farm news

farm news, In Good Heart, New Beginnings

New Beginnings In Good Heart


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It feels like Spring around these parts, even though it’s still about three months away. The days are beginning to grow longer once again and life is full of new beginnings for Ben and I this year.  For one, we have a new name. Ben’s Produce was never really our first choice. Actually, our first choice was Veni Vidi Vegetables (as in, I came, I saw Vegetables). We were so proud of ourselves when we came up with that name, but when we told folks about it, no one got it and others people told us they couldn’t pronounce it. So we scrapped Veni Vidi Vegetables and decided on Ben’s Produce for its simplicity. It’s been a good name for us. It’s good to have your name in your business name – it means everyone knows your name. But we also feel the name limited us in two main regards: 1) we want to move beyond just produce and 2) well, it’s not just Ben. Ben and I talked about changing our name last year, but when Ben’s Produce was voted Edible Piedmont’s farm of the year, we decided to delay the name change and resolved to change it for 2012. We threw around a lot of names, some serious, some not so much, before we finally came to In Good Heart Farm. In Good Heart has a lot of meanings, but we decided on the name based on the Old English use of the phrase. To say that the soil is in good heart is to say that it is healthy, in good cultivation, and in good spirit. To say that a person is in good heart is to say that they are cultivating wisdom, courage, and good spirit. Ben and I felt that our farm name should represent our vision and we couldn’t think of a better representation of what we want to do and what we want to be in our world than In Good Heart.
In addition to our changing the farm name, we are also changing the farm input – which is to say that I am now also a full-time farmer, along with Ben! I have gained a lot from working toward my PhD in Sociology at NC State, including mentors and friends. And while I will always think of myself as a Sociologist, I no longer feel that earning a PhD is an important goal for me. I never knew farming would be the life for me. It’s physical, cerebral, spiritual, immensely rewarding and it enables me to feel like I am doing something – and more than that, that I am doing something positive in conjunction with the people and the things that I care about. Ben came to his realization a few years ago when he decided to leave his job working for Smithsonian Magazine in Manhattan and move to NC with me. Now we’re on the same track and we couldn’t be happier, which is great – because the other new beginning in our life is that we’re going to be parents this summer! Ben and I (and our families) are thrilled and can’t wait until we get to meet the little one sometime in June (I’m due near the end, but my mom swears I’ll give birth two weeks prior to my due date). Life is good and we’re ready to take on this year with all the vigor it deserves! Stay tuned! 
baby birds, blueberries, farm news, Mother's Day, peppers, potatoes, sour cherries, Spring, tomatillos, tomatoes

Full of Life


Hi folks! I have a few pictures from the farm this week and I thought I’d go ahead and share them with you. Spring is in full force and the farm is a microcosm of all of the rejuvenation and new life that comes with the season. Enjoy!

It’s hard to tell here, but these are baby birds in the weeping cherry. Their momma or daddy did not like me peeking through to photograph them, so I didn’t get any good shots. They sure did open their little yellow mouths for some food though.

Snow pea flowers are beauty-FULL! And the peas taste amazing too (we have some from our first round of planting already)!
This is Beth’s sour cherry tree. Ben and I are hoping we get to try a slice of her infamous sour cherry pie. 

The peaches are already getting pretty big!

The first round of zucchini, squash and cucumbers (we planted 400 of each!)
I have no idea of what this flower on the vine is called, but it’s gorgeous! It’s on our front porch with kiwi and grape vines. 

These are in the ground now.

These too. I’m so excited about tomatillos!

Here’s a shot of one of the sections. Most of what you can see is peas and oats (and the yellow stuff, well, that’s wild radish – we don’t care for it much but the bees and the chickens sure do!).

Can you believe there are already blueberries on the bushes?!
Poor Ben planted all of these tomatoes without me – since I’m still spending most of my time studying for prelims. I’ll be out there picking them with him all summer though!!! 

Well, I guess that’s it for now. Have a very Happy Mother’s Day!

family, farm news, farmers market, holidays, new year, travels

2011: Year of Inspiration, Motivation, and, most importantly, FUN!

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Goodbye 2010, Hello 2011! 

Well, howdy do! We’re caught up in the spirit of the new year around these parts. Saturday we’ll begin having more than 10 hours of daylight (10 hours and one minute, to be exact) and that means things will begin growing again. Most of our produce has been slumbering beautifully and cozily under our low tunnels and row covers. 
Yesterday we were rewarded for all of our care and attention and love for our hens and roosters with our first little brown egg. Th e chickadees are 5 months old and it’s about the right time for them to slowly begin laying eggs, although the lack of daylight also slows down their production. We got our second little brown egg this morning. Ben and I are planning on making a little ornament out of our very first egg by hollowing it out with two holes on each end. We’re so proud of them, you’d think we layed them ourselves!! 


