Just down the road from Saxapahaw, in Snow Camp, lies Machaven Farm, owned and operated by Tiffanie and Stephen Jackson. At 38 acres, it’s not a huge farm, but it serves its purpose well. That purpose is to raise animals and produce for the Jackson family, for the surrounding community, and to raise a family with community and sustainability in mind. It’s a perfect example of what makes Saxapahaw such a unique place– a place where local farmers who are involved with the community make real farm-to-table possible.
If you’re a regular at the Saxapahaw General Store, you’re probably already familiar with Machaven. They not only provide much of our locally raised pork, but for much of the year, you might see a shelf outside the store selling Machaven grown seedlings for tomatoes and strawberries.
Neither Tiffanie nor her husband Stephen come from strong farming backgrounds (though Tiffanie is a graduate of NCSU’s School of Agriculture), and have only been farming for four years— as long as Machaven Farm has been in existence. Despite being new relatively new to farming, Tiffanie and Stephen have created a quick legacy not only for their daughters, but for Alamance County.
We spoke with Tiffanie Jackson, and asked her some questions about Machaven Farm.
What do you raise at Machaven Farm?
The farm is a mixed vegetable operation with a herd of goats, sheep, hogs, a flock of chickens and bees. We have a big focus on “building” soil so we can raise the healthiest produce we can. Because we use sustainable methods in growing produce we really rely on the health of our soil to help give us healthy plants that are more nutrient-dense, pest and disease resistant, and productive, since we don’t add fertilizers or pesticides.
The whole family seems to be involved at Machaven…did either Tiffanie or Stephen grow up in a farm family? In or around a farm? What led you to farming?
Neither of us grew up on a farm. Stephen’s grandparents had a small farm from which they fed their family, sold raw milk, and tobacco. Stephen always had in mind that he would like to have land because of his time on his grandparent’s farm and time outdoors there. I was lead to farming beginning in 2008. At that time, I had a successful interior design firm in Chapel Hill. I had the realization of the interconnectedness of everything when the cost of the furniture I was ordering for my clients began to soar due to the cost of petroleum. The proverbial Pandora’s box had been opened. The foam used in upholstered furniture is a by-product of making petroleum from crude oil. The environmental and human cost of the production of polyurethane foam had been devastating, especially in my home state of North Carolina. This time period paired with the housing crisis around 2008 and an offer Stephen had to do his post-graduate work in Charlottesville, VA. It was the perfect time for a new start. I used my experience as an entrepreneur, love of cooking, and my wish to work in a more sustainable field to start Nora and Willie’s Good Food Company, a niche catering business that served UVA, CFA Institute, and the NGIC and sourced its ingredients from local farmers and producers, including Polyface Farm. This opened my eyes to what small, family farms did. It was inspirational. Several years later we decided we wanted to start a family and move closer to family. Farming would allow me to contribute financially to the family, while homeschooling our children. Stephen works “off-farm” and I felt like I was ready. It seemed like the perfect time to begin our search for a farm. Through a friend, who embodies the generosity we saw in farming, we were able to buy our farm and work toward the life we envision.
What do you hope your daughters learn and take into the world one day from growing up on a farm?
We want to instill the values and virtues of hard work and a communitarian ethic, which we see on farms, into our daughters. We want our daughters to understand the pride that comes from challenging, individual effort, as well as an appreciation and understanding of how food, both processed and locally sourced, comes to wind up on the table.
What are your longer-term plans for the farm?
The long-term plans for Machaven Farm are to stay small and produce the most nutritionally dense vegetables and humanely raised pork, lamb, goats, and eggs available. There are field trials testing different regenerative methods of raising produce going on now to figure out the ins and outs of our long term plan.
Is there anything that you’ve tried that didn’t work for you or for this area? Is there anything that you’d like to try and grow or raise?
Artichokes! We can’t seem to grow artichokes. We had hoped but have resigned ourselves to the fact that the climate in N.C. isn’t conducive to growing artichokes no matter what the seed seller says…
You’re a very active member of the community. What role do you feel that you, and small family farms like yours, play in a community like Saxapahaw and Alamance County?
Each of us has gifts, talents, and interests that can be used to enrich the community. The term “The rising tide lifts all boats” is a part of our philosophy. As we support each other in the ways that we can, we are all enriched. We believe this has a ripple effect throughout the immediate, then the wider community. Local small farms can provide the freshest and healthiest food options to the community, even if on a small scale. In turn, the community supports small farmers and enables them to continue to provide healthy food options. We continue to be grateful to our small-farm neighbors and community businesses who have been helpful and inclusive of us as a family and small-farm community member.
Machaven Farm fast facts:
Location: Snow Camp, NC
Size: 38 acres
Produces: Goats, sheep, hogs, chickens (eggs), variety of produce
Want to meet your local farmer?
meet tiffanie jackson from Machaven farm on Wednesday February 12 2020 @ 6pm at the Saxapahaw general Store!