what drives them.
If you’ve thought about NC farmers as “one thing,” you’re probably not alone. Many of us grew up singing “Old McDonald Had a Farm,” playing with barn animal toys and visiting a pumpkin field once a year – this limited perspective carried us into adulthood.
True, farmers all grow or raise something, but they each have their own narrative, producing from a different perspective. We wanted to go deeper into NC’s largest single industry—agriculture—by talking to some of our family farms.
Here’s what we found:
Golden Organic Farm
Pinetops, Edgecombe County
Kendrick Ransome is a 4th generation farmer. The farm produces more than 15 varieties of fruits and vegetables, and Ransome raises chickens and pigs. Much of the farm’s products are sold through Community Supported Agriculture subscriptions, but he also takes individual orders through his website.
Ransome’s great-grandfather started the farm in the early 1900s, making it eligible to receive an NC Century Farm designation – land owned for at least 100 years by a single family.
Golden Organic Farm is in a Tier 1 County, one of 40 distressed counties in the state. Ransome advocates for restoring the food system in the region. “We battle with food security, food sovereignty, access to fresh affordable produce and meats,” he says.
Through Ransome’s nonprofit Freedom Org, he partners with other agencies and organizations to raise awareness and promote economic freedom within the Black community. The nonprofit hosts farm tours, farm-to-table events and two weeks of summer camps for children. The annual Princeville Homecoming celebrates the town’s history dating back to 1885 as Freedom Hill, the first incorporated town in the United States by Black freedmen and freedwomen.
Challenges: Finding capital to support the farm’s infrastructure needs: new well, wash and pack house, shed with a restroom and machinery.
What gets you up in the morning? “My kids and my roosters.”
Millstone Creek Orchards
Ramseur, Randolph County
Beverly Mooney took over farm operations after her father, Byrd Ison, passed in 2015. He’d opened Millstone Creek Orchards’ 84 acres to the public in 2004. The orchard grows apples, berries, peaches and pecans.
The farm hosts a market from 9 a.m. to 2 p.m. on Saturdays, May through August. The various vendors, all authentic makers, sell birdhouses, bread, lavender, tulip bulbs and other items.
Throughout the year, families can sign up for Fruity Picking Storytime, a program for young children. Each session is connected to whatever is being harvested on the farm.
On Sept. 16 and 17, the farm will open for the Sunflower Splendor U-Pick Experience with hayrides, photo ops with cows and sunflowers, an apple slushie and more. Tickets may be purchased online.
Challenges: “This year, we’re probably at the worst crop loss since 2008. Back in February, everything was blooming, and it was warm so early. Then we froze in March.”
Best Day: “There are more good (days) than bad out here.”
What gets you up in the morning? “Sadly, I’m not so much the morning girl. I’m not a crack of dawn farmer.”
Efland, Orange County
Durham native and first-generation farmer Kamal Bell bought 12 acres of land in 2016. His knowledge of food deserts drove his desire to “create a sustainable food source for minorities in both rural and urban areas.”
The farm grows beets, carrots, chard, collard greens, kale, tomatoes and more on five cleared acres. Kamal’s wife, Amber Bell, grows microgreens. Most of the farm’s produce is sold through TABLE in Carrboro, a nonprofit serving 800 children a week, and Tall Grass Food Box, a CSA supporting Black farmers.
Kamal, a certified beekeeper, offers Bees in a TRAP (Teaching Responsible Apiary Practices), a one-hour educational course on how to keep bees. He shares the history of the farm and introduces guests to the equipment needed to keep bees.
As Kamal builds the farm and learns more, he shares his knowledge with others in the community and across the country. He gives interviews and speaks to groups about his work.
Best day: “[I enjoy] talk[ing] about how far the farm has come with the farm manager. He and I have a lot of high-level conversations. We talk about what way we view society and the things going on in our lives while we are harvesting.”
What gets you up in the morning? “I know what I am doing provides for my family. And I get to be outside too. I love being outside.”
Souther Williams Vineyard
Fletcher, Henderson County
Kenneth Parker, a 7th generation farmer, runs the vineyard’s 37 acres. The land has been in Parker’s family since the 1800s, designating it an NC Bicentennial Farm, a farm older than 200 years.
In 2010, Parker left the corporate world and started the vineyard, not knowing anything about growing grapes. The vineyard focuses on European varietals, specifically from Austria, France, Georgia, Germany and Spain. They specialize in boutique batches and single varietals.
The farm offers vineyard tastings and tours, music events on the weekends and luxury picnics. Parker leads a 90-minute Hike and Sip Tasting and Tour through the vineyard.
Challenge: “For those of us who farm and make our living from Mother Nature and the land, it (climate change) is very real.”
Best day: “For me, when I see the evolution of the farm: I sit on the tractor, on top of the property, on a day when there’s nothing but Carolina Blue sky and the temperature is 82 degrees, not 92 degrees. I watch our customers really enjoy their experience.”
What gets you up in the morning? “There’s always a project. Personally, I enjoy mornings. It’s a new beginning to each day.”