Daniel and Allison Cooper have returned to the family farm. Cooper-Lasley
Farm has been in Daniel’s family for seven generations, transforming from the
original 1797 homestead into a dairy farm and then, when the dairy prices
dropped in the 1980s, into row crops. But the farm had fallen into disuse.
Daniel met Allison on the school farm at A&T State University,
where he was studying Ag Economics and Business and she was studying Animal
Science and Ag Education. She went on to work at the Ag Extension Agency doing
crop and livestock research. He currently works full-time on a 600-acre
state-run research farm.
Together, they’ve revived Cooper-Lasley Farm. When they
started, it was overgrown with vines and weeds, so they brought in goats to
clear the land. They’ve added small herds of animals and flocks of poultry for
meat, milk, and eggs: pigs, cows, goats, chickens, ducks, turkeys. They grow
hay to sell and to feed their animals, as well as vegetables. They’ve renovated
the buildings to bring everything back into use: hay is stored in the old
combine shed, and the old steam room is potato and onion storage. A hive of bees
has lived in the wall of the wash shed since Daniel was a boy.
With so much going on, timing is everything. Allison
likes to keep the farrowing pigs in a pen close to the house, so they only
allow one to have piglets at a time. Animals are rotated on the pastures to
allow the grass to keep growing; they’re planning to add more land as pasture
to provide for their growing herds. They’ll also create a pond by damming a
spring-fed valley below their buildings; runoff from the hillsides will help
keep it filled. Guinea hens, ducks, and chickens run free on the farm, keeping
the insects under control and providing relief for the bigger animals, who
seldom require medical care. Cooper-Lasley is completely hormone and antibiotic
free, and its animals and produce are free of all pesticides and herbicides.
Daniel and Allison have found a supportive community in
western Orange County, and they hope to provide them with produce year-round.
In addition to CSA shares, they sell at the Saxapahaw summer market and at the
Hillsborough Farmers’ Market, and they supply the Eddy Pub and the Saxapahaw General
Store. They also feed their animals spent grain from Topo Distillery and scraps
from Toast in Durham.
Allison is certified to process animals, but they use a
local slaughterhouse and only process the animals they’ll be keeping for
themselves. “It lets you value your food a little bit more,” Daniel says. “That’s
the biggest thing we’re getting out of this, is just the satisfaction of going
to the freezer and being able to pick out dinner each night, and we know exactly
from start to finish where it came from.”
“We love it,” Allison adds.
Visit Allison and Daniel on the Piedmont Farm Tour. Meet
the new piglets, goats, chicks, and more, and take a walk up the ridge to the
vegetable garden. Visit them online at http://www.cooperlasleyfarm.org/
and on Facebook. View more photos on Pinterest: http://www.pinterest.com/weaverstmarket/cooper-lasley-farm/ Watch a video of our visit (coming soon!)