One of the greatest parts of writing the blogs for the Saxapahaw General Store is having the opportunity to meet so many local purveyors and learning about the paths they followed to end up where they are now.
Beth May earned a bachelor’s degree in biology and then went on to earn her master’s degree in biological and agricultural engineering. While in grad school she began working in a fungal fermentation lab where she practiced growing fungus on solid substrates. When she left her work at the lab, Beth needed to carve a new path as she did not see herself working in the biotech field. Luckily, she stumbled upon the controlled fermentation of soybeans which results in a product called tempeh. At this point in time Beth had never heard of, nor eaten tempeh. She decided to try to cook some; it turned out terribly, and tasted awful, however the scientist in her was determined to continue experimentation and make a good tempeh.
Beth uses the traditional Indonesian method of tempeh production which utilizes two separate fermentation processes. She studied extensively and gathered much knowledge from The Book of Tempeh by William Shurtleff, finally perfected the process, and launched a business called Tempeh Girl.
Maddie and I had the opportunity to visit Beth at her production facility in Hillsborough, NC. The space where Tempeh Girl produces her tempeh is shared with other local food producers including YAWP bars, Luna Pops popsicles, Napoli Pizza, Dining Wisely catering service, and Seal the Seasons frozen local produce.
Beth greeted us with a bright smile and energetic demeanor. She reminded me oddly of Helena Bonham Carter, with a similar quirkiness, but much less manic than the characters I’ve associated with the actress. Beth gave us the grand tour of the facility, and the step-by-step process for her tempeh. She is a “pusher of the local agenda” and sources all of her soybeans from an organic farmer in Rocky Mount, NC. As a mother of two sons, ages 9 and 12, it was extremely important for her business to grow gradually, and sustainably in order to maintain the balance of parent and business owner. Currently Beth receives just over two tons of soybeans per year and she uses about 200 pounds of beans on production days which occur every other week.
Since her first attempts, Beth has become a much better tempeh chef. Though Beth and her family are not vegetarians, they enjoy tempeh tacos weekly on “Taco Tuesday” night.
You can find Tempeh Girl tempeh at the Saxapahaw General Store in our Smoked Tempeh Reuben sandwich and available for retail sales. You’ll also find this product at North Carolina restaurants like Sage Cafe, The Pig, The Spotted Dog, The Refectory Cafe, Fiction Kitchen, Tir Na Nog, and Raleigh Times. Additional retail sources for Tempeh Girl are Weaver Street Co-op, Durham Co-op, and Harmony Farms.
Situated just a half of a mile north of the Saxapahaw General Store lies a little farm with a big mission called TerraStay.
The farm at TerraStay is a collaborative effort. A couple of guys, Mike and Tony, were very passionate about food, and were driven by the knowledge that fresh foods grown with love taste better. So they started TerraStay in November of 2013 and asked veteran farmer, Matt Newlin to run it. Under Matt’s management the farm began operation in April of 2014 and through the hard work of the TerraStay employees they have seen consistent, sustainable growth. One might say Matt has farming in his blood, his Uncle, Larry Newlin runs Peaceful River Farm. Matt has been farming for eight years and has been managing farms for over six of those years. Matt got his farming start in our nation’s capital, Washington D.C. He has been instrumental in the success of nearby farms like Funny Girl farm in Durham, but has also experienced the hard realities of farming when finances, weather, and Mother Nature take a toll on a farm.
TerraStay’s crop is strictly veggies. They grow eggplant, basil, tomatoes, squash, cucumbers, kale, collards, carrots, beets, swiss chard, corn, and peppers, to name a few. They are able to harvest 500lbs of peppers weekly in their greenhouses and they distribute their harvest to about nine restaurants. TerraStay is not only in the business of creating their own profit, but in true understanding and practice of the thought that ‘we’re not okay, unless we’re all okay,’ they collect products of neighboring farms (T5 Farm, Boywood, Ran-Lew, Haw River Ranch, Peaceful River, etc.) to deliver to restaurants from here to Raleigh in an effort to expand the reach and profitability of our local farms. TerraStay is working towards becoming a full service farm – aggregation and distribution – and a place for tourists to stay when visiting the Saxapahaw area, hence the “stay” in TerraStay. All told, there will be nine houses for ecotourism.
You can find a great selection of TerraStay crops at the Saxapahaw General Store. Look forward to book your stay at TerraStay in the Fall of 2016!
