The Big Red Ones

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Since we are creeping closer into spring, lets take a deeper dive into strawberries. We have been growing strawberries on our farm since 1980. We were the first farm in the area to start selling strawberries grown on black plastic. Gary spent those early years perfecting how he wanted his crop and what varieties his customer base liked the best.

Did you know strawberries are planted in the fall for our region? Most people don’t realize this, but strawberries are typically planted between late September and early October in order to have them for harvest in the following spring. Strawberries like a loamy soil with a pH between 5.5 and 6.5. We make rows of raised beds covered with black plastic. The black plastic helps keep the soil warm and also is helpful in limiting disease. It also helps conserve water and underneath the plastic we have a drip irrigation installed. Holes are then punched into the plastic, to allow for the plugs to be dropped in and planted. Now the plugs are planted strategically spaced out, why you may ask? Why not plant twice as many plants? Why leave all of that room? The answer is runners. Each plant will likely have “runners” branch off of it, which is essentially a clone. The runner will also hopefully produce fruit later on.

Strawberries will go dormant through the winter. There is no need to worry about cold weather (unless it gets too low, like in the teens) or snow hurting them, as they have not bloomed yet. Now once they bloom when the warm weather arrives, if there is a frost after the bloom, there is a risk of the bloom dying. Therefore frost protection is important. This could mean covering your crop or even overhead irrigation to freeze and insulate the bloom.

Covering the crop for frost protection several years ago.

Once the bloom is seen over the crop, you will have berries in 4-6 weeks. Typically the harvest starts out slow and then trickles into a peak season of 3-5 weeks of high volume harvest. For us this peak volume is during the month of May. This is all according to the weather of course. The weather impacts everything and could change this. We always pray for the sun to be out and no harsh weather to end the season early.

The stages from bloom to fully grown strawberry.

Big, red, juicy strawberries are what we all like picked. It’s important to look at the berry’s full circumference before picking it. The front of it may be red but the back could very well be green. You also want to hold the stem as you pull the berry off. If you pull the berry itself, you could rip the entire stem off, which will damage the plant. You also never want to step on a plant. If you step on a plant to jump to another row because you see a “big” one, you are killing that plant.

From a nutrition standpoint, strawberries are very healthy! They have a high water content and are low in carbs. Strawberries are good sources of vitamin C, folate, manganese, and potassium. They are sweet, delicious, low calorie treats.

It won’t be long before our season is among us but until then I will leave you with this sweet treat I made my family previously.

Until next time y’all – the farmer’s daughter


Evolving as the Farmer’s Daughter

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If you had asked me 15 years ago what I would be doing with my career, I would have never in a million years guessed I would be working on our family farm. I never thought there would be a place for me honestly. I went to school for medical transcription and followed that up with a business degree. I have always worked on the farm seasonally, ever since I was old enough to count back change to customers at our stand. After having my second child, and quickly realizing that daycare costs as much a mortgage, especially for multiple kids, I decided I would stay home with them. That quickly turned into an opportunity to start helping with some lingering things that we needed done for the farm, but that my dad and mom just didn’t have the time to keep up with.

That was nearly 9 years ago. My job has increased quite a bit and with each year new responsibilities are placed in my hands. Working alongside my dad and brother has been a great way for us to spend more time together and for me to learn more and more about the business. I am very type A and a perfectionist. If something is not done right, then I don’t want to do it all. I can’t sleep knowing something hasn’t been handled or knowing a deadline is coming up and everything isn’t just right yet. My dad knows this about me and I know this is why he gives me the responsibilities he has.

The rules, regulations, and requirements that are required of farmers today would blow your mind. I have a hard time keeping up and it’s my full time job. I can’t even imagine other farmers who don’t have anyone to help them out with all of their records and they have to tend to their crops, manage their business, and go home and keep up with records every night. My dad and brother have so much going on all the time. Deciding where to plant what, prepping the land to plant, planting, tending, harvesting, and all the while having business meetings and keeping up with all the sales of crops. There is no way they would have time to keep up with all the records as well.

I like to think that I am able to take some pressure off of them. I handle all the farm audits that we have for various GAP crops and any pesticide audits as well. I manage our Facebook page, our website, and any communications that I can. I also like to think of myself as my dads assistant. If he needs me to set something up, find out information on something, or do some research on something, I am his go to for that. I have been known to make him many 3 ring binders of information that he asks about, just so that he has everything he needs to make a decision.

When it comes to work, my dad and I, are like the yin and yang. I tend to be shy and quiet and he is not. He is very laid back and I am not. He has a big personality and I do not. However he has definitely modeled to me how relationships matter. Relationships within your customer base, your relationships in your community, relationships with all clientele, all of these matter and he has really shown me how to speak up and handle myself within all of these groups. He knows how to pressure me without making me sink. I doubt myself all the time and he believes in me. It’s not always easy and sometimes its pretty scary. He can ask me to do something and I know nothing about it so I have to do my own research and reach out and ask questions to find out the information that I need to move forward, but so far I’ve always managed to work it out, and hopefully that will continue to be the case as more gets handed over to me.

