Get to know some of Chatham’s farmers market vendors

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Green Heal Farms

Green Heal Farms is owned and operated by Kenny Boodman and Courtney Martin. The couple started their organic vegetable and flower farm a little over two years ago and brings their offerings to sell at the Chatham Mills Farmers Market. Mainstay products include lettuces, greens, salad mixes, root vegetables, cherry tomatoes, bell peppers and a variety of flowers.

“We just planted 1,400 sunflowers last week,” Kenny said. Green Heal Farms is committed to organic growing practices without chemicals or synthetic fertilizers and use no-till methods.

“The farmers market gets us closer to our customers,” he said. “The food-store network is so faceless — shoppers don’t know where the food comes from and when it was picked. We get great feedback on how much longer our produce lasts and how different the flavors are.”

Kenny frowns on the food prejudice prevalent in food stores.

“Sometimes you’ll have an ugly pepper — it doesn’t always have to be beautiful. What matters most is that it’s local, fresh and healthy.”

Before turning to farming, Kenny was a chef at a farm-to-table restaurant and was a working mentee to an area farmer. Courtney designs flower arrangements for weddings. Kenny also provides garden-bed landscaping services on the side.

Cure Nursery

Cure Nursery Native Plants for the Southeast is owned by Jen and Bill Cure, who started farming in 1993. Cure Nursery grows shrubs, a few trees, perennials, ferns, bog plants and vines, and is a vendor at Chatham Mills Farmers Market. The nursery started as a wholesaler to companies involved in wetland mitigation, stream restoration and environmental projects and switched to retail five years ago.

Jen has seen heightened interest in gardening and native plants, especially during the pandemic.

“Needs are different. Homeowners need more education and are glad to be able to find the plants,” she said. “We have many more species now.”

Both Cures hold PhD degrees in botany and worked doing research in atmospheric CO2 and air quality effects on vegetation.

“The farmers market offers an important way to connect people to each other in the county,” said Jen, calling it a “win-win.” “That’s lovely. There are not many ways to do that and that’s a good one.”

Baked By D

Baked By D is a business owned by Daniela Stanganelli, who’s on a mission to change the standards we hold for our food.

Specializing in baked goods, Daniela has a few steadfast rules: use all organic ingredients including fruits; no refined oils; no bleached flours; only free-range eggs and grass fed dairy; only use unprocessed organic sugar, organic date sugar or whole dates for sweetening. She buys local whenever possible and offers lots of gluten-free options.

The baker is new to Chatham Mills Farmers Market, having just moved to the area in November.

“I want to be part of the reason people read the labels before they buy food,” she said. “People sometimes pass by because I am selling sweets, but I do offer some things that are high in protein and fiber. While it’s not good to include sweets on a regular basis, we’re all going to indulge in something sweet — we should do it in a healthy way.”

Daniela grew up in a first (U.S.)-generation Italian family who owns an Italian market in Largo, Florida.

“To keep myself occupied, I was always messing with ingredients so, basically, I’ve been doing it my whole life,” she said. “I like that the farmers market brings the community together and supports the people living here.”

Rocky River Hemp

Rocky River Hemp is a family farm owned by veteran Rick Brownfield. Together with his son, Rick grows hemp, a cultivar of cannabis, specifically selected to be high in a flavonoid in CBD and very low in THC, the active ingredient in marijuana.

Rocky River Hemp is a vendor with Pittsboro Farmers Market and Chatham Mills Farmers Market.

“The farmers markets allow us to be face-to-face, explain our process, describe benefits and gather feedback from the community to pass on to new customers,” Rick said. “We’ve observed benefits to veterans who have suffered bad wounds and PTSD.”

Rick, who was in the U.S. Army from 1971 to 1978, spends a lot of time educating people, noting many misconceptions about hemp and CBD.

“So many benefits from the plant get overshadowed because some varieties can be used to smoke and get high,” he said. “And there is so much misinformation and mistrust associated with buying online.”