Within the natural world there is evidence to suggest seven year cycles of renewal and there is much significance tied to the number seven. In the human body, our cells are replaced after seven years, the economy rises and falls in seven year cycles, there are seven days in the week, seven deadly sins, Seven Wonders of the World, seven chakras of the body, and most mammals have seven cervical vertebrae, just to name a few. This season, the Saxapahaw General Store celebrates the seven-year anniversary of Cameron and Jeff’s ownership of the business. So, we’re at the turn of our first seven year cycle.
A whole lot changes in the first seven years of owning a business. One steps into the role of business owner with a set of expectations and ideas for how a business will be run and what it will look like. For the first few ‘toddler years,’ Jeff and Cameron inherited a specific set of traits that they had to transform before they could start making the mark they had envisioned in their minds. They took over a dusty, sleepy store offering few products, if any, to draw anyone in who wasn’t already driving by on the way to the dump. Bit by bit, they changed the product mix until it took its current shape – an eclectic blend of fresh, local produce, comfort and gourmet café food, beer and wine, and daily household goods.
After seven years we are working with a creative, dedicated staff, in a supportive community, with local farmers and artisans who work hard and lovingly for their craft. Within the store we are working on establishing a staff-driven vision statement for our next cycle and those beyond. Thank you to all those who have been a part of the first seven years, we can’t wait to see what the next seven hold!
Saxapahaw General Store’s beer buyer, Kevin Coble and I visited Brian Mandeville at the Fullsteam Brewery in Durham, NC to chat about the Summer Basil beer. Brian is a young- 27 year old, welcoming, burly-bearded guy. He has a kind, gracious, and humble demeanor. He hails from Hinesville, GA, and as a military kid spent some of his youth in Germany and Japan. He moved to North Carolina in December 2014. Brian attended Longwood University in Farmville, VA where he earned a degree in political science. He followed the typical path of many American young adults; finish high school, go to college, get a job- if you can. After running through the mill, Brian has found himself right where his youthful heart would have taken him – he began brewing/distilling as a freshman in high school, inspired by the teachings of his chemistry class, and now he’s the Head Brewer at Fullsteam Brewery. Before coming to Durham, Brian earned his certificate in Brewing Technology from the Siebel Institute of Technology as part of the World Brewing Academy. At Fullsteam, Brian is surrounded by individuals whose paths have winded and turned until they made their way to the world of brewing beer. The thing he loves most about Fullsteam is the supportive community that exists there and the willingness of everyone to try new things and take chances – like the Summer Basil beer.
The Summer Basil beer is a true testament to the supportive community both within and outside of the brewery. They rely on local farmers within 50 miles of the brewery to provide the freshest Genovese Basil which is used almost immediately to brew this beer. The greatest thing about this process, Brian describes, is the opportunity to meet and build relationships with each farmer who grows the basil. The farmers are equally as excited about the use of their product in each batch of beer. The most notable characteristic of the Summer Basil beer is its changing flavor profile. As we move through the different temperatures of the summer months, basil takes on a different essence. The Summer Basil beer is first brewed in late May. From this time through about mid-June the beer has a subtle flavor and is more crisp and fresh. As summer temperatures rise the flavor becomes more intense and floral until it reaches the full strength of flavor which is pretty punchy, somewhat spicy and leaning more towards star anise.
Now is the perfect time to taste a full-flavored Summer Basil beer! We are fully stocked with Summer Basil and other beers from Fullsteam at the Saxapahaw General Store.
Fullsteam Brewery is open Monday- Thursday from 4:00pm until midnight, on Fridays from 2:00pm until 2:00am, on Saturdays from noon until 2:00am, and on Sunday from noon until midnight.
Anyone who’s stopped into the Saxapahaw General Store knows this is not your typical gas station convenience store. Sure, we have many of the quick-grab soft drinks, snacks, toiletries, and motor oil that you’ll see in most of the mini-marts attached to gas stations, but we also have a ton of local, artisinal treats, homemade soaps and candles, produce from North Carolina farmers, and homeopathic personal care items.
Staff member Maddie Baker recently began assisting store manager LaShauna Austria with local product purchasing for the store to ensure our shelves stay stocked with North Carolina’s best! Maddie and I had the privilege of visiting Suki Roth, Herbalist and Owner of Herb Haven in Graham, NC. Suki makes teas, tinctures, salves, and other products from plants she grows in her own garden. She offers classes teaching how to identify medicinal plants, what the medicinal qualities of plants are, and how to prepare your own tinctures and teas. In addition, Suki gives consultations to individuals who want to incorporate her healing herbs into their lifestyle by guiding them in creating herbal profiles, individually matched to fit their specific needs.
