By Elizabeth Friend, WSM Contributing Writer
On 65 acres near Mount Olive, NC, Debbie Craig and her children are striving to keep a dream alive. The dream is to run a small-scale working farm, complete with hogs, cows and a herd of dairy goats. When Ron and Debbie Craig moved to NC in the mid-80s to work in the pork industry, they dreamed of starting their own farm. The idea of a dairy farm was particularly attractive to Ron, who’d worked in a dairy in Southern Missouri as a teenager.
Five years ago the Craigs got some goats and some good advice from Neville McNaughton, a national expert in artisanal cheese-making. Ron handled the herd, while Debbie worked on the cheese. The whole family chipped in with suggestions for flavors, including Jalepeno, Chive, and Summertyme Blue.
Now, the goat herd is more than 1,000 strong, and their Holly Grove Farms goat cheese is renowned throughout our area for its rich flavor and smooth creamy texture. But it hasn’t been easy. Ron passed away unexpectedly, leaving Debbie and her two sons and two daughters struggling to cope. They made the brave decision to keep Ron’s dream alive by running the farm as a family, a task Debbie says is more than a full-time job.
Debbie Craig says one of the biggest challenges has been filling the knowledge gap left behind by her husband. He was a dedicated farmer, enthusiastically researching each new venture as the farm expanded. Debbie recalls that Ron got a taste for farming when, as a kid, he won a pig scramble, a contest that requires catching and holding onto a greased pig. The pig was also the prize, and Ron and his brother were so enamored with the animal they convinced their parents to move out to the country so they could get more.
In addition to raising cattle, hogs and all those goats, the Craigs grow their own hay, make delicious cheese, offer educational farm tours, and run a small gift shop featuring local goods. It’s both a complex balancing act and a labor of love. We hope you’ll join us in supporting this local farm family, and take some tasty fresh chevre home to your family today!