I had the privilege of introducing Diane Daniel for her presentation on Farm Fresh North Carolina which is also the title of her book. This also put me at the “President’s Table” near the podium. Sitting at the front always make me feel like one of those eager beavers in a class room. I felt even more this way when Diane asked if anyone recognized the animals in one of her early slides and my hand shot up and I shouted out “alpacas!” This was not because I’d already heavily sampled her very interesting book but because my brother inNorthern Virginiahas recently acquired 3 alpacas. Last spring I spent an interesting Saturday with him at a farm wrestled 75 alpacas to the ground to be sheared.
Diane’s book is essentially a travel book and she put over 23,000 miles on her Honda visiting all the farms that she describes in the book. But what I found really interesting about the book were the stories of the people on these working farms that also open their doors to curious tourists eager to learn something about their state. It’s also a little subversive. The client of mine whose urban agriculture project I described in my introduction, dismissed me good naturedly as “too set in my ways” to embrace this trend that encompasses concepts of “slow food,” “sustainable farming,” “urban agriculture,” “community supported agriculture” and “farm to table.” He’s probably right, but Diane’s book reinforces a new impulse to seek out and enjoy fresh organic fruits, vegetables, dairy products and even meat.
What may not have been totally intentional on Diane’s part is how the book illustrates what has been happening to agriculture inNorth Carolinain general. Living in the high tech Triangle we may not appreciate how important agriculture is to the economy of the state. We’re near the top in the production of several important agricultural products including turkeys, chickens, hogs and sweet potatoes. Conspicuously less important today is tobacco, for obvious reasons. Unlike neighboring states and the farm belt states, the average farm size inNorth Carolinais only about 150 acres. This was just fine when tobacco was king and a farmer could make a pretty good living with 5 or 10 acres of tobacco. One of the reasons hog production has grown is that contract hog production works well on these small farms and it has been the savior of many small family farms.
Others farmers have taken a different approach. One of the farms featured in Diana’s presentation was the Vollmer Farm (www.vollmerfarm.com ) which you’ll get to on 98 if you start in Downtown Durham, pass through Wake Forest and start looking just east of Bunn. I met John Vollmer around 1990 when I was doing some PR work for the Tobacco Growers Association of North Carolina and John was the president of that organization. Even then John was aware of the necessity to transition from tobacco and he was producing some specialty oats for the equine market and his wife was overseeing an annual harvest of pumpkins that they would take to market in Raleigh before Halloween. The farm is now a place for hayrides and corn boxes and playgrounds and a farm store. I’m sure it’s the biggest tourist attraction in Bunn. A link on the site also describes how John got into organic farming with help from NCSU by turning one of his greenhouses originally intended for germinating tobacco plants into lettuce production. www.vollmerfarm.com/organics.html
Diane’s presentation did generate a good deal of interest in her book. I highly recommend it as a fun read.
She did leave behind many of the links in the book to the farms she visited but the book contains many more and they domake the book fun to read. The book is available on the website www.farmfreshnorthcarolina.com where she also as a schedule of events this coming weekend where she will be selling and signing the book. She also has a special Rotary offer to purchase the book directly from her for $15 for anybody that contacts her and picks up the book at her home near the School of Math and Science before she leaves on another adventure December 18. Her email address is firstname.lastname@example.org . If that’s too much trouble it is also available on Amazon.com where it has a 5 star rating.
Submitted by Jay Zenner