Regulation begins in the field. Random plant cuttings are taken for testing to determine the level of THC. If more than the legal 0.3% is found, all remaining plants in the field are destroyed. Unlike large hemp growers that use big machinery to harvest flowers and leaves, Rocky River Hemp takes just the flower, treats it gently, dries it and allows the flower to cure before taking it to the lab to extract oil.

“We get a better, finer product,” Rick said.

Rocky River Hemp also sells to three Pittsboro stores.

Celebration Time NC

Celebration Time NC is a specialty food business started by Sarah DeStefano after a 30-year career in the chemical industry and software consulting. She developed her multi-purpose products in response to dietary needs of family members with diabetes and heart issues.

Celebration Time has multiple uses as a dressing, marinade and dip and can be used with vegetables, fruit, rice, potatoes, meats and bread. She added her spicy pizza sauce to the lineup in 2021.

Sarah touts her products as healthy, vegan-friendly options with no gluten and minimal salt and sugar. The business is a vendor at the Pittsboro Farmers Market.

“I absolutely love that market,” she said. “It has a huge following of loyal customers. I am also a consumer; I buy my basil, oregano and shallots from the local farmers.”

Sarah said she was also excited about the market’s upcoming move to The Plant.

Beechcrest Farm

Beechcrest Farm is a 200-acre farm owned by Armin Lieth. Pasture land makes up 50 acres and is home to his herd of Gelbvieh cows, a black angus breed of German descent. Armin and girlfriend Michelle Williams market the grass-fed beef at The Fearrington Farmers Market as local, fine farm-to-table meats. The farm also produces eggs. The farm’s name was chosen in homage to all the beech trees on the property by Armin, who majored in horticulture at N.C. State. Beechcrest Farm was established in 1996.

Part of his inspiration for raising beef was his discovery that he was sensitive to supermarket beef packaged in solution, according to Michelle.

“Beef purchased from mass producers doesn’t have the care that goes into Beechcrest beef,” she said. “Cows here are rotated from one pasture to the next so they always have fresh grass.”

Beechcrest Farm is certified Animal Welfare Approved, according to the farm’s website.

“Being a vendor at the farmers market is great way to put a face and a story with the product,” Michelle said. “We can describe how the cows live. We can share ways to cook the beef and eat it.”

She describes The Fearrington Farmers Market as a nice community of regular customers where a farmer can connect and develop a following.

Chatham Oaks Farm

Chatham Oaks Farm is owned by Justin and Rachel Clark, who put in their first strawberry crop in 2018. Justin describes their first farming efforts as “a wild ride.”

The couple purchased the property, which had been vacant for a few years, through a tax auction in 2017 and first had to rehab the house for plumbing and electricity. The spring harvest of 2019 was met by Hurricane Florence bringing lots of rain and, ultimately, lots of disease to the strawberries.

But the Clarks pushed on and are cultivating four acres in strawberries; they expect to have pumpkins again in the fall. A USDA grant allowed them to raise tomatoes and build a high-tunnel greenhouse structure. The farm is now in its third year as a vendor at the Chatham Mills Farmers Market. Justin now serves as the Market’s board president.

“One of the things I take pride in is that we are a producer-only market offering truly locally produced products,” said Justin. “We get comments on how different our strawberries are from grocery store quality. We try to be as environmentally sustainable as possible. We’re not organic, but we use a lot of integrative pest management while making sure things are produced efficiently where freshness and quality are #1.”

Justin works for BASF as a North American field manager for agricultural products. He began work there in beneficial bacteria to control diseases. Rachel served as development director for the Carolina Farm Stewardship Association of Chatham County until the couple’s second child was born two months ago.

The Clarks say they appreciate the close-knit community in Chatham County and believe that farmers markets are important for the community dynamic.

“It’s also important for the community to get fresh, wholesome food from local agriculture — not strawberries from Chile,” Justin said. “It’s the most grassroots effort of supporting local business.”

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