It was a classic fall day, with gray skies, a hint of rain that never came, and wind. All around, leaves of many colors were falling onto the land. Despite the blustery atmosphere outdoors, inside, a group gathered with the farm owner and family, to observe, talk, and understand a bit about farm life. Knowing that farm life can’t be understood in a single conversation, this was one of many, with a good mix of guests.
Around the table at the farm, Esta Cohen and her family shared their knowledge with hot coffee, tea, and chocolate chip zucchini bread. Foodies, all, guests included a mix of government staff; an NCSU professor, students, and staff; an agribusiness farmer; and a visual and print storyteller.
We talked and asked questions, shared insight and perspectives about the challenges of a working farm, an extended family, aging farm equipment, and a year-round plan for growing and selling locally and to restaurants.
We took some time to walk the farm, see the operations, discuss the seasons and tasks involved for each one. Cohen Farm is Esta and Murray, and their family, which includes their granddaughters. Many acres, daily tasks, one farmhand, and lots to grow and sell comprise only a small percentage of what is required to keep the farm going every day. Working with restaurants, finding ways to be efficient, and finding family time are all genuine challenges. Thinking about the future and what it holds, passing the reins, and making sure years of work doesn’t disintegrate in a day are also cause for concern.
Cohen Farm is located in Silk Hope, North Carolina, and they serve guests within Pittsboro, Siler City, Raleigh, Durham, Chapel Hill, Burlington, Greensboro, and more. They are proud producers of certified organic hay and grain, eggs from free-ranging hens, pastured beef and pork, and seasonal produce and have been farming using organic methods since 1971. They have never used herbicides, synthetic fertilizers or pesticides, growth hormones, or routine antibiotics.
Next, we traveled to Angelina’s Kitchen, much like visitors to the farm, after a tour. Angelina’s menu includes some regular items and varied specials, local food with a Greek twist and sometimes a number of cuisines. Visiting and dining at this eatery is where the fork and farmer meet; Angelina works with as many farmers in the region that are accessible. It’s her goal to make sure everything on the plate is tasty, seasonal, local, fresh, and presented well. It truly feels as if we are dining in her kitchen at home and the family-style experience among your own group as well as the camaraderie of other guests (often farmers too) creates a lively experience with conversations among many.
The day of our visit, the rabbit stew was perfect for all who wanted to try something local, particularly because the rabbit farmer was among our touring group. Vegetarians and vegans will find plentiful options. Plates to share vary, with grilled pita, humus, tzatziki, tater tots, lentil soup, spinach pie, falafel, or dolma. Try the salads, soups, sandwiches, rice bowls, or the daily special. The dessert area always features cookies or cake made by a local baker and the children’s menu rivals those of drive-through restaurants, in value and taste, with berries as an option for a side. Family dinners include pita and tzatziki or humus, and a large Greek salad. Guests also love the Grab n Go menu, perfect for picnics at Jordan Lake State Recreation Area or for their inn rooms (great as a midnight snack!).
We hope to learn and explore more as we entertain guests to the farm, through People-First Tourism, which offers our micro-entrepreneurs the opportunity to host visitors as they choose, at their convenience and leisure. Working farms are always busy and it’s all very real, not necessarily a pristine picture of blooming gardens and colorful veggie patches. Guests often catch only a glimpse when touring, and truly appreciate all of the hard work at Cohen Farm.