Wild Hare Farm, Cedar Grove, NC
by Cat Moleski, Features Editor
Wild Hare farm is a new, small, and very raw farm up above Hillsborough. I visited Leah Cook one cold, rainy day in February and got a first class tour of her heated green house and her unheated hoop house. While Wild Hare is a new farm; Leah is not new to farming. She spent 7 years working with Ken Dawson on his Maple Spring Garden farm, before moving over to Wild Hare, right next door. She's been farming Wild Hare for three years now and has about an acre under cultivation.
Leah's love for farming grew slowly in the years just after she graduated from college. As a child, her dad raised Angus Beef, which didn't grab Leah's imagination. She preferred to ride horses while her brothers worked the beef farm. Her step-mom maintained large perennial flowerbeds and a big vegetable patch. "It was really her passion that set me on fire," Leah says of her step-mom. As gardening started appealing to Leah, her step-mom became her first resource for information.
Eventually Leah took horticultural classes at NC State, interned with Ken Dawson and worked the retail end of the business at Wellspring. After a year or so, her step-mom allowed Leah to take over her vegetable plots and Leah began her first foray into market gardening, growing a small selection of cut flowers and vegetables that she took to the Farmer's Market in Durham.
Now she grows lettuce greens, radishes, strawberries, tulips, Dutch iris, onions, broccoli and more. Her planting practices are low input with no sprays, pesticides or herbicides. She manages pests through crop rotation and weeds by hand. "I love what I do and I feel really lucky to do what I do. It's important to me to make a local product and provide that to local markets with as little impact on the environment as possible." Leah chooses not to become certified organic because she has a personal relationship with her customers at the Farmers' Market and she feels they understand her farming practices and trust her.
Contribution is important to Leah, as well. "I want to give back more than I take out." Not only does that mean rebuilding soil that is worn down, it means teaching. For the last three years she's taught an intro to cut flower production class through the Chatham County Community College. The course covers site planning, scheduling of planting, variety choice, post-harvest handling and marketing. Even though the class is designed for market production, home gardeners are welcome and will get good information from the class.
Wild Hare Farm is new to the 9th annual Piedmont Farm Tour this year. Take this opportunity to tour Leah's farm and/or find her every Wednesday and Saturday at the Carrboro Farmers' Market.