Takeaway: Tracy Lafleur, the farmer behind Sugar Hill Produce, grows healthy food without the aid of synthetic pesticides or fertilizers, but she also knows that growing community connections are just as important.
Reading time: 2 min 29 sec
Your salad mix was so delicious. I’m getting another bag this week!
Cool, thanks! Nice to hear.
My Saturday market conversations with Tracy Lafleur at Sugar Hill Produce seem so straightforward and mundane that you’re likely wondering if I am out of intro material, but as pointed out by Duke professor Norman Wirzba, conversing with YOUR farmer is a fairly radical departure from most current food buying experiences in the U.S. Picture yourself in your favorite grocery store and consider: Who grew that produce there? How can you thank them? How many people do you actually speak with before leaving the store?
I may seem to be getting sentimental or straying from the topic, but science tells us that there is benefit in human interaction, connections and expressing gratitude. Farmer’s markets and anything else that connects us to others and provides us access to fresh, healthy food positively impacts our health – mental and physical – in subtle yet powerful ways.
When I asked Tracy what some of the most important issues in farming are today, it wasn’t avoiding synthetic fertilizers and pesticides (which she doesn’t use). She said that creating community connections through regular interactions at markets and CSA pick-ups is one of the most important reasons she farms.
Tracy started her farm career a decade ago when she interned on farms in New England. She graduated from the University of Maine in 2011 with a degree in sustainable agriculture, which she’s drawn on since she transplanted herself to North Carolina, interned at Fickle Creek Farm, and eventually started farming on her own in 2016 at the Breeze Incubator Farm in Hurdle Mills.
With the help of her husband and a hired hand, she grows produce and harvests honey on about four acres on a quiet two lane road on an old tobacco farm. Hoop houses, tunnels, and frost cloth all help to extend the seasons so crops grow year round. By the end of the summer, if all goes as planned, the operations will be moving over to her own property that she hopes to close on in August with a Farm Service Agency Loan.
Don’t bring a list
Tracy grows a wide variety of crops, including pea shoots, strawberries, broccoli and potatoes, but you won’t find anything too intimidating or unfamiliar in her tidy displays. She focuses on things that are likely to be on your grocery list, keeping away from more exotic-to-us crops like kohlrabi and fennel.
Though she tries to cater to shoppers needs, she recommends not bringing a shopping list to the market. Tracy councils, “See what’s in season, what looks good, buy it and THEN plan your meals.”
Make the connection
If we aren’t mindful of making human connections, our daily lives can be fractured and isolated. Similarly, our food choices may lack diversity and healthfulness if they aren’t made thoughtfully. Luckily, farmers like Tracy and her crew give us an opportunity to nourish both body and soul at the same time.
Where to find their produce:
Year Round on Saturdays:
Email them via their website
 The W.C. Breeze Family Farm Agricultural Extension and Research Facility, donated by Colonel William H. and Elizabeth M. Breeze, is managed by the NC Agricultural Research Service at NC State University, along with folks at Orange County. Incubator farms allow beginning farmers access to land and, oftentimes, equipment and facilities. Farming has high upfront capital costs, i.e., you need a fairly large amount of cash or assets (land, tractors, etc.) to get started; incubator farms help beginner farmers by providing these at a cost lower than market and may also provide technical assistance (advice for crops, accounting, marketing, etc.) Essentially, incubators make it easier to start farming.
 Besides her goal of facilitating connection, Tracy feels adamant about not exploiting workers. She ensures her workers are paid a fair wage for their work and prices her products accordingly to do so.