Daniel and Allison Cooper have returned to the 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 local farmers’ markets, 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/.
Watch a video of our visit below.