On October 8th, Iseley Farms in Burlington North Carolina was given the “2013 North Carolina Outstanding Conservation Family Farm” award. The award ceremony brought over 200 people together at Iseley Farm to celebrate sustainability in Alamance County. The current farm owner is Jane Iseley. She grew up on the farm, left the farm to go to college, and after having a long career she has now returned to the farm. Iseley Farm has been operating since 1790! They’ve grown tobacco, vegetables, and fruit over the years, as well as raising cattle. Ironically, their tobacco is certified organic. Many members of the Iseley family have lived and worked on the farm, however Jane is presently head of the operation. She employs numerous people to help run the farm. During the ceremony she continually pointed out that the farm would not function without her hard-working employees.
Interestingly, the farmer I’ve been staying with in Burlington, has roots on the Iseley Farm. His grandmother lived just down the road from the ceremony tent, and eventually sold her land to the Iseley family several years ago. Clay (the farmer I’ve stayed with) knows Jane personally, as well as almost all attendees of the ceremony. In addition to Clay, I knew only a handful of people from visiting Company Shops Food Market in downtown Burlington. A woman even approached me and asked if I was Molly from the newspaper because she didn’t recognize me. This just speaks to the sense of community in Burlington and how everyone knows everyone.
So more about this award. Jane implements several sustainable techniques throughout the farm to preserve the land. The use of terraces, crop rotation, and grass meadow strips, have been in practice for decades. Water towers on site feed troughs on the property through gravity feed. Solar power is used to pump water to storage tanks. Pictured below is an example of a gravity fed trough for Jane’s cattle. The blue circles are actually balls that the cattle push down on to gain access to water.
Jane’s cattle give new meaning to “free range”. They had an incredible amount of space to roam, graze, and be animals.
The roadside farm-stand Jane operates, allows passersby to stop and purchase local food. The small building is pictured below. She sells produce from her own farm, in addition to surplus produce from other local farms. She takes a small percentage of the profit when and if the farmer’s produce sells. Next to each vegetable on display, Jane places a sign to indicate where the produce came from.
The award ceremony began with a farm tour for everyone. Via tractor pulled wagons, I was taken around the farm and shown sustainability practices at work. The farm is over 450 acres, although only a fraction of the land is in production. The Haw River borders part of the farm. On the tour, I was able to see the river and an old log cabin in the woods parallel to the river. The tour guide informed us that in order to have water in the cabin, you must use the water pump inside the home.
After the farm tour, congratulatory speeches were given by members of the community, the NC Commissioner of Agriculture, Senator Rick Gunn, and finally NC Governor Pat McCrory.
The award was presented to Jane and then lunch was served! Appropriately, the food at the event was provided by a local restaurant. The chef was there assuring everything was served properly (I sat a few seats down from his father). After the award was presented and food was about to be served, the chef explained the meal to the crowd. The salad was mixed greens with local butternut squash, pecans, and an apple cider vinaigrette. The main course was meatloaf from two of Jane’s steers, with local mashed sweet potatoes and sautéed local greens. The guys I sat with were more than happy to take my meatloaf. The flavor in the food was delicious though!