Vendor Spotlight: Gilcrest Natural Farm
This is the first installment in an ongoing series spotlighting our wonderful vendors! We visited Gilcrest Natural Farm to learn more about what goes on behind the scenes to produce the meat that ends up at the Market every Saturday. Check out this link to read others in the series.
If you’re relying a GPS device to get to Gilcrest Natural Farm, you might be surprised when it guides you off of the main road into a subdivision full of beautiful homes with well-manicured lawns. It’s not exactly what you might expect to find when visiting a working farm, but if you continue past the cul-de-sac there are two gravel driveways that lead those who are looking straight into rural North Carolina. As Amy Foster explains, Gilcrest Natural Farm was there first.
The farm’s claim for seniority doesn’t work for much beyond the subdivision, however. Just seven years ago, Amy and her husband Gil were living on Lake Norman with their two young children. They were already actively involved in buying from local farmers, but they wanted more control over what they ate– so they decided to make a change.
Starting their farm from scratch, they acquired the land and began with a few laying hens. Shortly thereafter, they added some meat birds to their brood, and then cleared some pastures to raise cattle. While they do grow and sell some produce (we can look forward to broccoli, beets, lettuce, chard, radishes and carrots come winter), Amy says the decision to focus on producing poultry and beef was a conscious choice; quite simply, meat is the most scary thing to get at the grocery store!
As the farm has expanded its animal population, Amy and Gil have also added several physical improvements to the farm over the last five years. They have a solar-powered system that pumps well water and then uses gravity to deliver the water to the fields and troughs. This not only ensures that the animals have water even if there’s a power outage, but it also contributes to the sustainability of the farm. A more recent development is the barn; raised almost two years ago, you won’t find any animals inside, but rather a great storage and rental space. An adjoining freezer room allows Amy and Gil to capitalize on economies of scale and take fewer trips to the slaughterhouse, saving time and gas.
So what’s next for Gilcrest Natural Farm? Mostly, they’re planning to continue doing what they enjoy. Diversifying revenue sources is important for smaller local farms, so they’re not only focusing on selling their products, but also on the opportunities for farm tours and renting their facilities. The Fosters love the local food community that has welcomed them with open arms and shared expertise to help make Gilcrest Natural Farm a success; continuing in that tradition is a reward unto itself.