Working with my brother has been a blessing in disguise. Growing up we were always close but as we got older, and had different careers, we suddenly weren’t as close anymore. We talk regularly now and I think I have proven to him he can trust me to keep up with things that he doesn’t have time for either. Sure there are ups and downs. I think we have a lot of similarities that can make us clash, but at the end of the day he’s my brother, and I would do anything he needed me to do. I believe we make a good team and that we can continue to work together to keep the farm prospering for years to come.

Being a woman in agriculture means you are the minority. There are not a lot of men who want to deal with me because I’m a woman. I think of my dad as a celebrity and everyone wants to talk to him. They see his truck, they want to stop and talk. Dad is talker but it limits his time getting things done, so sometimes, if someone needs something he will send them my way and divert some of his constant traffic towards me. I have been shut down more times than I would like to admit when trying to have a conversation with a man in this industry, immediately they don’t want to talk to me, they want my dad. However, my dad has taught me how to find my voice and I can hold my own with any of these guys now. In fact, when it comes to tomato season in particular, some of them request to only talk to me now.

I feel fortunate to be able to contribute to our family business in any way that I can. I am grateful to be able to learn something new about farming consistently through my job. I am grateful for flexible hours so that I can still be a present mom to my kids, and since starting full time I have had my third child three years ago. I strive to always do my best and hopefully make dad proud. I hope as our farm continues to grow, that my role here will grow as well, and that we can continue on the family tradition for years to come.

Until next time,

the farmer’s daughter

All pictures courtesy of Libby McGowan Photography.



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To say 2020 has been an interesting year is an understatement. COVID-19 has drastically impacted our world and of course our farm. We had to implement lots of changes on our farm in our day to day operations and many changes to our roadside stand procedures. It was a learning curve for all of us. Luckily, our community showed up, and handled these changes with grace. We ended up having a great strawberry season in spite of COVID-19. Thank you all for having a hand in that.

This week starts the harvest of our 2020 tobacco season. Everything is running a little later than usual. The weather delayed planting and the weather has delayed harvesting as well, so here we are just getting started. The hours in the day have increased even more for our farmers. Earlier mornings and later nights are part of the process. Our farms are spread out over 3 counties so our guys are on the road and in the field all day during pulling season. Once they get back to farm in the evenings it’s not over. All the barns they just put in or put in previous days, have to be checked and make sure everything is running smoothly. If not, they have to work on them and get them going or else they could lose all of the harvested tobacco that they’ve just put in that barn.

I ask that when you see the various different pieces of farm equipment on the road traveling to the next field or trying to make it back to the farm at the end of the day, you show the same grace you’ve shown us before. This equipment isn’t made to go 60 mph. It’s made to harvest crops but we still have to get to our fields safely in order to do that. Whether that means driving the primer to the next field or in our case a lot of times, loading them up and hauling them to the next field. Whether that means following a truck and trailer full of tobacco or an empty one headed back for another load. Either way, please show grace. These guys don’t want to be in front of you anymore than you want to be behind them. Please don’t pass them when it isn’t safe. So many times my husband will tell me of people passing when they shouldn’t and running oncoming cars off the road, and he can’t stop on the dime when he’s hauling equipment on an 18 wheeler. I won’t get into the hand gestures, unless you are waving to say hello, lets just keep those to yourselves okay?

If you find yourself having to slow down for a few miles take it as an opportunity to slow your pace, take a few minutes for yourself, say a prayer, and remember that these guys have families to get home to just like you. Let’s all have a little grace.

Until next time…

-the farmer’s daughter


It’s ‘Bacca Time

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Last year was needless to say, a pretty devastating year for NC agriculture. Two hurricanes hitting our state right when most tobacco farmers had the best of their crop still in the field. Once they swiped through, it was over. The crops were ruined and any attempt to cure what was left behind were failed. Luckily the NC Disaster Relief Fund was able to help farmers stay on their feet and not go under from their crop losses.

This year, due to several issues, but mainly the tariffs with China, tobacco farmers lost a big portion of their contracts. North Carolina produces more tobacco than any other state in the U.S. With that being said this will be a transitional year dealing with the cutbacks and figuring out how to make ends meet so to speak, with other crops produced on the farm. However, as always the show must go on and we have just started planting for our 2019 season. I was able to stop by and snap a few pictures with my sidekick today. Take a look!

My sidekick, making sure no plants were missed.

Here’s hoping that NC agriculture is able to thrive this year and prayers to up above that the weather is kind to all our farmers. Until next time..

