DAVIDSON COUNTY, N.C. — Humans have been farming for 12,000 years. And it’s amazing how little it has changed.
Sure, we have new hybrid seeds, big machines to cut down on the workload. But if you talk to people doing the farming that is considered most innovative today, it’s surprising how much it looks like what was done years ago.
“We weed with hoes, we weed with knives, we weed with rakes,” said Charles Leonard, of Gentle Harmony Organic Herb Farm. “We don’t get paid for weeding, but we do it, anyway.”
The reason farming tactics have changed over the millennia is that to feed more than 7.5 billion people – more than twice the number of people on earth just 50 years ago – it takes mass production techniques that weren’t available a century ago.
But some farmers in Davidson County want to show you how they’re doing many of the things farmers did generations ago to create a better product.
“Most (modern) chicken farms – all the chickens are going to be raised inside, they’re all confined,” said Beth Phelps, who owns Buck Creek Farm with her brother, Jeff Perryman. “All of ours are out on grass after two weeks and then they get moved on fresh grass every day. It’s going to make the chicken a lot more flavorful, a lot more healthy just being able to get the nutrients from the grass and bugs on the ground.”
There are different kinds of “added value” farms in Davidson County. Some, like Leonard’s Gentle Harmony are organic. Phelps and Perryman’s chickens, though, have a different certification.
“We actually aren’t labeled organic, we are labeled pasture-raised so we really have to promote pasture raised-because that’s different than organic,” Phelps said. “Organic chickens can actually still be raised in a chicken house so ours are even better than that.”
That’s the word they’re trying to get out with their “Davidson County Farm Tour,” where anyone can come and see the farm and hear all about how they do their work.
“Just to kind of teach people to support local, why we are different and why they should focus on buying local,” Phelps said.
Just don’t expect this to be the norm for farming anytime soon.
“It is sustainable – there are people who are doing organic cultivation, organic farming practices that are certified, that are making money at it,” Leonard said. “We’re fortunate in that we don’t have to make money at it. If we were younger, we wouldn’t be hiring all the help we’re hiring and we’d be doing the work ourselves and we would be having a net at the end of the year.”
See their operations in this edition of the Buckley Report.