Cindy McCain Hamrick of New Terra Farms is a relatively new farmer, but she has innovative ideas and tireless energy for growing her business along with her three devoted sons. I had a chance to check in with her after a Saturday market and feel sure that you will sense the passion for her new career in her answers to my questions.
Where is your farm located, and how many acres do you have?
We currently have 5 acres in production in Chester, SC — 2 acres of row crops and 3 for livestock (Heritage Poultry). I am also partnering with growers who have several acres of crops grown to our ‘beyond organic’ standards.
What are you growing right now?
My favorite crops…ok, I say that every season! Winter greens, broccoli of all kinds, fennel, cilantro, red cabbage, garlic, shallots, sweet onions, fava beans and winter wheat, several different varieties of kale, mustard greens, spinach, lettuces, Tatsoi, beets and carrots that the deer have been kind enough to share… and I’m probably leaving out some things.
Where do you sell your farm goods?
Charlotte’s newest and hippest year-round, indoor farmers’ market, the Atherton Market. I’m there most Tuesdays, Wednesdays, and Saturdays. We’ll also open our CSA to the public on Saturday, December 18th on our Web site, www.newterrafarms.com . There are currently 12 full shares and 3 work shares that have not been reserved.
Who helps you on the farm and at the farmers market?
I am a single mom of three boys, who have all been AMAZING to help. Brandon (21) was instrumental in launching our 1st farm’s infrastructure and supporting my mental health. He has since flown the coop but continues to check in from time to time. My middle son Adam (17) has been a terrific ‘pinch hitter’ and salesman – he lives in Charlotte full time now for school, but regularly steps up to the plate to do whatever needs to be done to get ready for the market. And my youngest son Chase (14), is our farm manager who is living, homeschooling and working at the farm full-time. He has been committed to our farm business since day one and hasn’t missed a beat and is regularly coming up with creative solutions and ideas. Many of my boys’ friends as well as their father, Mike are regular faces helping at the farm and at the market when they can. I am so grateful to every one of them – I could never do this without help!
What is the biggest challenge you face on the farm?
That’s an easy one… growing pains. More demand than product, more soil than produce, more pasture than livestock, more work than laborers and more projects than income. (Cindy admits that this is a shameless plug for farm-share participants, private grants, micro financing, volunteers and interns).
What’s your next project on the farm, and what would you most like to accomplish in the near future?
Our next project is putting up low and high tunnels, a greenhouse, and finalizing our organic certification, and more importantly – or at least more fun – we are ordering seed for next spring and more baby chicks. Mother Nature willing, we will be bringing locally grown and milled organic heirloom wheat bread flour to bakers and to the farmers’ market next summer. In the future we will be adding an “All-Local, Value Added” line of products under the label “New Terra Fare.” Items will include prepared meals made from Carolina-grown produce and proteins that busy families can heat and eat.
Why did you become a farmer?
For many, many reasons, but it’s probably easiest to blame it on the tomato. To me, farming is a gamble that I am not the only one who loves biting into a ‘trusted’, sun-warmed, ripe-off-the-vine, “only as nature would grow it” tomato.
And another thing…
The farmers and “local food” community in the Charlotte Metro area are an amazing… that’s an understatement… group of individuals who have fed my family for years, but have also inspired me, not only to farm, but to become an activist, to learn, research, and stand up for things I believe in, and most importantly, to have resounding compassion… and I blame them all for my habitual conversations with the plants and chickens on my farm. We are making great changes happen in our communities and in Washington, and I can’t encourage folks enough to just get involved in any way they can.
What did you do before you became a farmer?
I was a broker for RE/MAX Classic Realty, and before that I worked in Financial Services Technology Management for 15+ years travelling all over the world.
What advice would you give to someone who is thinking about becoming a farmer?
Leaving an urban career to start up a farming business in rural South Carolina has been more drastic than having my first child, and likewise missing instruction manuals, but it also warrants the same advice: value the journey, especially the blunders.