-the farmer’s daughter


Meet the Family, Part 2

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Here’s to the big three!  Luke, Mandy (me), and Gary Jr!

We are all three farm kids with very different personalities. Gary Jr (far right) is the oldest and has always helped on the farm seasonally during our produce months. However he has also started helping out with some of the bookkeeping to help our mom out some. He has a full time job with the Chatham County Health Department as the finance officer, where he has worked for nearly 15 years. He has a real head for numbers which is clearly something he got from our dad. I can’t do math in my head but if you give dad or Gary Jr a problem they can figure it out before you can write it down! Gary attended Campbell University where he graduated with a Bachelors in Business Administration with a focus in Accounting.

Next in line is Luke. Luke has always been one with the outdoors. He has never liked being cooped up inside, give him a field and a tractor any day and he’s happy. Luke has been farming alongside our dad since he was just a kid and officially made it a career after he graduated from high school. He has shadowed dad for years and has learned a lot of the trades of the land and what goes into the day to day operation of the farm. He also takes a lot of pride in our 6 house egg layer operation. He stays on top of the day to day activities within the houses and if there is ever a problem he gets it fixed. He loves his chickens.

Luke’s wife Kelli started working on the farm about a year ago. She cooks lunch for Luke, Dad, and Jeremy. She also helps with our seasonal produce stand and delivering produce. This year Mema (Jeanette, Gary’s Mom) is no longer able to make her famous sourdough bread to sell at our stand but Kelli has been working hard on learning the ins and outs of this to be able to keep this tradition going. Before all of this she worked in daycare for years. Together Luke and Kelli have 3 children, Mekenzie, Austin, and Camden.

Then there is me. I am the baby of the Thomas clan. I never really knew 100% what I wanted to do with my career. I have always loved the farm but never really knew where I would fit in. After high school I went to school for medical transcription at night while I worked for First Bank in Broadway during the day. Then I worked as a medical transcriptionist until right after I had my second child. That is when I started doing more things for the farm. I have always helped seasonally in produce but now I have a much bigger role. I keep up with all the chemical applications on the farm, I do the food safety and GAP records/audits for produce, GAP records/audits for tobacco, fumigant management plan, emergency action plan, employee training, marketing through our facebook page and this website, as well as anything else needed secretarial wise for my dad.  I am a perfectionist by nature and so any kind of rules/ regulations that need to be followed or kept up with is usually sent in my direction. I think most people do not realize the volume of paperwork that goes with farming. Our entire family has our own unique roles to keep the operation afloat.

Last but not least is my husband Jeremy or as most of you may know him, Squirrel. If I had a dollar for every time I have been approached with the two following statements I would be rich, “You must be squirrels wife” and “You have to be Gary Thomas’ daughter!”  Jeremy has been working on the farm since we were engaged, 2006. He farms alongside my dad and my brother but he is also pretty much the in house mechanic. If it breaks down or something is not working right, he is the one that is called to work on it. Before Jeremy worked here he worked as a diesel mechanic, which has definitely proven to be a knowledgeable asset around here. Jeremy and I have 3 kids, Cash, East, and the newest, Mia (see above picture as she is usually attached to my hip these days.)


So there you have it, I hope you enjoyed learning a little more about our family and how we work together on the farm. Until next time, peace out y’all, and hope to see you at the farm!

All photos provided by Libby McGowan Photography.

– the farmer’s daughter



Meet the Family, Part 1

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The USDA states that “97% of all U.S. farms are family-owned.” 44 years ago Gary started our family farm. Over my 30 years alone I have watched it continue to grow each and every year. It’s pretty admirable to think about all my dad been able to accomplish on his own and starting with literally nothing. Farming is risky business and it’s certainly not for everyone. Long hours and the constant gamble of relying on the weather is not for the faint of heart, and yet here we are all these years later and he has been able to make a life out of doing what he loves and include our entire family in the process. The family that farms together, stays together…

By his side for all of these years has been my mom, his bride of 44 years this year, Pam. She has been my dad’s right hand on all the new business endeavors that he has leaped into over the years. She has done all of the bookkeeping as well as manages the produce stand that we open seasonally at our farm every year. She also managed to keep up with these things while having and raising three kids. Our house was always spotless and she always had a homemade meal on the table every night. I can remember when her office was in a room outside of my bedroom and after she would put me to bed at night she would go in there for hours working on books. I can still remember watching her when I was suppose to be asleep, sitting at her desk working away as I drifted off to sleep. Watching both of my parents put in such dedication to their jobs day in and day out definitely influenced the work ethic that my brothers and I have today.


Look out for the next post with “The big three”…and some spouses. All photos featured are by Libby McGowan Photography. Until next time…

-the farmer’s daughter



Early mornings and late nights…

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It has been a while since our last post as we have been extra busy on the farm! Our stand closed for the season back in June but we have do still have greenhouse bell peppers at Lowes Foods in Sanford for a limited time.

