Rickie White and Christopher Fipps wanted to move to the country, and both had an interest in local foods and farming. They were half-seriously looking for a farm when they visited the land they now own, a ten-acre former horse farm in Hurdle Mills. The farm was on a river, with natural areas they could preserve as well as land to cultivate, and it had a pond fed by a creek and a spring that bubbles out of the earth underneath an old, sprawling white oak tree. So in 2011, they moved and began farming, in addition to keeping their old jobs. (Rickie works as a biologist for the nonprofit NatureServe, working with rare ecosystems, plants, and animals, and Christopher works at a state conservation agency in Raleigh.)
Rickie took classes at the sustainable farming program at Central Carolina Community College, and he and Christopher both took the county’s PLANT @ Breeze program (People Learning Agriculture Now for Tomorrow), a “farming incubator” program that teaches would-be farmers the basics and provides low-rent land. (Read more about PLANT here.) They began growing sustainably, focusing on herbs that they turn into tea, as well as heirloom produce, unusual varieties of fruits and vegetables, spring bulbs, and native flowers.
We visited the farm when Rickie and Chris signed up for the Piedmont Farm Tour in 2013. Rickie gave us a tour of the fields as well as the woodland path leading down to the Flat River. He explained the farm’s name, a reference to the elusive Neuse River Waterdog, a rare salamander that only lives in the Neuse River and its tributaries.
Waterdog Farms sells at local markets. Read more at their website, http://waterdogfarms.com/. Watch a video of our visit below.