Seven Steps to Organic Farming in North Carolina

Organic vs. Regular Products

organic-vs-conventional-corn seems to deal with water betterWe live in a state where overly-processed food can easily replaced by health and environmentally conscious organic foods.  Our teachers tell our kids, our doctors tell us, and our supermarkets sell us their organic vs. regular foods. We have learned that ingesting foods grown with pesticides, hormones and genetic modifications may mean we are interrupting untold physical systems, with little transparent research to confirm or deny safety.  (Hey, Flint Michigan’s water was “safe,” in some research!)  We know that eating certain foods that are genetically modified to exhibit some positive qualities will also potentially produce some negative results in our bodies.  Of course, we already know about the potential dangers of certain synthetic food coloring.  All this medical and health research points to eating organically produced foods.  Then there’s just the plain old visual proof:  check out this image of organic versus conventionally-grown corn in a side-by-side duel.  (Image: (Ask them how they did that – I have several questions myself, like how’d they keep pesticides and fertilizers off the organic.  Stay tuned.)

What is “Organic Farming?”

Let’s talk about that term, “organic.” From the NSF International an organic item is described as “grown, handled and processed without the use of pesticides or other synthetic chemicals, irradiation, fertilizers made with synthetic ingredients or bio-engineering.”  There is a bit of controversy regarding the labeling of products that hit our market shelves.  For example, according to the NSF, to add the label 100% Organic” requires the ingredients and processing to be completely organically produced, with the exception of salt and water.  No other chemicals can be used.  To be labeled “organic,”  the product must contain at least 95% organic ingredients and must not use any banned chemicals on NOP National List of Allowed and Prohibited Substances.

How Does Someone Get Started With Organic Farming in North Carolina?

What if someone wanted to start organic farming in North Carolina? Thankfully, because our state has such a rich history of agriculture and agribusiness, we have lots of resources to help our farmers of all types and sizes.  Here are seven steps you can take if you are considering becoming a small – or large! – organic farmer in North Carolina:

1.  Be a member of Certified Naturally Grown :

2. Become affiliated with Carolina Farm Stewardship Association, which provides hands-on work days on a farm, in-classroom workshops scattered across the state, and resources to help farmers implement best practices.

3. Hunt and gather information from the Southern Sustainable Agriculture Working Group (SSAWG), where you can gather plenty of information regarding sustainable farming.

3.5  BONUS:  They have a conference coming up soon.  Check it out here this weekend January 27-30 in Lexington, Kentucky – read more here.

4.  Sign up for more information at ATTRA- National Sustainable Agriculture Information Service –

5.  Study up on CEFS – Center for Environmental Farming –

6.  Pour over what some consider to be the best magazine on organic/sustainable/small farm agriculture:  Growing for Market. (Hint: if you’re a flower grower, you will want to take a look at this publication and its concepts as part of your Valentine’s Day activities, and remember it’s on a Sunday this year.)

7.  Keep close ties with the extension service in your county.  One of our clients, S&H Farms outside Oxford NC, swears the Extension Service’s horticulture agent in Chatham County is one of the best on the east coast, citing multiple workshops on pest management, specialty crops, pollinators, most anything that has to do with small farms.  (Spoiler alert: that website:  has some of the best information and pictures, and it’s all about North Carolina and the local area.)  

Rare Earth Farms – Organic Beef and Veal Farms in Zebulon, Wake County and Bunn, Franklin County, NC

You may have driven past Fearrington Village with its signature Beltie cattle, looking more like chocolate and crème sandwich cookies than cows. You’ve seen the crazy California commercials: cows lip syncing memorable skits to sell the concept of happier treatment leading to better products. You may have watched “The Chef and the Farmer,” the local public television break-out hit show highlighting successful organic farming-come-haute-cuisine. However you’ve been introduced to it, sustainable food production is a hot topic – and a good business model.