Since all of the plants in the ground are currently hibernating, we’ve been spending most of our working time planning. Ben is planning Spring and Summer crops so we can order seeds. We went through the seed catalogs over the holidays and we’re pretty pumped about all the awesome veggies we’re growing. We’re going to have a few trial-run half rows this time around too. Ben has also been looking around and talking to folks for and about tractors. At the moment, we have the walk behind. We’d like to expand our production a bit more this year and we’d also like to have the efficiency the tractor affords. We’re hoping to get implements that are potentially capable for use for horse or mule farming someday in the future – maybe when we “retire” :). By the way, if you’re interested in that type of thing, definitely check out the Small Farmer’s Journal. It’s hard to make a decision one way or the other, because the system you choose is often difficult to get out of…In addition to the farm planning, I’ve been doing some academic planning as well. This semester I’m studying for the preliminary exam for my main area, globalization and social change. At the end of the semester, I’m taking a 24 hour written exam, answering three comprehensive questions in 10-12 pages each. That means I’ll be prepping for that feat for the next 16 weeks. Today, with a friend and colleague, we wrote up a plan of action and a study schedule. It feels pretty awesome to know what we’re doing in the next few weeks – all around. In addition to all of this planning, Ben and I have also decided to designate Sundays aa FUNdays, and we’re vowing to keep working throughout the rest of the days of the week so that we can reward ourselves with a full day of leisure one day of the week. As farmers and students (and also as a distance education instructor), it’s particularly difficult to separate work and home and to ensure work isn’t being done all of the time. We need our FUN time! We’ve also taken to taking walks on the acreage (350 acres). There are plenty of woods, a creek, and a beaver pond. It’s vast and gorgeous out here – even in the dead of winter. This Monday, Ben, Charlie (the dog), and I went for a stroll and pine cone collection walk. I brewed us some tea and put it in our nifty new large size and portable tea/coffee mugs, we bundled up, and we went to gather. On our walk, it began to snow. It was quite nice indeed. The snow did get a bit harsh at the end and we were a ways from home, so we decided eventually to cut through the woods and make our way through the bramble. It was quite the adventure! 

We also went on a Boxing Day Blizzard adventure when we went to visit Ben’s family for the holidays. We spent time all around the state and I even got to go ice skating on a frozen pond! Apparently that’s old news for New Englanders, but for a girl who has spent most of her time in the South, that was quite the scary and exciting fun day…actually night.It was a combo skate party, ice skating, Christmas Eve eve celebration. 

Here’s Ben with his parents at the dairy farm in Middleboro.

And here are a couple of Ben and I in the snow on the farm. 

The farm house. 

Charlie having fun with all the snow. 

Ben’s mom with her grandson (and Ben’s nephew). Isn’t he adorable?!

When we came back from Massachusetts, Ben and I were happy to attend market. We hadn’t been to market for almost three weeks!!! Here are some pictures from last weekend’s market and some from the farm. 
 Everything is grown with love!

Here’s a close of the said “magical” mesclun mix:
baby arugula, mizuna, baby tat soi, flat leaf parsley and curly parsley – YUM!

The winter spread 🙂

With Ben.

With me.

Assorted lettuces up close and personal.

Purple top turnips, real baby carrots and Hakurei turnips.

Kohlrabi and watermelon radishes.

We sold out by 10:30! 
We would love to bring more, but since things are slowly moving along here, given the hibernation of winter, it’s going to be a little while before we’ll have two tables full again – but it’ll be here before we know it!

Well, this is the sunset. 
Thanks for stopping by. 
Good bye for now and good night.

Happy New Year to you!
From: Patricia Parker and Ben Shields

bell peppers, cucumbers, eggplant, farm news, farm truck, flowers, summer squash, tomatoes, veggie mobile

time keeps on slippin slippin slippin…

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Hi folks! It’s hard to believe it’s been almost a MONTH since I last posted here. As you can tell from the title, time sure has been flying by for Ben and I. We successfully moved from 604 Sasser in Raleigh to 1000 McLemore Road in Clayton, then I went to TN to see my family, came back and we’ve been working on the farm pretty much from sun up to sun down since. Where did June go?! Well, I hope July doesn’t fly by as quickly. I’m loving the summer – even the heat – I am in NO way ready for the fall and for classes to begin.