Maddie and I arrived at the Herb Haven, stepped out of the car and into a sanctuary. The air smelled fresh, the sounds around us were of birds’ songs and the wind moving through leaves, and the energy felt calming and renewing. Suki greeted us with a big smile and hugs and then took us on a tour of the Herb Haven garden. The garden was filled with many plants one would see everyday and know them to be weeds or wildflowers. It’s certainly eye-opening to learn that much of what is growing all around us has the potential to heal us from our body’s imbalances and ailments. Suki explained the importance of having the garden and providing her apprentices and interns the opportunity to work in the garden. She said one must have a relationship with the plants, with the source of the medicines and be able to identify the herbs and flowers that carry healing properties. The garden also offers the freshest source for Herb Haven’s medicinal products. Of course there are plants that Suki cannot grow because of the North Carolina climate, but those that she can, she does.
We then made our way into the Apothecary. The shelves were lined with dried herbs and flowers for teas, and bottles filled with finished tinctures. Suki has been practicing herbalism since 1994. Her father was a doctor and she has used some of his medical texts to learn about the traditional practice of medicine and other approaches to diseases and symptoms. She still prefers using flora to support health, but has a more well-rounded base of knowledge.
Suki has a very youthful spirit and a great respect for nature, and there is a genuine joyfulness and positivity that radiate from within her. Maddie and I left with an enthusiasm for the day and week ahead and a greater respect for the plants and trees all around us.
You can find Suki’s Blends tinctures, medicinal tea blends, and Suki’s topical salves at the Saxapahaw General Store. If you have any questions or suggestions for products, please contact us at email@example.com
I got to have my first real conversation with Randy Lewis over lunch at the Saxapahaw General Store. Randy was joined by Cheryl Braswell, who I’m told is the “dream keeper.” Randy and Cheryl are both regular patrons of the store- Randy only lives 3 miles away from our little store. I see them often, stopping in for lunch, purchasing daily provisions, and stocking our shelves with Ran-Lew dairy products, but I’ve never sat down to have a conversation with either of them. We start in on the usual historical questions about Ran-Lew dairy and immediately I know this is not your typical story. I’m instantly met with a heart breaking story that truly demonstrates the power of love.
For many years the 110 acre Lewis farm has been a small dairy operation. In fact, Randy tells me there are no records – that have been found yet – of another family owning the little slice of North Carolina land where his cattle graze. Randy’s grandmother was a great influence on him and imbued her love of the land and of animals onto Randy. Up until 2009 the farm was run as a small dairy farm, supplying milk to the much larger pool of our nation’s dairy. When the economy crashed in 2009, many farmers took fatal hits. Two changes were especially deadly for dairy farmers- the cost of grain jumped while the cost of milk dropped- so these farmers were having to pay a lot more to keep operations up and running, and were being paid a lot less for their product. Many dairy farmers were forced to shut down their operations and sell all of their cattle. Randy told me that through this time period he saw many friends and colleagues lose everything they had worked so hard to achieve. Despite this trend of folding farms Randy, with the encouragment and enthusiasm of his niece Megan Riggans, took out a loan to keep his dairy farm going. The plan was to move from a small commercial dairy to a dairy producer/ processor. Randy and Megan continued developing plans and preparing for the transition to expand the dairy farm over the next couple of years. However, in September of 2012, Megan and her husband were on their way to the hospital to deliver their first child when they were in a car accident that took Megan’s life. Their son Will was delivered and placed in intensive care, he died 10 days later.
Here’s where I learned about the power of community and the love of friends. Funerals can be expensive events and difficult for many to afford. Friends of the Lewis and Riggans family and fellow dairy farmers began sending checks to help pay for funeral expenses. The folks in the business of death were also touched by the story and the loss of such a bright life and waived many of the funeral expenses. At the end of the day, $24 was paid for the funeral and burial of Megan and Will. There was still a great sum of money donated by friends, family, and colleagues. The family decided the best thing to do was to put this money into an endowment, and thereby the Megan Mann Riggans & Will Riggans Memorial Scholarship was created. “The endowment will be used to provide scholarships for undergraduate students from the state of North Carolina who are enrolled in agricultural programs at N. C. State University, N.C. A&T State University or Virginia Polytechnic Institute and State University, with first preference given to students in a dairy-related curriculum. In addition to the universities’ criteria in selecting recipients for the merit-based awards, eligibility requirements also include active participation in 4-H, FFA, the N.C. Guernsey Association or the N.C. Junior Holstein Association.” Due to Randy’s personal tragedy, some of the little extra responsibilities that a person takes on were moved to the back burner. Among these was the application for a grant that would provide the extra money necessary to move forward with the dairy production company. This is where the “dream keeper” comes in. Randy had all but resolved to toss aside the grant that Megan had been writing when Cheryl encouraged him to submit it- “what’s the worst that could happen?” The grant money was awarded and thus began the full-steam-ahead move towards making the dairy production company dream a reality.