Innovation in Agriculture

With all the world-wide media attention on animal cruelty, chemicals used in farming, genetically-modified foods, and sustainability, farmers are under more scrutiny and pressure toward accountability than ever before. As Americans grow more obese, less active, and more dependent on high-cost medical treatments, American farmers are searching for more effective ways of producing better and more foods that combat these epidemic issues. North Carolina is a vanguard on the fronts of today’s food and nutrition battles, leveraging the state’s historic roots as an innovative agricultural economy.

Proven Local Success

Rare Earth Farms cows: Central North Carolina Farm-to-Table and organic farming practices

Rare Earth Farms cows: Central North Carolina Farm-to-Table and organic farming practices

Part of North Carolina’s innovation in food production is its application of organic growth and humane treatment concepts on its participating farms. Local to the Triangle Area is a beef producer literally putting its money where its cow’s mouths are: Rare Earth Farms. Located in the Greater Triangle Area, Rare Earth Farms provides some of the area’s finest grass-fed, no-added-hormones, non-antibiotic produced beef. Using sustainable farming practices, North Carolina natives and partners Karl Hudson and Mann Mullen have developed some of the finest quality meats in North Carolina.

Mullen’s farm is located in Bunn, and Hudson’s farm is located in Zebulon, making a commute to and from Raleigh area restaurants and consumers a more-sustainable practice within itself.

With their recent expansion through partnership withCarvel Cheves of Clover C Farms in Bunn, now Rare Earth Farms is sustainably producing lamb as well.


Rare Earth Farms: Central North Carolina Farm-to-Table and organic farming practices

Rare Earth Farms Logo: Central North Carolina Farm-to-Table and organic farming practices

Farmers in North Carolina have access to some pretty powerful support for training and practicing sustainable farming – and sustainable growth of their businesses. Hudson and Mullen have committed to yearly audits of their farms through multiple organizations that provide standardized oversight and measurement of quality.

From its Animal Welfare Approved status to its Carolina Farm Stewardship Association membership, Rare Earth Farms welcomes transparency and ideas exchange.





Rare Earth Farms – the Farm with a Food Truck – North Carolina Farms in Zebulon, Wake County and Bunn, Franklin County.

Rare Earth Farms makes its products available the public in Wake County at the State Farmers Market Mon-Wed-Thur from 10 am to 2 pm; Sundays 9-5, directly to its CSA (community-supported agriculture) members, and most recently via food truck on the road selling their all natural grass-fed burgers and hand-cut fries. In addition, one of the best ways to understand sustainable farming is through touring participating farms during the annual Farm Tour. This year’s Eastern NC Farm Tour will be held September 19-20, 1-5 pm each day.

Visit Rare Earth Farms online at



Legacy Farms and Ranches of NC is proud to highlight local farms and related businesses in Central North Carolina.
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Getting Started With Specialty Crops in NC

We are looking for Ag Land of all sizes for buyer client needs. If you have Ag property with open fields for crops please call us today at 919-749-3177.

Looking for Ag Land tracts for specialty growers in North Carolina can be simpler with a solid business plan, an experienced real estate agent, and good consultants.

Getting Started With a Specialty Farm

Specialty crops can help to bring in higher prices because they are not widely grown in a particular region. However, developing a crop plan, buying land and handling all aspects of planting and harvesting for your specialty farm requires that you work with local experts. Here some tips for starting your specialty farm in North Carolina.


Specialty Crops Grown in North Carolina

The idea of specialty farming in North Carolina originally began as a method of weaning farmers off field crops (primarily tobacco, soybeans and maize) in order create regional demand for other crops. While there are some large operations, the majority of specialty farms on North Carolina rural land are small-scale farms. Today, high-value, specialty crops that are grown in North Carolina include:

  • strawberries
  • peaches
  • blueberries
  • tomatoes
  • asparagus
  • seedless watermelons
  • lettuces
  • muskmelons
  • floriculture

Many growers opt to grow multiple specialty crops on a single farm in order to increase revenues. Finding land with the right soil quality and weather conditions is the first step to planning your specialty farm.

