I’ve always been fascinated by individuals I encounter whose families have a deep heritage and rooted connection to a specific geographic region. My mother’s grandmother was born in Italy and my father’s great-grandparents were born in Ireland, so I don’t have a deep familial connection to a certain place here in the United States. Mike Kirk lives on a piece of land that has been in his family since the Revolutionary War (1775-1783). This land is now farmed as Cane Creek Farms, and is located right off of Bradshaw Quarry Rd in Efland, NC, and Mike is the farm manager. As I write about the connection to this parcel of land in North Carolina, I realize I cannot discount the fact that before the 18th century, this land was home to Native American tribes who were violently uprooted from the place they were deeply rooted and connected with, and that there are connections to certain places around the world deeper than I will ever know.
The 85 acres of Cane Creek Farms operate with only three full time employees. The other full time residents of this land include pigs, chickens, horses, and the retired goats from Boxcarr Handmade Cheese. Through the sleepy winter months you’ll still find kale, collard greens, and salad greens poking up through the earth, while garlic and onions sleep underground. During the busier spring and summer months, interns will be helping plant and harvest strawberries, blueberries, asparagus, tomatoes, and flowers, to name just a few. Though Cane Creek is not a certified organic farm, they follow organic practices and only spray their crops when absolutely necessary.
If you ever stumble upon Mike’s path, you’ll find a warm, open, unassuming person. The energy of Cane Creek Farms reflects the welcoming nature of its manager. There is a lovely peacefulness that radiates from this farm. The ripples have been felt by local hunters who post up on the property during hunting season, by a bee farmer from New Hampshire who travels the 800 miles to bring his 30 bee hives to Cane Creek for the summer, and all those who make the quick stop at the bottom of the Cane Creek driveway to gather fruits and veggies from the “honor system” farm stand.
We’re serving Cane Creek Farms eggs for breakfast right now at the Saxapahaw General Store, and you can find lots of their produce here at the store throughout the year.
Over the past year I’ve done a lot of exploration into the world of social enterprises- entities that exist for more than the sole purpose of making money, but also to do social and environmental good. I’ve learned about B Corporations, Benefit Corporations, and the growing trend of non-profit organizations to adopt some of the principles of for profit businesses so they are not solely grant reliant. Through working at the Saxapahaw General Store, I am often in contact with many of these businesses, organizations, and the entrepreneurs who are seeking to do greater good in this world. One such organization that supplies our little store with freshly grown veggies through the summer is Benevolence Farm.
Benevolence Farm is a non-profit organization that envisions a world more equitable, just, and nurturing for women and the communities they transform. Their mission is to provide an opportunity for women leaving prison to live and work on a farm where they grow food, nourish self, and foster community. This past Summer, Benevolence Farm yielded vegetables, herbs, and flowers from their 5000 square foot garden. They sold much of their crop to us at the Saxapahaw General Store, to the Company Shops Market and the Burlington Farmers Market. This year, they have plans for expansion. After efforts to clear trees on the property, they will move from 5000 sq ft. of farmable land to one acre. Benevolence Farm will also double their reach in helping women transitioning from the prison system by increasing the number of women they can host from five to 12.
Benevolence Farm is having an open house on Friday, January 15. Stop by to learn more about the cause and what you can do to help.
Yep, we’ve got it (not the Lynyrd Skynyrd song of course), boneless breasts and thighs from FreeBird. Chickens raised on the FreeBird farms have more space to roam around, are fed vegetarian diets, and are antibiotic free. The farmers here have a commitment to sustainable farming, the environment, the survival and viability of family farms, and to the well-being of their chickens. And although our preference is always to support and source from our local farms, when we don’t, we try to seek out values-aligned companies.
Right now at the Saxapahaw General Store we are selling fresh packs of FreeBird boneless, skinless breasts, and FreeBird boneless, skinless thighs. You can find these on the bottom shelf of our coolers along the wall, before you get to the beer, or ask one of us to help you find them!
We are always changing and evolving at the Saxapahaw General Store. Our staff changes- new team members and new responsibilities, and the Saxapahaw community changes- new residents moving in, and old friends moving away. We also try, as best we can, to continue changing the products on our shelves to better fit our mission and to serve our community. Last week we made room on our shelves for a new line of grocery items from Field Day. Field Day offers organic and natural products – so no artificial colors, flavors, or preservatives, and no GMOs – for a lower cost than other organic brands.
Come in to check out what’s new in the grocery aisles, and let us know what you’d like to see! We are always open to suggestions and requests from our community, and will do our best to serve you.
Kevin Meehan was born and raised in Boulder, CO, studied architecture, and built homes alongside Mike Reynolds (the man who became famous for building “earthships“) in Taos, NM. He went on to building homes with his wife in Iowa, in California, and in Wisconsin alongside Lake Superior.
In 1995 Kevin and his wife, Kim were in North Carolina visiting Kim’s parents who had recently moved to the state from Baltimore, MD. They were exploring the area and lost their way about 20 miles outside of Carrboro. When they pulled over to look at a map, they found themselves staring at an abandoned homestead. The original plan was to move to Eugene, OR, start a small farm and raise a family, but they were struck by the beauty of the North Carolina landscape and the fertile soil of this little plot of land. That same day Kevin and Kim put an offer in on this property, and 20 years later Turtle Run Farm remains the home of Kevin, Kim, their two daughters, Clare and Erin, and now Kevin’s mother.
Turtle Run Farm grows blueberries, pears, corn, watermelon, peppers, tomatoes, carrots, onions, garlic, greens, okra, cucumbers, strawberries, potatoes, and a few herbs on 3 acres of land. The farm has been an anchor of the Carrboro Farmers Market for the past 20 years, and the scientific experiment ground of Clare Meehan. Clare enjoys helping her father cross pollinate some of the crops to create new hybrids. One of the favorite hybrids, Little Cherokees, are a cross between Cherokee Purple heirloom tomatoes and Sungold tomatoes. Other varieties include Erins Gold and Clares Red, named after their daughters. A few additional projects that have taken shape on the farm are the greenhouse which was designed and built by Kevin’s agricultural studies students at Central Carolina Community College, and the Use-Yer-Foot sink, which provides a portable hand washing station for festivals and outdoor events.
Our visit to Turtle Run Farm was absolutely wonderful. Kevin and his family have such an enthusiastic energy about them. It is evident by the quality of all the projects he has taken on that Kevin puts his whole heart into everything he does.
You can find Turtle Run Farm produce at the Saxapahaw General Store and weekly at the Carrboro Farmers Market. Look for the “Use-Yer-Foot” hand washing stations at festivals around North Carolina.
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 firstname.lastname@example.org