The Ran-Lew Milk Dairy Company has about 200 cows, most of which have their own name. There are 70-80 “ladies of the farm” that are milked regularly and the milk is bottled on the same day of milking. Ran-Lew whole milk is unique in that it is non-homogenized and has none of the cream skimmed off. The buttermilk contains only milk, salt, and cultures- essentially this milk would follow the Reinheitsgebot – German purity laws ordering that beer can only consist of water, barley, and hops – of dairy (if they existed). Though the USDA and FDA have their own regulations dictating what can be called “healthier,” Randy suggests that “if less processing is better, than ours should be better” and some studies suggest that non-homogenized milk is easier to digest than homogenized milk. Even the chocolate milk follows this purity formula with no carrageenan or corn starch. You’ll notice that the cocoa in Ran-Lew chocolate milk will begin to separate without these emulsifiers, but after testing about 20 different iterations of the chocolate milk and a roomful of people taste-testing each one, they’ve perfected a recipe that is unmatched and superbly delicious, enough so that Randy drinks a quart of it every morning for breakfast.
Like his milk, Randy is a bit of a purest about certain things. He likes to know where his food comes from and he likes coming to eat at the Saxapahaw General Store because we can offer the local source of many of our dishes. Randy has his usual bowl of chili- he tells me, like cows; he’s a creature of habit, Cheryl was eating one of our mixed greens salads with roasted veggies on top. Our conversation moves from milk processing to the many animals and people who have migrated to the Lewis family farm over the years, to growing up in Alamance County. Randy talks about his wilder days as a deadhead, surrounded by his many cousins and friends enjoying the freedom of live music and the drink and other substances that partnered so naturally with the hippie culture of the 60s. He tells me about some of his longtime friends and about the many animals that have made their way into the Lewis family. I’m particularly struck by the story of his “yard cow in training,” Biddy. She was born prematurely during the winter season and they did not think she was going to make it, but Randy says, “she didn’t give up, so we didn’t give up on her.” I’m reminded of the incredible gift of each new day and how important it is to live fully, intentionally, and with love and joy in your heart.
Randy is an inspiring human being who truly treats all creatures with love and respect. He’s taken on a great amount of monetary debt in developing the Ran-Lew Milk Dairy Company, but he knows that if he continues working hard at it and finding success this will offer a better life for his whole family and generations to come. Ran-Lew Milk Dairy is a milk producer/provider and is one of only six in the State of North Carolina and with any luck the care and attention he gives to his craft of producing milk will catch on and echo throughout the entire agricultural industry of our country.
To give to the Megan Mann Riggans & Will Riggans Memorial Scholarship Inc. please visit this site: https://ccfn.ncsu.edu/advancement-services/giving/A/?pick=true&f=011588
Cinco de Mayo is the celebration of the unlikely victory of the Mexican army over the French invasion of Mexico in the aftermath of the Mexican- American War of 1846. In a David and Goliath-like battle, the Mexican army of 2,000 defeated the 6,000 strong French army and restored the sense of unity and confidence within Mexican citizens.
Here at the Saxapahaw General Store, we’d like to share in the celebration and help stock your celebration too!
We recently introduced Yah’s Best salsas and tortilla chips from Huntersville, NC. From locally grown ingredients and the labor of love of home cooking, Yah’s Best Products offers the best about local foods.
A long-time feature of our ever growing chocolate shelf is Taza stone ground chocolate discs. We are always looking for local products to strengthen the North Carolina economy, environment, and sense of community, but sometimes we have to look outside of our state’s borders for great products with great values. Taza brand chocolates are a mission and values driven company dedicated to “making and sharing stone ground chocolate that is seriously good and fair for all.” The values that drive this business are:
Keep the Bean in the bar– let each ingredient speak loud and proud.
Innovate and be adventurous– anything is possible, but it is only probable when given your best effort and a leap of faith.
Trust in teamwork– trust, honesty, and communication make powerful collaboration possible.
Act with respect– honor your co-workers, community and partners. Without them we have nothing.
Be excellent and never stop improving– even when no one is looking.
Waste not– our resources are precious. Waste no time, no things, and no food.
These are values we can really get behind!
So stop into the store this week to receive 10% off our Yah’s Best products, Modelo Especial beer, and Taza stone-ground chocolate discs.
Happy Cinco de Mayo!
