Cecilia Redding started Down 2 Earth Farms on 143 acres in Rougemont, NC. She’d been working in the food industry as an agricultural engineer but pursued her dream to farm when she found the land for sale. In 2012, Matt Ball, who lived on the property, joined her team. With the help of two part-time employees, they grow sustainable produce to sell at markets and produce-delivery programs.
The center of the farm is a sprawling field subdivided into plots and rows. An impressive deer fence surrounds the entire eight acres. Cecilia points out the plots of arugula, spinach, onions, and broccoli, as well as the plots waiting for summer vegetables. There’s a perennial asparagus patch which needs to be weeded by hand and a new blueberry patch. She hopes to add more perennial fruit, and several acres are planted with cover crop, awaiting expansion.
Behind the fence stand 100 acres of forest filled with walking trails. The forest is in a forest stewardship management plan with the Triangle Land Conservancy that aims to keep the forest healthy for wildlife; sometimes this means harvesting old trees. Through the forest is the farm’s irrigation pond; wood duck and bluebird homes and bat nurseries encourage wildlife to stay. (Bats have been sighted swooping over the pond, but it’s not certain that they use the nurseries, which are pairs of boxes that hang on the north and south sides of trees; the bats choose a side depending on the weather.)
Beside the main field stands a new barn; it seems large, but most of its space is outdoors under a sloping roof; the interior consists of small coolers, an apartment, and a (real!) bathroom. There’s also a greenhouse filled with seedlings. Cecilia demonstrates her soil block maker; using soil blocks (instead of conventional plastic seedling trays) is sustainable and gives the roots more space. Two more greenhouses belong to nearby Four Leaf Farm, who also rents some field space. Matt drives us down the lane to visit the shiitake operation in the edge of the forest; he walks us through the steps of growing the mushrooms. At the far side of the property is an old milking barn.
Visitors on the Piedmont Farm Tour can explore the produce fields and learn about the farm’s sustainability efforts, including their path to organic certification and their solar panels. Enjoy the shade of the barn (did we mention the bathroom?) or walk down the lane to see the shiitakes. Visitors are also welcome to enjoy the forest trails and to walk by the pond and see the bat nurseries.
Look for Down 2 Earth Farms produce at local farmers’ markets. “We look at all our customers as true partners and part of our team,” Cecilia says. “We really enjoy all our customers and everything we do with them. It’s been just a really fun time with them, and we’re growing and having a good time at it.”
Learn more at Down 2 Earth Farms’s website, http://www.d2efarms.com/.
Watch a video of our visit below, and visit them on the Farm Tour.