Cindy and John Soehner are the farmers behind Eco Farm, 23 acres west of Carrboro. With the help of their children, they produce year-round produce, shiitakes and strawberries, flowers, eggs, and their famous sungolds.
When we visited Eco Farm on the Piedmont Farm Tour, we found John under on e of the sheds behind his house, surrounded by tourists. He was demonstrating how to innoculate a log with shiitake mushroom spores. He then led our group back into the trees, where dozens of stacks of logs waited to sprout. On the way back, we passed the chicken coop; the chickens were hiding, but we admired a grand turkey who faced off with us gawkers through the fence. The Soehners rescued the turkey after it was the guest of honor at a UNC frat party. John walked us out to the fields: a huge expanse was planted with strawberries (not quite ripe). While the kids ran up and down the rows, we learned about drip irrigation and making furrows for row crops.
Cindy likes to call their farm “More-ganic.” They haven’t paid for certification but farm according to organic standards. This means weeding by hand or using fabric to control weed growth in the rows, encouraging beneficial insects, and rotating crops to maintain soil health. Stalks and leaves are tilled under to become fertilizer for upcoming crops; as they pick the tomatoes, John throws the culls over the fence for the local turtles. The Soehners use a well and ponds for irrigation. They are first generation farmers, but the land was farmed before; John is grateful to the previous tenant. “There’s not a rock out there,” he said when we interviewed him.
The Soehners grow what people want to buy; at various times through the years, they’ve become famous for their arugula, their shiitakes, their sungold cherry tomatoes, and most recently their u-pick strawberry field. They raise chickens for eggs and spent several years raising hogs. Cindy manages the rows of zinnias, cosmos, and sunflowers that she cuts for market. John is on the farm full-time and supplements the farm income with a cut firewood business in winter. Cindy works behind the bakery counter in our Carrboro store. She’s also the farm photographer and author of several books including Diet of the Gods, a Greek vegetarian cookbook. Look for Eco Farm produce at farmers’ markets and in local restaurants. Learn more on their website, http://www.ecofarmnc.com/ or on Facebook.