Most mothers want to get a manicure or go shopping for their birthday. Not mine! She enjoys those outings, too, but my city-dwelling mom has always had a love of the countryside and farming. On this outing she even confessed to me that she wished in college she had studied to become a county extension agent instead of majoring in fashion merchandising.
The Stanly County Extension Agency hosted a wonderful tour of three local farms for free, including transportation and lunch. Tours like this one are a great way to educate the local citizens about farming techniques and what agricultural products are available locally. This city-dweller did her best to pay attention to all the information we received throughout the tour but these farmers know their craft and sometimes the chemistry and science of farming went over my head.
Our first stop was Spring Lake Family Farms, a family-owned aquaponics farm. Aquaponics is the combination of aquaculture and hydroponics, meaning that the plants are grown in water and receive their nutrients from the waste of farmed fish. In the Spring Lake greenhouse there were three large fish tanks filled with about 500 tilapia each. The water is constantly circulated through the tanks and under the rows of plants, making it a very sustainable method of farming. They not only sell the produce they are growing but also the tilapia.
Our second stop on the tour was Big Bear Creek Farms owned by Curtis Furr, a third-generation farmer who has been perfecting his craft for over 40 years. He farms approximately 1,400 acres and grows a variety of crops, such as wheat, corn, and soy beans. What sets him apart from other farms of his size and bigger is that he is an advocate for no-till farming, instead utilizing a cover crop. The primary purpose of a cover crop is to prevent erosion but also adds to the soils organic matter and increases nutrients.
Lastly, we visited Almond Farms, which has been in existence since the 1900s. Earl, a former NASCAR engine builder, specializes mainly in beef cattle but in the last few years he has seen the need to diversify and has added blackberries, bee hives, and Christmas trees. This fall he plans to open a barbecue catering business. He treated us to an amazing barbecue lunch and his blackberry barbecue sauce is out of this world!
If nothing else, I came away from this tour with a newfound appreciation for all the hard work that goes into farming and all the science that is behind it. It is so much more than just putting a seed in the ground! A big thank you to the Stanly County Extension Agency for hosting this. I am already looking forward to the fall tour!