Farming in North Carolina

Dinner, For Moms, Heroes, In Season, Recipes, Summer
on June 1, 2010
Julie Shaw

A few weeks after buying Coon Rock Farm near Hillsborough, N.C., in 2005, Richard Holcomb and his family changed their lives. A successful software entrepreneur, Holcomb intended to farm the land, not live on it. But after spending a few weekends there, the family agreed that rather than hurrying back to Raleigh on Monday morning for school, it would be better to live on the farm. They traded in a 6,000-square-foot house for a small farmhouse on 55 acres of land.

The kids (David, now 19, Josh, 18, Matthew, 16 and Rachel, 14) discovered that they loved driving tractors, hunting deer, splitting wood, herding sheep and picking vegetables.

“I thought Dad was insane when he first started—until I tried the first pork chop raised on the farm. It was the best thing I ever ate,” says David, who will be a junior this fall at University of North Carolina. David is the farm’s biggest fan. Rather than join the college meal plan, he keeps his dorm refrigerator stocked with produce and meat from the farm. He’s learned to love greens, has started experimenting with shiitakes, and wants to start raising a heritage breed of Spanish goats.

The farm is home to the family, farm workers and interns, and heritage chickens, turkeys, pigs and cattle, as well as an abundance of heirloom vegetables. All of this bounty is used to supply the two restaurants that Holcomb owns, Zely and Ritz in Raleigh and Eno Restaurant and Market in Durham. One unexpected consequence of the move is that the kids stopped arguing.

“This house is so much smaller,” Holcomb says. “In the other house, they had their own rooms and privacy, while here they have to share, but they don’t fight anymore.”

By Nancy Davidson, a food writer in New York City.