I began working at the farm towards the end of August, 2014, while Angela and Bella finished packing things up at the house in Ayden. They joined me in late September, and we had moved into what would become our new home for the next year and a half. The house we were renting was located in a Beaufort neighborhood; the farm was about a 15-20 minute drive (the most beautiful drive you could dream of taking to work). The salty air, sense of community, and raw natural beauty quickly captivated us and drew us in.
When I first started working on the farm (before the family moved down and we moved into the house together in Beaufort), I lived on my own in a camper (about 5 minutes from the farm) while Angela and Bella finished packing things up at our place in Ayden.
The rent was cheap (at least compared to anything else in the area), and I grew to love the solitude of camper life quickly; it was a stark contrast to the teaching life, the complete opposite (I wanted and needed it). There was no television (only the camper radio), but there was a nice, little kitchen area, a shower (which stayed hot for an entire 5 minutes), a room with a queen-size bed, and a little booth where I could sit and pretend I was out eating at a restaurant or something. (It had seats facing each other and a table in the middle, just like a restaurant booth.)
The camper was from the prior farm manager who was getting ready to leave, and it was located at an RV campsite on Crow Hill rd, very close to Harkers Island (about a five minute drive to the Harkers Island bridge). This area is part of real ‘Down East’ North Carolina; you hear it commonly in the speech of the locals, the ‘Hoi Toiders’ with their unmistakable Down East brogue. All of the areas (Straights, Otway, Smyrna, Williston, Davis, Stacy, Sealevel, Atlantic) were new to me, and I was fascinated by the lack of commercial ‘chain’ business development. One of the most powerful feelings I experienced early on came from driving into Beaufort after a month completely void of ‘McChain’ businesses. All of the lights, advertising and traffic slapped me back into reality. It’s a feeling that is hard for me to capture in words (I hadn’t missed those businesses) and it helped me appreciate even more the undeveloped, somewhat secluded, world of Down East, North Carolina.
Why had I never been here? I’ve lived in Western, NC, and in Eastern, NC, and I had been to Atlantic Beach a few times, but this...this was just a whole different world, a community of sometimes functional people living in natural paradise. Here, they have their own celebrations and community parties; they even have their own Mardi Gras festival. The Wild Caught Festival fell during the initial period of transition (while I was still living in the camper), and the family came down to experience it. The fish was caught, prepared and grilled by the locals, and the music came mainly from local groups who lived and played in the areal. It was here we met another young local farming family who had a daughter Bella’s age. The kids, along with us older young people, quickly became good friends.
The farm sat on about three and a half acres, although we could have tilled up and used more space if we had grown to the point where we would have needed it; there was at least five to six acres of tillable area available. When I initially interviewed for the job, the area had just been experiencing heavy rainfalls, and the farm was completely flooded; it was apparent early on that high water levels after severe storms could pose significant challenges.
I started actually working the land as soon as I started living in the camper; most of the farmable area was heavily overgrown with really high weeds and brush, with only a few small sections of the farm actually under production. The wet weather had made it difficult to get out and clear up the land, so there were many areas that were left alone and heavily grown over. Many of the late summer crops were flooded out and destroyed, so cleaning those up was also necessary. I spent most of my time the first week just weed eating and clearing up the farm enough to be able to till the land. It was really hot and humid, and I was exhausted after the ending of each day...completely fulfilled.
The Fall 2014 season went by quite well, and I was able to bring value to the farm through increasing the quantity and quality of production. Prior to taking the job, I had learned a lot from Warren Brothers (Brothers Farm) about varieties of vegetables that grew well for him in the ‘offseason’ (winter months). Angela had been selling Warren’s produce through Locavore Market for quite some time, and we were amazed at what he was able to produce so late into the fall/winter when most other farmers had already packed it in. His willingness to experiment, with varieties, seeding styles and plant maintenance most definitely impacted how I would approach offseason farming on the coast.
Locavore Market has not gone away! However, we have changed in a number of ways and have relocated to Little Washington, NC. We will continue to serve the Beaufort, Pitt County, and nearby surrounding areas.