Lee and Larry Newlin are farming a beautiful piece of land on the Haw River west of Chapel Hill. The farm has eight market gardens on which Larry rotates crops and a unique “high tunnel” for year-round growing. There’s a hopyard and a densely planted “demonstration garden” that shows gardeners what is possible with a small piece of land. A small flock of chickens inhabits the palatial henhouse known locally as “Cluckingham Palace.”
The Newlins started gardening in Greensboro, where Larry and Lee were owners of a landscaping and nursery business. Lee developed a strong interest in healthy cooking after being diagnosed with stage 3 non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma. While her doctors concentrated on treatment with chemotherapy, Lee focused on rebuilding her immune system with a healthy diet. She researched and read everything she could find about this idea of nutrition and disease prevention and was so amazed that she eventually began teaching cooking classes in 2006 to share what she had learned. Meanwhile, as their backyard garden grew, Larry’s dream of something bigger and Lee’s motivation to reach more people convinced them both to move after 30 years in Greensboro to create Peaceful River Farm.
The Newlins found their new home in the Triangle and created a welcoming connection between the farmhouse and the newly renovated education barn where Lee holds her healthy cooking classes. They also host farm dinners and rent space to private groups, including college groups, as well as tour the farm throughout the year.
Larry explained details of the farm as we walked around. The rows in the high tunnel are so densely planted that there are carrots and beets sticking out of the sides of the furrows. A net at the ceiling will be lowered to support the tomato vines this summer. Larry sees much less pest damage in the high tunnel and plans to do all his tomatoes “inside” this year. With the changing climate, he predicts that local growing with the aid of such structures is the way of the future. He’s also trying out special tomatoes that have had the desirable tomato variety (for example, Cherokee Purple) grafted onto a disease resistant root stock; this will hopefully enable the plants to grow in the same location repeatedly, which would normally result in disease outbreaks. The farm operates according to organic standards.
Peaceful River Farm sells at farmers’ markets and to many local restaurants. Students from the cooking classes often sign up for CSAs, a program that Larry hopes to expand. Visit the Newlins on the Piedmont Farm Tour for a walking tour of the farm. Watch a video of our visit below, and visit them online at http://peacefulriverfarm.com/. (There’s information about the farm’s events and classes, as well as recipes.)