Reading time: 2 minutes
Takeaway: On land in Pleasant Garden held for three generations of Sharon Weatherly’s family, she and John Handler produce herb and veggie starts, cut flowers, chickens, goats, sheep and rabbits to sell at the Greensboro and Durham farmers markets. John also has a second life as chimney sweep.
I’m sure I’d seen John Handler before—the long full beard, the friendly eyes and humble demeanor make him someone you’d like to keep in the repository of your mind as one of those friendly faces you see around town—but the first time we really talked was after he’d finished cleaning our chimney.
John is half of Weatherhand Farms in Pleasant Garden. Sharon Weatherly is the other half. Together they raise a bit of produce, cut flowers, lots of fresh herb and veggie starts as well as chicken, goats, sheep and rabbits on land that has been in Sharon’s family for three generations.
I stopped by Fleet Plummer in February to get a recommendation for a chimney sweep and they recommended John right away. After he came by and finished with the chimney, we started talking about this and that and I sheepishly mentioned I was starting a food and farm blog. Well, turns out John helps run a farm when he isn’t up to his elbows in ashes. After buying some plant starts from him at the Greensboro Farmers Curb Market in April, our schedules finally lined up for a visit.
On the day I stopped by the farm in mid-May, Sharon was prepping a plot for cut flowers on part of their18 acres. About a half-acre is under cultivation, the rest being set aside for woodlands and a few acres for the chickens, sheep, goats, and rabbits.
They also have three greenhouses used for starting vegetables and herbs. John’s knowledge of chimneys comes into play here—the greenhouses are heated with woodstoves fueled with wood from their property. Doing so keeps their costs much lower than when they were using gas heaters.
They currently have 12 ewes and 16 lambs, mostly Dorset, along with 3 female goats (called does), 1 buck and 4 kids. The lambs and kids will be sold for meat after about 6 months.
In one of the open fields are a couple of open bottom, tarp-covered chicken coops housing about 200 Cornish Cross chickens, specifically bred for meat production. They’ll sell these about 7 to 8 weeks after they receive them, by which time they weigh around 3 to 3.5 pounds. John stays busy, receiving a new batch of chicks in the mail about every two weeks. The ones in these photos were too young for feathers.
John moves the houses every couple of days so the chickens have fresh bedding, grass and insects! The chickens, in turn, do their part by leaving behind nutrient rich droppings that will produce a bountiful crop of flowers next season.
Stop by the Curb Market to see John or visit Sharon at the market in Durham! They’re a great resource for starter plants and gardening questions as well as meat if you get to the market before they sell out!
You can check out this nice little video of the farm here: http://vimeo.com/39040331.
Where to find them:
Greensboro Farmers Curb Market
Corner of Lindsay & Yanceyville streets at table 125 & 126
Durham Farmer’s Market
Foster street in Durham Central Park Pavillion