The 3rd Annual Eastern Triangle farm tour by the Carolina Farm Stewardship Association was a blast. There were 19 farms this year, but you can never do more than 3 or 4 a day for the two days of the tour. Cara and I spent several hours Saturday at just two farms, but they were both fascinating. Dew Dance Farm had exotic wool and fur livestock, as well as heirloom naturally colored cotton, and a live-in weaver to use it all. The Piedmont Biofuels research farm was everything I’ve been anticipating for years. Sunday I moved more quickly and did four spots, self-touring. I learned a lot about the new agricultural culture, arising from plenty of inherited Southern values (and land), as well as the most cutting edge green/sustainable practices. We are all eating differently, including more locally, and there is an interesting and decent market for these products. I was amazed to find that not only is this group sponsoring a national conference next month, there is a Politics of Food conference taking place at NCSU this very week!
Above is a native plant area at the Piedmont Biofuels research farm. Its purpose is to provide haven and nectar for useful insects. The land is operating as an incubator farm for a couple, who are utilizing species and techniques from Japan on the site as they grow stores, develop contacts and search for land. Below a co-op intern explains the use of bamboo guides for efficient root crop production.
The clickable thumbnails above illustrate the biofuel production process, which also takes place at the farm. Lyle Estill started making biofuel as a kitchen science operation and with his partners developed this system for recycling waste vegetable oil, producing fuel and soap. Now they produce a million gallons a year at a new facility down the road – using chicken fat. This original operation continues, with the honor system pumphouse above right.
Dew Dance Farm typified the average fare of the tour – a Boomer couple using the parents’ land to operate an intensive operation with a well-funded and slight hobby-like atmosphere. As papermakers, we were entranced by the heirloom naturally-colored cotton. Growing even a dozen plants of cotton requires a special permit, inspections, and the promise to burn it all if the boll weevil shows up!
Lakeview Daylily Farm and Weston Farms on Highway 50 had a unique aspect – a koi barn and an outdoor koi pond with fencing to discourage turtles and herons. But my final destination, pictured below, was the Covenant Community Garden, operating in the heart of Fuquay Varina. Church and community volunteers use sustainable practices to grow food for a pantry, a kind of local food bank for those who need it. It doesn’t get any cooler than that. Go green!
Slow Food Triangle celebrates local food and the people who grow and make it.