I plan on posting some more recipes asap. I have some computer work to do in the next month, so that means I’ll be procrastinating a bit with it right here on the blog ;). Until those recipe postings though – I thought I’d share a few pictures with y’all so you can see a little bit of what we’ve been up to here at Two Trees Farm.

To the right is our new farm truck. It’s a ’93 Chevy Cheyenne. We managed to get a good deal from a very cool man named Gene. He sold us a camper shell too. I even got him to throw in a kitchen cabinet when we picked up the camper shell. Lately I’ve been discovering how much I’m getting to be more and more just like my mama – especially when it comes to finding a good deal or turning one person’s trash into my own treasure. That kitchen cabinet is gonna get fixed up and placed in our office/study.

This is the back shot of the truck. Ben and I still have most of our things in storage for the time being – but as soon as we get to unpacking Ben hopes to find a sticker he bought two years ago for his future farm truck: “I *heart* G.R.I.T.S.” (translation: I love girls raised in the south). Haha. Gotta love it! Farmer Ben from Massachusetts sportin a southern pride sticker. 😉

While we miss our neighbors on Sasser Street – Karl, Dave and Matt – and their beer garden – the farm is full of charms and good people. Our current roommates and soon to be neighbors are Beth and her two children Lucy (10 years old) and George (9 years old).Two Trees Farm (where our 1/2 acre plot is located) belong to Beth and the kids. When our lease on Sasser came up (without chance to renew – the owners are looking to sell), Beth kindly invited us to move to the trailer that is on her property. She and the kids are living there until the old farm house is finished.The farm house was Beth’s great great grandad’s – it was built in 1887. You can learn all about how Beth came to live on the farm and more at Beth’s blog (she’s a writer and stay at home mom) here. Anyway, it turned out that the farm house wasn’t finished in time, so Beth offered us a bedroom and bathroom in the trailer until she and the kids could get moved into the farm house. Of course, we jumped at the deal. When I tell people about our living situtation, a number of them feel compelled to express sympathy for us – but there’s really no need. Our schedules work such that we all tend to have our own space. When you’re living on a farm and most of your work is done outside (or in Beth’s case – in the other house painting and getting other stuff finished in there), it’s pretty hard to feel cramped. Ben and I really enjoy living with Beth, Lucy and George. We really couldn’t have better roommates – and I hope they feel the same way about us. It’s also insanely wonderful that we can open our front door and see our crops! The first day we were moved in, I walked out to the field and picked most of what we ate for dinner. Life can hardly get better. We truly are so very blessed. Sigh – okay, but moving along…and getting back to the pictures 🙂 –>

This is our new wash station. Ben and I found this tub at the Habitat for Humanity Restore for $15. We happened to have Art’s truck (Art is the farm manager of Veggie Barn – to check out their facebook page click here), which was lucky because that tub is mighty heavy. The truck bed tips, so we were able to tilt it and use a bit of gravity to our advantage. Well, I say “we”, but really, I left this particular job to the menfolk. Ben, Aaron, Derrick and a couple other guys from the house crew unloaded the tub onto the crates (which we got from Logan’s Trading Company – an awesome local garden supply store that you can learn more about here).

To the left is our room in the trailer. The window is probably Charlie’s (the dog’s) favorite thing about the house. He also loves the barn and all the rooms – including the hayloft – the farm cats (who are now out of sight quite a bit – poor kitties!), the monkey grass, the woods, the creek, the pond, and well, just about everything outside. The crazy fool loves to chase bugs and there are countless bugs out here. He is truly in dog heaven! 🙂

These are wild black eyed Susans. My cousin Thomas, who is quite the woodsman (and car mechanic and artist), told me that chanterelle mushrooms are in season when black eyed Susans are in season (they thrive off of similar weather conditions). Ben and I tried searching the woods for them but have yet to find any – but we’re convinced they’re there :).

This is a cold frame Beth is letting us use. No one’s using it now, except these pretty flowers and weeds, but we’ll be using it once the weather cools down for sure.

This is a sideways picture of Ben stretching after about 5 hours out in the field. We get up between 5 and 5:30 a.m. and then go in to eat breakfast and have some coffee sometime between 8 and 9. It’s SO nice being able to step inside and take coffee breaks. It’s also nice to sit in the shade of the trees and look at all the tasty and beautiful produce growing right in front of us.