All my farmers have been staying busy with tobacco.  Early mornings and late nights are the days of summer on our farm. The tobacco is coming along nicely.

I have been so excited to have a crop right in front of my house this year! I have loved watching it grow.  Tobacco has been a big part of my life since as far back as I can remember.


Only a farm kid or someone who has worked on a farm knows the smell of tobacco curing in the barns.  I love that smell and often take walks on the farm just to smell it. My dad started in 1974 with just 21 acres of tobacco and this year he has 750 acres.


I often get asked a lot of questions about farming since I am a farm kid but I don’t know a lot about it. I know basics. What I know is that farming is a lot more complicated than anyone understands. You have to be dedicated to spend from sun up to sun down in the fields. You have to have faith because with a powerful storm or the lack of rain you will lose your entire crop, your livelihood, something we know all too well as both has happened on our farm. You have to know the land in order to know what you can and cannot grow on it. You have to know how to prepare the land and sustain your crops. You have to know how to work on your equipment. You have to often spend more money than you yield from production.



I know very few people that understand the hours put in on the farm. My dad was always working when I was growing up.  No he was not there for dinner every night or every game we played,  BUT he was there when my girl scout troop went to the park. He was there to put lipstick on my cheeks for Halloween when I wanted to be an Indian.


He was there when I was scared to get my ears pierced so he took me himself. He was there to take me to get my license when I was scared to death of failing. He was there to see me all dressed up for prom.  He was there when I walked across the stage to get my diploma and to walk me down the aisle to my now husband. He was there for the birth of both of my boys and he is here for me now.


I know what you are thinking, if farming is so hard then why do it? Because he loves it, as does my brother, and my husband. My dad has always told us “love what you do and do what you love.”

So what has farming taught me? Discipline, dedication, faith, love, family, hope, respect, etc… my question to you is, what has it not?

-The Farmer’s Daughter


Strawberry Time!

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It is officially strawberry time here on the farm and boy are we excited. We have had a limited amount of pre-picked berries over this last week but as of yesterday the field is open to the public and the berries have really ripened up.



I had the pleasure of walking through the field on Sunday with the farmer himself and as you can see from the picture each plant has a lot of red berries and green ones for ripening later.


We always put straw out in the rows of our field to keep it clean, as you can see from the picture above.

We rode through to look at some of our current and upcoming produce to see how they were going.

The new potatoes are looking good! We will have these for sale starting Wednesday.



Next up is lettuce. It is plentiful and we will have this starting this week.


It should be about one more week on the cabbage but it sure is coming along nicely.


The onions are growing tall. We are already selling these. Right now they are sold by the bunch but once they start to get really big we will sell them by the pound.


A lot of people have never seen asparagus grow but it actually grows from the ground and you just break it off at the bottom to pick it. We have to pick it daily during its season because when the sun is out it can grow up to 7-8 inches in one day!



That’s all for now but we will keep you posted on new produce to come.  Our hours have changed starting this week, we are now open Monday thru Friday from 8 am to 6 pm.



Until my next “ride along” with my favorite farmer…..

-The Farmer’s Daughter


Spring has sprung…

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It’s been a long winter this year and we sure are glad to start seeing some warmer weather! Warm weather brings fresh produce! Right now we have greenhouse tomatoes, sweet potatoes, and various canned goods. As the weather continues to warm up in the next few weeks we look forward to burpless cucumbers, asparagus, lettuce, cabbage, broccoli,  sweet onions, squash, new potatoes, and of course the number one thing everyone loves STRAWBERRIES!!

We have already started going to the markets in the area, here is the schedule.

Tuesday- Fearrington from 4pm- until

Thursday- Pittsboro from 3:30pm-6:30 pm

Saturday- Siler City from 9:30 am – 1pm

We will also be at the hospital every Wednesday starting on the first Wednesday in May from 7 am- 4pm!

Our stands hours will be changing as more produce becomes abundant but at this time we are open on Saturday 9am- 2pm and this  week we will be open Monday – Friday from 12:30pm- 6pm.  However keep an eye on our Facebook page as well as here on our website for any hour changes as it WILL change.

We also are proud to announce that our greenhouse tomatoes are now USDA GAP certified! We have been working hard and spending a lot of time in the last several months preparing for our audit to get our certification and we just had it last week and passed with perfect scores.

What else is going on at the farm? What isn’t? Gary’s busy season is in full force as he is getting ready for tobacco and other crops. He’s busy prepping the land and getting crops planted. His day starts early and ends late. However I did manage to grab a quick picture of him the other day before he headed to another field!


Thank you for taking the time to catch up with us! We hope to see you at the farm!

-The Farmer’s Daughter