BOONVILLE — It is obvious from the minute a person meets the proprietor of Sanders Ridge organic farm that she has a passion for growing things, even her earrings are shaped like tiny garden spades. Cindy Shore left a desk job behind a number of years ago and came to Yadkin County to get her hands in the dirt.
“I’ve had a garden ever since I was little,” Shore said. “Ever since I was born, I just enjoyed dirt.”
Through the years, Shore said she expanded her garden a little more each year. When she moved to Winston-Salem from Greensboro so her sons could attend North Carolina School of the Arts, however, she lived in a place without a garden and after two years, she said she couldn’t stand it any longer. She knew of the growing wine industry in Yadkin County and figured someone could use some help in their vineyard so she emailed several area wineries.
“I will pull weeds for wine,” Shore told Lenna Hobson, co-owner of RagApple Lassie Vineyard, who was the first to respond to her email.
And so she came to Yadkin County and began to help out at the vineyard and winery where she also met Neil Shore, who was just beginning his vineyard and winery, Sanders Ridge.
Shore had been on the lookout for some available property in the area to begin an organic farm.
“I knew that if I could grow certified organic food, I could sell it, she said. “I just knew the market was right.”
And so in 2006 Neil and Cindy established a partnership that allowed her to begin growing certified organic produce in Yadkin County and in turn, she used her business background in marketing and sales to help get Sanders Ridge Winery up and running.
“I went from five customers and before I knew it, I was up to 25 and 30 and eventually up to 82 customers,” Shore said of the organic farm.
Produce from Sanders Ridge organic farm is available for sale at Sanders Ridge winery and various area farmers markets including Cobblestone Farmer’s Market in Old Salem on Saturday, Reynolda Village on Fridays, Elkin on Saturdays and Mount Airy on Tuesdays.
Not only does Shore enjoy the process of planting and caring for her garden, but she also greatly enjoys talking to her customers at the markets.
“It’s exciting. That part of it is fun for me,” she said. Depending on which market she is at, she gets different kinds of questions. In Mount Airy, Shore said many customers are looking for large quantities of fruits or vegetables to can and preserve. In Winston-Salem, she said customers are typically just in awe of the variety of vegetables she has and they are always asking questions on how to best prepare the items.
Comments from customers in Winston-Salem range from “this is so pretty” to “what is that” and “what do I do with that?” Shore explained.
“That’s the joy for me, is teaching people,” she said. “I’ll always say to them, ‘you go home and try that and you let me know how it was.’ And they’ll come back and go, ‘it was great.’”
She has recently been encouraging okra-haters who have only ever had the slimy stewed version, to try putting some olive oil, salt and pepper on the okra pods and grilling it on the grill.
Another favorite item she has been introducing customers to lately is a round zucchini that looks like a little green pumpkin.
“I had the most fun in Mount Airy trying to talk people into buying them,” she said. “I have an abundance of them, so I said, ‘OK, it’s a dollar and if you don’t like it, when you come back I’ll give you your dollar back.’ Cause I know that they’re going try it and go ‘this was fantastic and it was so much fun.’”
There are many benefits to shopping at farmers markets, Shore said, not the least of which is to get a chance to chat directly with the person who raised the produce.
“There are lots of benefits to you, the biggest one is that you are getting the freshest food you possibly can,” Shore said. She also said that depending on the market, organizers often visit the farms to make sure the produce being sold actually comes from local farmers.
“By checking that out first of all, then you’re sure that you’re getting local food that was just harvested and more than likely sustainably grown with fewer pesticides or no pesticides and that’s what people are most concerned about,” she said.
In addition to loving dirt, Shore said she has always been fond of bugs and doesn’t want to harm any. Part of organic farming is taking into account the best ways to control pests that could be harmful to crops, while not affecting the bugs that are beneficial.
“What we are trying to achieve is a sustainable farm plan. Everything that you put in the ground, everything you bring to the farm is something that’s going to be good for the environment,” she said.
Rotating crops, planting certain things around the crops that might confuse bugs or draw in more beneficial bugs that eat the bad bugs are some things that Shore said can be done to avoid using chemical pesticides.
“You have to look at it as a very integrated system,” she said. Using compost and manure from their longhorn cattle to fertilize are other ways that the farm stays sustainable.
Though summer is drawing to a close, Shore said the growing season at the farm is far from over. They are in the process of pulling up the summer crops that are finished producing and preparing seedlings for fall and winter crops of lettuces, kale, Swiss chard, carrots and more. With the aid of several covered green houses the farm is able to continue growing things almost year round. Most area farmer’s markets will remain open through the end of October, Shore said.
For more information about Sanders Ridge organic farm, visit www.sandersridge.com/the-farm or call 336-961-3376.
Kitsey E. Burns may be reached at 336-679-2341 or on Twitter @RippleReporterK.