Reading time: 3min 25sec
Takeaway: The Farlow family, all four of them, grow vegetables and fruit organically on their farm in Archdale. Their products are free from harmful chemicals but bursting with flavor and color.
About the Farm
Russell Farlow has worked with his hands his whole adult life. In 2011, he shifted from making things himself to outsourcing the production to seeds and shoots. When you consider the essence of farming, he’s just doing the support work, but what a lot of it there is! From preparing beds to harvesting and all the work before, after and in-between, Russell ran the show mostly himself for about five years. This year his wife Jennifer left teaching to work with him on the farm.
Set on fifty acres in rural Randolph county, at the dead-end just a half-mile or so past the church with the bucolic graveyard, they have about five to ten acres under intense rotation, including a thirty by fifty foot greenhouse. Last year’s tomato patch is this season’s brassica field; after harvesting late-summer potatoes, the field is tilled and readied for strawberries to be planted in late winter and early spring.
Crops number in the fifties, and include strawberries, tomatoes, eggplants, peppers, and all manner of greens. Because they produce organically, choosing which variety of each crop they grow matters immensely. Varietal selection criteria includes: past performance on their farm; resistance to diseases, pests, and other blights; and curb appeal. The last is important for drawing customers to their stand at the market and explains why I always feel so mesmerized by their display!
He’s grateful to his mother for the family land that they farm and feels fortunate to have started out with a tractor and other implements for his use. The dearth of young farmers is a risk to the future of our food that he’s well aware of. Maintaining enthusiasm for never-ending work and obtaining capital to purchase land and equipment for a typically low margin endeavor challenge young farmers. Russell recognizes that part of Farlow Farm’s success rests on the availability of land and equipment he had when he started farming full-time.
Challenges and Rewards
If you’ve ever tried to maintain even the smallest of gardens, you realize what a task it is to work with what mother nature provides. Now, imagine doing that with only organic methods and at a scale like the Farlows’ and you start realize what “bone-tired” must truly feel like!
This level of effort gets to the heart of what Russell wishes more consumers realized, that many of us fail to appreciate the effort and skill that goes into being a farmer. (I couldn’t agree more – that’s what motivates me to write about farms!) He told me this in a way that made it obvious he’s not asking for praise or admiration for himself, but general recognition that farming is darn hard work. Farmers at the market aren’t selling strawberries at $4 or $5 a pint because they’re greedy—that price reflects the amount of labor behind the berry.
With Russell’s business acumen and skill at managing risk, the rewards of farming have so far outweighed the risks. The ability to provide nutritious food to his family is one benefit. Like numerous farms, the cost of USDA Organic certification doesn’t make financial sense; however, they follow organic practices. When his daughter had an adverse reaction to conventionally-raised fruit, that confirmed his decision to grow organically. She’s never had a reaction like that with any of the food they raise.
Farming causes less stress than when he used to build custom homes. My guess is that veggies and vines are less fussy than we humans. And, did I mention how beautiful the farm is? Woods bound the growing fields entirely on three sides, and partially on the fourth. A striking red barn with a hay loft like a cathedral and old-fashioned lightning rods pointing skyward dominate the middle of the fields. Having such a beautiful office surely helps reduce tension too.
Where to Find the Farlows
You can catch Russell at Wednesday markets, and the whole family usually helps sell on Saturdays. If you don’t recognize him from the photos here, you’ll recognize their well-laid tables, full of eye-dazzling colors that make your imagination fly through the culinary masterpieces you can concoct with them.
Where to find their produce:
Wednesdays, 8am-1pm (Seasonal)
Join their CSA:
Contact Jennifer at firstname.lastname@example.org to be added to their mailing list to learn about sign-ups and other details.