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Jamie Ager raises Certified AWA pigs at Hickory Nut Gap Farm in Fairview, North Carolina. The 90-acre farm has been in the Ager family since 1916, when Jim and Elizabeth McClure, five generations removed from Jamie, went on their honeymoon, fell in love with the land and settled into farming at Hickory Nut Gap Farm. Jamie grew up on the farm, and after meeting his wife, Amy, at Warren Wilson College, the two combined their passion and skills to create a business plan for direct marketing pasture-raised products at Hickory Nut Gap Farm. They put the plan into action in 2000, and have been farming at Hickory Nut Gap Farm ever since.
Paul Sozansky, his wife, Juliana, and daughter, Katie, raise Certified AWA pigs at Eagle Point Farms in Rogers, Arkansas. Growing up, both of Paul’s grandfathers were farmers, and his parents were avid gardeners. The Sozanskys began raising pigs in 2014, after they were introduced to the AWA program by another farmer in the area. “I have a caretaker’s DNA and enjoy raising pigs. It’s very new and exciting, and we’re still in the process of learning,” says Paul. “So far the best teachers have been the pigs!”
Mike Sands, along with spouse, Betsy Dietel, and son, Will Sands, raises Certified Grassfed by AGW sheep at Bean Hollow Grassfed in Flint Hill, Virginia, and has spent much of his life working in agriculture: “I’ve been working in farming and farmer training both nationally and internationally most of my career,” he says. “My focus has been on farming systems versus single commodities or products.”
Melinda Brown raises Certified AWA pigs on 10 acres in Vilas, North Carolina—a town just outside of Boone, located in the high country. “Nothing is flat here. It’s all rather steep, which makes fencing a bit challenging,” says Melinda. “The property was not used for about 10 years, so for the last five I’ve been working on reclaiming the pastures and getting my infrastructure built.” For years she has produced most of her own food, and she enjoys preserving and canning the bounty of her harvests. “I enjoy helping other people learn how to can,” says Melinda.
Ted and Trish Weisenbach have been around beef cattle and farming for their entire lives. They bought their current farm, Weisenbach Beef, in 2003, when the farm consisted of severely overgrown pastures and one perimeter fence. Since then, Ted and Trish have divided the 47-acre plot into seven pastures, all with access to fresh water, frost-proof fountains and shade. Ted and Trish, along with their two sons Noah and EJ, raise Certified Grassfed by AGW beef cattle in Danville, Arkansas.
Noel Diesen and Cliff Rankin raise Certified AWA pigs, laying hens, laying ducks and geese outdoors on pasture or range at Rock Spring Hollow Farm in Cumberland City, Tennessee. Both Noel and Cliff grew up without a farming background in Nebraska and Ohio, respectively. However, just a few years ago, after deciding that they wanted to find a place to farm and grow their own food, they found a property online, called the listing agent and saw the farm. Within 45 days, they were farm owners of Rock Spring Hollow Farm! As Noel explained, “The universe said this is what we’re gonna do.”
Farming on 18 acres that grew cotton for centuries, Carey & Natalie Howell manage their land with the aim of revitalizing the soil at Howell Specialty Farmz in Indian Land, South Carolina: “We are actively looking to turn our mistreated land into a viable farm with the goal of creating a more sustainable farming system,” Natalie says. Just three years ago, the Howells started raising chickens. When a local specialty grocer requested their eggs in addition to friends, family and neighbors, they decided to ramp up production. Today, Howell Specialty Farmz raises 80 Certified AWA laying hens outdoors on pasture, supplying fresh eggs to the local community.
Martez Alston raises Certified AWA pigs at Triple A Ranch and Farm in Warrenton, North Carolina—about 50 miles north of the Raleigh-Durham area. Martez grew up on a family farm and has continued to keep the 54-acre farm up and running. In addition to his Certified AWA pigs, Martez also manages some cattle and cuts hay.
Sanford and Debbie Fishel raise Certified AWA pigs at Fishel Organic Farm in Grassy Creek, North Carolina. “I’ve been around farming all my life, and we have farmed on our own for 40 years,” says Sanford. “We currently manage a herd of about 25 Certified AWA pasture-raised hogs, as well as 30 acres of organic vegetables, 35 acres of pumpkins and 300 acres of Christmas trees.”
Ross Barefoot raises Certified AWA pigs at Ross Barefoot Farm in Dunn, North Carolina. Ross grew up watching, helping and farming alongside his parents and grandparents in North Carolina. On the 100-acre farm in Dunn, Ross grows commodity grain, as well as produce that he sells at the State Farmer’s Market in North Carolina.