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Grower Profile

 Greys Reach Farms: Bobby & Layla Rogers

by Gretchen Schott Cummins

It takes a rare breed of person to be a farmer. After a brief conversation with Bobby Rogers of Greys Reach Farm, it was clear that he, his wife Layla and his family are of that ilk who can (and will) take on the job of growing food.  The balancing act of timing and hard work requires a certain character that can take what Mother Nature dishes out.

Even in the frozen quiet of January when I contacted Bobby, they were so busy that several attempts at an “in person” interview were unfulfilled.  Fortunately, there are electronic methods, and the following interview is the fruit of our email communiqués.

If you’ve been lucky enough to be in the store for some of their greens this winter, the proof of their passion for good healthy food is in the tasting. If you haven’t, fear not, there will be plenty to come this spring.

 

Q: What brought you to farming?

 

A: I left work as a chef to build houses and later became a contractor. As the housing market crashed, it seemed natural to return to the culinary industry. But at what capacity was the big question? We had purchased 18 acres in Crab Creek Valley for development of a “Green” neighborhood and were reluctant to develop it in this economy.

 

My wife (Layla) was really key here. She wanted to open our own restaurant. I wanted to grow my own produce! So we began a set of plans, purchased the building on the corner of 2nd Avenue and Main Street and started demolition of the building and construction of the farm. The restaurant has taken longer than we hoped to get all the necessary logistics and approvals out of the way, but is under construction now and the farm has taken off much better than we had ever hoped.

 

Q: Do you have a history with Agriculture?

 

A: No, not as an actual farmer, but farming has always been in me in one way or another.

My Grandparents were big farmers and we’ve always grown a family garden.

As a working professional chef, I visited farms, markets and produce stands, had farmers growing specific produce for my restaurants, cultivated farmer relationships way before it became so mainstream to do so and was directly responsible for the selections and storage of produce, meats and dairy.

 

 

Q: How long have you been farming here?

 

A: We’ve owned the farm for 6 years and have always kept our family garden there. We have increased every year to this point where we will have 7 acres in crop production and additional acres in forestry pastured animals and mushroom cultivation.

 

Q: Farm Philosophies?

 

A: Our current mentality is “beyond organic”, meaning our primary concern at the farm is the health and well-being of our soil. The quality plants and produce that come is actually a byproduct of this mentality.

Local is where it’s at. For too long the conventional farm community has been headed in the wrong direction. Bigger is rarely better when talking about food or agriculture. Mainstream gene pool farming and genetically modified farming is like replacing God with an earthbound chemical company. No thanks!

 

We love all things edible and are firm believers that natural influences, in one way or another, help to develop the individual flavors and characteristics of the foods we eat as much as it affects the difference in clover honey or sourwood.

 

Q: Farm Practice

 

A: We low impact row farm about 1/3 of our property. The other 2/3 of our farm will, in the future, be used for forestry products, wildlife and limited livestock. We utilize some of our forest for wild mushroom cultivation currently, and plan to enlarge that as time permits.

 

Utilize:

 

Crop rotation, drip irrigation, leaf compost, straw/leaf/plastic mulches, erosion control buffers, compost, row covers, flame weeding techniques, OMRI approved copper/sulpher/BT (not for preventative- only for corrective measures on a very limited basis), fish emulsion/seaweed extracts, horse & chicken manure, worm castings and compost teas, Steiner/Pfeiffer biodynamic preps, support Seed Savers Exchange, members of ASAP, member of Biodynamic Farming & Gardening Association.

 

 

Q: What do you see as your future goals?

A: A farm that supports its local markets, restaurants and cooperatives.

 

Q: What do you love most?

A: Consuming local products from our farm and many of our friend’s farms.

 

Q: What do you find most challenging?

A: Those things you find day-to-day which are simply out of your control.

 

Many thanks, Bobby and Layla, for this interview and taking the time to answer the questions that we “non-farmers” ponder.  Perhaps the universal wisdom most central to understanding the plight of the farmer, lies within that final sentiment:  Facing the challenges that we find day-to-day which are “simply out of your control.”

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