It gets really hot out there. And when you get hot, you sweat. And when you get really hot, you really sweat – so much so that it drips into your eyes. For this reason, bandannas are necessary. Tie one around your head and you have a sweat sponge to keep it from rolling into your eyes. I posted this picture on facebook and once of our friends commented that this picture has a Marky Mark flavor. Hahahahaha! Remember Marky Mark (Mark Walhberg) and the Funky Bunch?! Anyway, you should see what kind of silliness we get into with these bandannas. They also make for good shields from the sun if you stick them in the back of your hat. Sometimes Ben rocks as mancy as 5 bandannas at a time. I’ll have to get some pictures of our 80s inspired banadanna farm fashion. Most of the bandannas came from my mama, who kept them from when my brother Matthias used to sport banadannas (he’s 14 years older than me – so he was a teenager/young adult in the 80s).

Here’s Ben putting leaves and compost down to add nutrients to the soil.

This is gomphrena. I love these flowers. Lara, one of our CSA members (and quickly becoming one of our friends), told us that you can dry the tops and replant them and they’ll flourish. I’ll have to get the specifics from her on this.

Of course, this is basil. Basil is one of my favorite herbs. I can eat it all alone and LOTS of it. But it’s also good with fresh tomatoes, olive oil, salt and pepper, and mozzarella.

These are the cucumbers. I took this picture less than a week ago and they are already much bigger than they were then. We also tied the posts more so they can really grow up well.

These are the peppers. They are also growing quickly. We’ve tied them now as well.

Here’s our solar dryer. I LOVE it! Ben and I have always hung most of our clothes – but we used doorways and lines inside the house. This thing is the premium model for us :).

Tomatoes. They are all tied up now too. They are also finally producing a bunch more. Ben has fertilized them and sprayed (organic approved – you’ll have to ask him what) for stink bugs. Stink bugs are boogers. They get on the tomatoes and suck all the juices out. We’re also beginning to see horned green tomato worms…hopefully Lucy and George will catch most of them for us. They want to catch them and keep them until they turn into moths. They’d be better off that way. If Ben & I get a hold of them, they get squished. They will eat the entire plant in no time!

Here’s another shot of the bar and our wash station.

Here’s a picture of the truck with the camper shell. Fancy aye? 😉 We are LOVIN it!

Okay!!! I think I’ve written enough to make up for the fact that it’s taken me almost a full month to update the blog. I hope I didn’t bore y’all too much. We hope to see you at market tomorrow, but if not, have a great holiday weekend!

Keep cool!
Patricia & Ben

farm news, summ, summer squash

Hello Goodbye

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 Hi y’all!

As you know, we’ve finally made it out to the farm. It’s absolutely fabulous! Charlie is definitely a farm dog at heart – but I’m not sure the farm cats appreciate his enthusiasm for the farm or for them ;).

We had a great Saturday at market. Thanks to all who came out! Ben will be going to market with our friend Emily next week, as I will be in Tennessee. I am leaving tomorrow morning. I’ll be stopping in Knoxville on the way to pick up my 11 year old nephew, Julian. We’ll road trip the last 3 or 4 hours together ’til we get to Oma and Opa’s house (my folks – mom’s German, hence “Oma” [it means grandma in German). I’ll also get to see my sister, her hubby and their “new” baby, Garrett (he’s new to me anyway – they live in Arizona, so I haven’t gotten to meet the little guy yet). Dad has already made plans to go camping out at Pigeon Roost, where we have land. He got an eight person tent, a cook stove, lanterns, and a 4-wheeler. We’ll also most definitely go fishing in the stream (or at least Dad will – I’d rather swim around and look for cool rocks and flowers really). In the meantime, Ben will be doing business as usual. I feel a little bad leaving him here to work his 70-80 hour weeks while I’m off in Tennessee having fun -but well. obviously not bad enough, because I’m going ;).

I have quite a few pictures to share with you. They’re kind of random, but they’re all either from market or the farm here in Clayton. I hope everyone has a fantastic week. See you in a week or so!


summer squash blossom (there’s a bee in there, but it’s kind of hard to see)

fried summer squash blossoms

one of our thrown together meals that wound up being a delectable feast

If I had a nicer camera the picture above would look as appetizing as it really was…This was a dish Ben and I just threw together one evening looking through our cabinets and using what we had (which is almost always how I cook). So, let me tell you what it is – in case you’d like to try it. I promise it’s really really really good!