Selecting Land for Your Specialty Farm

Specialty crop farms in North Carolina can be subject to varying levels of risk depending on the region in which the farm is located. Some areas in North Carolina are prone to high natural disaster risks while others feature distinct weather patterns that can put farms at risk for experiencing high winds, excessive heat, freezing temperatures and heavy rain.

A map created by researchers at Rural Advancement Foundation International-USA indicates where specialty farms are located in North Carolina and where disaster declarations were made from the years 2008 through 2012 in order to help farmers assess the risks. As a result, if you want to choose the best place to buy land for your specialty farm in North Carolina, you should make sure that you opt for a region that will offer the potential risk and return levels that you feel comfortable with.

North Carolina Specialty Farms

The North Carolina Specialty Crops Program website can provide more information on how to start a specialty farm in North Carolina. Although, this program has not been active since 1998 due to a lack of funding, the site continues to operate in order to provide informational resources for farmers and entrepreneurs. The site, managed by North Carolina State University and Cooperative Extension, offers the links to the results of on-farm trials and research reports that look at the costs and returns of producing various specialty crops in the southeastern United States.

A professional real estate agent experienced in farm and land sales can help you to select the right North Carolina investment property for your needs. Legacy Farms and Ranches can assist you with specialty farm land sales in Wake, Franklin, Nash, Johnston, Halifax, Warren, Vance, Granville, Durham, Orange, Alamance, Chatham, Lee, Harnett, Caswell, and Person counties. If you are searching for North Carolina farmland or acreage for sale, call Gardner at Legacy Farms and Ranches at (919) 749­-3177.

Important Considerations For Your Organic Farm

Legacy Farms and Land for Sale in NCIf you are planning to start an organic farm, you are probably aware that there are a lot of steps that you need to take in order to get started. Organic farming involves certifications, rules and standards that don’t apply non-organic farming.

Requirements for Organic Farmers

According to the North Carolina Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services, organic farmers must produce products that have at least 95% organic ingredients in order to receive a USDA Organic symbol.

In order to become certified, farmers or handlers must submit information about their operations to an authorized certifying agent. The information that is required includes:

  • The type of operation;
  • A 3 year history of the substances that have been applied to the land;
  • The organic products that will be grown, processed or raised;
  • The applicant’s Organic System Plan (OSP).

Authorized agents of the USDA will then determine if the applicant is in compliance with organic standards. Following acceptance, the applicant will be subject to unannounced inspections and reviews of the operational activities of the business in terms of compliance and enforcement regulations.

If your farm sells less than $5,000 per year in organic agriculture products, you do not need to obtain certification from the USDA. However, the national standards for organic products must be upheld regardless of revenue in terms of products that are permissible for labeling as organic.

North Carolina Organic Farms

To help alleviate the costs associated with starting an organic farm, North Carolina operates a cost share program that allows growers, handlers and processors to be reimbursed 75%, up to $750, of the cost of obtaining the national organic certification for every category in which the business can be certified. This program is known as the NC Organic Certification Cost Share Program.

Finding Land for Organic Farming NC

If you are looking to buy land for organic farming in North Carolina, choosing the right location will depend on your budget and your OSP. The quality of the soil is also extremely important as good quality soil is needed to meet the USDA’s rigorous standards for organic farming. Some areas may require more fertilizer than other areas in North Carolina, so it is important that you do a soil test of any land that you are considering purchasing. Certain areas outside of Raleigh are known primarily for growing tobacco while other crops such as sweet potatoes, cucumbers and other produce are also popular.

North Carolina Vacant Land for Sale

Buying rural land in North Carolina is easier if you use the services of an experienced local real estate agent. Your agent can guide you on the best places to purchase land for your organic farming needs. In addition, the agent can advise you on current land prices. Land prices in rural North Carolina can be as much as $25,000 per acre for land that is in close proximity to cities or in more remote areas, land prices may be as low as $1,000 per acre.

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