In the third story in the series, The Story of 7 Stands Farm, Giving “Nevers” a Second Chance, owners Jamie and Sarah Miles discuss summers on the farm, their valued partnership with Sheraton Farms, incorporating both the modern practices of farming with some of the older ways, and their compassion for the farm animals.
Friends, as well as like-minded farmers–the Miles are very grateful for Chuck and Sandra Lewis and their partnership with them. The Lewis’ own Sheraton Farms located in McGrady, NC, just a few miles from 7 Stands Farm.
“We were friends before farming,” says Jamie. “We were paramedics together and nurses together. And then they moved to Greensboro and we kinda lost touch. Then they moved back to McGrady and we both started farming.
“They have 70 acres and we share equipment (and) share labor. We were talking about chickens and turkeys and I told them we just don’t have the room where I’m at and he (Chuck) said he had plenty of room. (Chuck said) I’ll raise them here and we will split the feed and cost of the birds and they will just actually be on my grass, but they will be yours. There’s no difference in moving 100 versus 150.”
“When it comes to processing and the big jobs, I’m always there to help with that,” Jamie explains. “It works out really well and we couldn’t offer that (pasture raised chicken and turkey) without their help.”
Sarah notes, “Like for example, we castrated pigs on Tuesday evening and they came over and helped. We have a specialized pig trailer for catching pigs in the woods. They use our trailer and we use theirs. We go there and they come here, so it’s an extension of each farm.
“We have a supper club, it’s just the four of us, at least once a week, sometimes two or three. We will talk over plans–I’m doing this next and are you doing this? Let’s plan this. It has just worked out very well because their skills and our skills balance each other.”
Jamie adds, “I think it is good too that we live in the same community. “They live in McGrady and we live in Hays, but our friends (or) our clientele for lack of a better word, they don’t really cross. It’s not like I am worried about him taking my customers or he is worried about me taking his customers. They have a customer base that came from Greensboro and Clemmons and they still go down there to the Farmers’ Market and we go to Ashe. And Chuck was raised in Ashe County and he still sends people from Ashe County to our booth to buy from us.
“Like I have a Berkshire boar and he has a Durock boar and we share those boars for breeding our pigs We just share things back and forth and there is never concerns about being greedy or worrying they are going to take something we don’t have or vice versa. It really works good to find somebody who is like-minded.”
Ten months out of the year, Jamie and Sarah are in the classroom teaching high school in addition to farming. So in the summer months, they work on the big projects around the farm along with each Saturday selling products at the Farmers’ Market.
“In the summer we try and do big projects,” Jamie explains. “Working a full time job as teachers and then farming, during the school year, we just put out the biggest fire, which is making sure everything has got food and water. And if something has to be done like pigs moved or take them to the processor or whatever. You plan and do that.”
“A lot of infrasture like fencing,” adds Sarah.
“Last summer we did fencing and we got everything together and hired some people to come in and do some fencing,” Jamie says. “The summer before last, I did fencing all summer. It’s the big projects that we have time to do or scale up the farm that we don’t have time to do in the winter when we are teaching too.”
“And financially, that old saying–make hay while the sun shines–you have to put some back,” says Sarah. “Because in the winter you don’t have the production or you don’t have nearly as much going on as in the coldest months of the winter, so financially you still have to feed everything. We just have to put extra back.”
Jamie agrees, “We have figured out in the winter time there’s a lot going out and not a lot coming in. So we put something back in the summer.”
When asked if they use more of the modern methods of farming rather than the “old ways”, Sarah looks at Jamie with a smile and says, “I think you are more modern. I don’t remember my grandfather having a medical bag and all of that. His remedies of when things would happen with the animals would be what he had always been told to do. And he didn’t have all of the modern tools and modern technology. He just kinda made do with whatever he had. We do some of that but I think ours would be more modern–like we have a solar-powered charger for the fence.”
“We use some of the modern,” explains Jamie. “But some of the techniques I guess for raising the animals and pasture management are almost modern but they are brought back from older parts too that I have learned on YouTube and read about, and follow other farmers who do them. Like it’s not modern, but it’s not exactly old either–kind of a combination.
“We don’t use modern technology, especially for the pigs, like for example a confinement operation would do. Where’s there’s 100 pigs in a house and the sow gives birth in a farrowing crate where it is like two feet wide by six feet long and she stays in that crate for six or seven weeks because they don’t want that one little pig to be crushed or laid on by mama. And I don’t want that either. I don’t like the confinement, so our pigs unless it’s dead of winter–like our last ones, I rented a barn and just let them run free in like a 40x60 barn. They will actually go in the woods and build a nest and have their babies.”
“It’s letting the pigs and the goats–it’s letting the animals be what they are,” Sarah points out. “Do what they do naturally. We went over in the goat pasture, night before and all of the other goats were in the barn besides one mama. And she had had triplets out in the middle of the pasture and it was going to be a cool night. So we loaded up the kids (baby goats) and got her back to the barn. And that’s letting her do what she does. And she is a good mom.”
Respect and compassion are two words that describe how the Miles treat their animals at 7 Stands Farm. And even though they know the purpose of their animals, sometimes it’s still hard–the letting go.
“You get more attached than I do,” says Sarah as she looks toward Jamie.
“I wouldn’t call it attached,” he answers. “Almost. I guess it is attached.”
Sarah replies, “I think it’s a respect.”
And Jamie agrees, “I don’t know what you would call it. Maybe attached. But there’s just this little (sighing noise) when you take them to market even now after I have done it quite a bit, it’s like a aw (sigh), he was a nice one or she was a nice one. But I think that’s a good thing. Having some compassion for them and having some love for them and treating them I guess the word Sarah used, respect.”
“We tell people at the Farmers’ Market, our goats and pigs, mostly our pigs are spoiled (because we sell more of them),” Sarah says. “They are spoiled and the only bad day they will ever have is the day that we take them to the processor. I mean when the mamas are giving birth we sit there with them. I’ve scratched mamas behind their ears to keep them calm. I mean, you just care for them. I don’t know, some of them you do get attached. But at the end of the day they have a purpose and we have to remind ourselves of that.
“We do have the one goat that will never leave our farm. She won’t breed. She’s special. She stayed with us for about 12 weeks. She’s still–when I drive the buggy over to the farm she comes running in her goat voice saying, Mama! Mama! That’s special because she sees me as her Mom. She’s different.”
Jamie jokes, “Yeah she stayed with us in the house. Marilyn was a bottle baby that Sarah brought back. We should have named that one Lazarus.”
Stay tuned for the fourth and final story in the series: The Story of 7 Stands Farm: Giving “Nevers” a Second Chance.
To keep up to date with the happenings at 7 Stands Farm, follow along on their social media pages and YouTube Channel. Links are below along with information about their website. You can also visit with the Miles each Saturday morning at the Ashe County Farmers' Market.
Photos courtesy of the Miles' family
Subscribe to Farmer Rhodes Granddaughter at http://www.farmerrhodesgranddaughter.com and follow us on Facebook.