– 1 jar alfredo sauce
– spaghetti noodles
– 1 bunch French breakfast radishes
– 2 chicken breasts
– squash blossoms
– egg and flour (to coat blossoms)

1. bake your chicken if you’re going to use it in this dish (use your preferred marinade and chop up chicken when done).
2. clean French breakfast radishes (you will use the radishes and the greens)
3. cut radishes to preferred size; chop the greens
4. cook your noodles and drain (if you use cold water the noodles won’t stick together – the only time I ever rinse them with water or not at all is when I make macaroni and cheese – it helps the cheese stick to the noodles better).
5. open jar of alfredo, simmer on low, add radishes and greens
6. once the radishes appear to be cooked well, add your chicken and serve.

Here’s a link to the fried squash blossom recipe (we just used cheese – I don’t remember what kind – it was just what we already had in the fridge).

In fact, the Seasonal Chef website has a TON of other recipes that are great for farmer’s market produce. You can access it here.

carrots (we have purple. rainbow and orange)
black eyed Susans

our chalk board 6/5/10

Ben with his silly hat and grin 🙂 (Emily said his hat reminded her of her grandpa)
summer squash

Ben and his new (to us) tiller (prepping the ground for sunflowers)

tat soi, lettuce and peppers

Okey dokey! That’s it for now. Take care.

Patricia & Ben

CSA, farm news, kale, online store, recipe ideas, veggies

Welcome neigbors in Mordecai & Oakwood!

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Hello and Welcome!

A big welcome to all our neighbors in Mordecai and Oakwood! Ben’s Produce is a fairly new agrarian venture for me, Benjamin Shields, and my partner, Patricia Parker. We offer you fresh, local, un-certified organic vegetables grown in Garner in partnership with Double-T Farm where I work as field manager and apprentice. You may have heard of Double-T Farm and owner Tom Kumpf before. They have a 200 member CSA with distribution in 5-Points on Tuesdays and also sell produce to 18 Seaboard, the Umstead Hotel and Solas.

Purchase of vegetables is made through our online store We offer pickup of your vegetables at our house, 604 Sasser St., on Tuesday evening from 4pm to 7:30pm only. No online payments are accepted, cash only at pickup. Please see the store home page for more detailed information.

Our vegetables will be for sale all winter as we grow cold hardy varieties in unheated greenhouses. We grow our vegetables with respect to the primacy of ecological and personal health. Organic principles are adhered to on our small farm which allows for such authenticity and quality. We take pride in our principles, growing methods and transparency. We cordially invite you to come see for yourselves by appointment!

Community Supported Agriculture:
We will be announcing details of our 2010 Spring/Summer CSA very soon, in the next week or so. Keep your eyes peeled!

Current vegetable availability includes:
bok choy
chinese cabbage
green onions
mixed greens
mustard greens
sweet potatoes
swiss chard

Future winter vegetables will also include:
baby beets
broccoli raab
brussels sprout
mixed baby lettuce & greens

Some Farm News…

We have been framing up the last of 4 hoop houses on the farm.
We aren’t finished yet because we’re waiting for some calm sunny weather to place the plastic over the frame. Wind creates all sorts of problems as you can imagine and rain and cold are not helpful either. We’ll probably attach the plastic tomorrow, Thursday, with the help of a torpedo heater to stretch and loosen the plastic. After the plastic cools down, it will tighten back up and create a taught skin over the frame that can better respond to snow, ice, rain and wind. Here I am setting the purlin on a bow. The purlin runs the whole length of the house at it’s peak to tie the bows together.

The farm is finally slowing down some. We are not planting much at this time and the weeds have slowed down too. Yay! It’s very nice to have a break from weeding. Chickweed on the otherhand, is a voracious winter annual that does well under row covers and in hoop houses. We did one cultivation of lettuce in a hoophouse late last week to stem it’s growth. If left to it’s own devices, it would over take our winter vegetables and smother them! No rest for the weary!

We have had a lot of rain recently. It has replenished our reserves and more! We had more than double average rainfall in November and we’re almost at average for December and the month is not half over yet! Luckily, this is not such a bad time of year for greater than average precipitation. We did loose our radicchio crop in the field to rot. It was an experimental crop so we’re not at a loss.

I spoke to a good friend last night and he told me about wilting kale with salt! I had never heard of it but it sounds good and we’ll be trying it soon. So here it is.

1 bunch kale
2-3 Tbsp. olive oil
1 Tbsp. salt

Mix a few tablespoons oil with salt. Generously rub whole kale leaves with the oil/salt mixture and allow to sit until and let wilt at room temperature. Rinse leaves after wilting if you wish, then chop or tear to desired size. Eat as is, add other salad ingredients or as my friend suggested, mix with mashed avocado. I know, it sounds a bit strange but sounds good to me.

Thank you for stopping by and stay warm and dry. . We hope to see you Tuesday evening!