We’re in the thick of the celebration of the third annual North Carolina Craft Beer Month… Happy April! Here at the Saxapahaw General Store we are welcoming a brand new beer buyer from within our staff. Kevin Coble took on the position of beer buyer, and after six years of being a home brewer himself, brewing at Natty Greens, and working hard in the Saxapahaw General Store kitchen, we highly trust the opinions of our house Cicerone.
In celebration of NC beer month, we’ve asked Kevin to recommend some of his top picks. Kevin’s first pick is Haw River Farmhouse Ales’ Beneath the Feet of Orion Saison. Saison (French for ‘season’) is a beer typically brewed through the winter to be enjoyed in the warmer months of spring and summer. This particular saison is brewed with fresh ginger root from Pittsboro and 200 pounds of fresh carrots. It is a well-balanced, bright beer with just enough of a kick to make it perfect for drinking on warm spring and summer evenings. Haw River Farmhouse Ales’ owner, Ben Woodward is dedicated to brewing classically flavored beers with local ingredients and always a little twist to achieve great tasting and pairing brews, this one is no exception. With the warm weather; first blossoms of tulips, daffodils, and Bradford pear trees; and bursts of bright green, we say, “Tis the Saison!”
Haw River Farmhouse Ales brewery is located right here in Saxapahaw, NC. After four years of planning and preparation, brewmaster Ben Woodward opened his brewery in October 2014. The tasting room is open on Thursday and Friday from 4-8pm, and on Saturday and Sunday from 2-8pm. Make the trip out to Saxapahaw to try out Beneath the Feet of Orion, or one of the other great beers from Haw River Ales, like the Three Laws Black Saison, or their Oak-Aged Farmhouse on Persimmons. Keep up with events and new brews from Haw River Farmhouse Ales by checking in with them on Facebook, twitter @HawRiverAles, or Instagram: hawriverales.
Zingerman’s is the holy grail of leadership. They have perfected the art of customer service. They are the royalty of the service industry. Which is why we decided to send two of our team members to go learn from the best. We put Shauna and Alec on a plane and sent them off to Michigan! Shauna, our personnel manager, was accompanied by Alec, one of our kitchen leaders, for the “Leading with Zing!” two-day seminar.
Now, some might consider a trip to Michigan in the middle of January undesirable. Unpleasant, even. According to Shauna, the temperature was -15 when she arrived Sunday evening. But they persevered! They trudged through two feet of snow to attend their first seminar on Monday morning at the Zingerman’s training center. On their first day, they toured the Zingerman’s coffee house. Shauna loved the atmosphere, and she described feeling as if she had formed a relationship with the coffee growers, as their photos were proudly displayed on the walls. She also was able to form relationships with the other attendees of the program, who came all over from Michican and across the US. Shauna and her husband finished the day at the Zingerman’s roadhouse – the mack daddy of the Zingerman’s enterprise – for their anniversary dinner.
Tuesday was all about service leadership, sound visioning, and bottom up business strategies. Service leadership is a concept they described to me as “serving your co-workers as if they were customers.” This concept really resonated with Alec, and he was excited to implement this in the kitchen and throughout the general store. While Shauna said farewell to freezing cold weather on Tuesday, Alec stayed on for a few days to really get the Zingerman’s experience. He worked in the delicatessen, prepped at the roadhouse, and visited the farm. He saw the whole story from farm to table.
So be on the lookout for these hot shot leaders! They are back and ready to kick some customer service butt!
On a recent trip to Ireland, I had to opportunity to explore many small villages not unlike Saxapahaw. We drove down small winding roads, with livestock on either side, traveling through the irish countryside. I was reminded of my drive to work, down Saxapahaw Bethlehem Church Rd, passing the cows and wide open fields. As Ipull into Saxapahaw (pop. 1,648), I’m greeted by friendly faces and small town charm.
It was like this throughout Ireland as well. Upon arriving in a new town, we would explore to find a neighborhood grocery store, a welcoming pub, a lively music scene, and many small scale producers. Sound familiar? I began to appreciate the feeling of being somewhere that reminded me of home. It was comforting to recognize the patterns between small town Ireland and small town North Carolina – the humble farmers, the chatty bartenders, the lovingly prepared food. I was immediately filled with gratitude that this magical faraway place had a lot in common with this lil’ village called Saxapahaw.
The village itself is a concept that occurs frequently, but it can’t be replicated. Each tiny town is unique in its own way. Saxapahaw has its own originality, an eccentric identity found only here on the Haw River. Each place we visited had its own distinctive quirk, and it was incredible to witness the different interpretations of this concept. Saxapahaw has come from a long lineage of self-sustaining small villages, so different and yet so similar.
Trade out the falling down castles for falling down barns, and Ireland is not so different than here. But you won’t find another Saxapahaw in Ireland, that’s for sure.