A humble thank you to Jamie and Sarah Miles for allowing me to share their family farm story. Their story is a four-part series and over the next few weeks, we will feature The Story of 7 Stands Farm.
Over the course of our lives we tend to use the word “never” as a loud foot-stomping answer to “no”. No way. Not now. Not ever. But, sometimes plans change and those “nevers” turn into slow yeses–over time. And then, comes the greatest of joys.
Thus, the story of 7-Stands Farm.
Owned by Jamie and Sarah Miles, 7 Stands Farm is a 20-acre small family farm located in the foothills of North Carolina where they specialize in registered Myotonic goats, Varroa Sensitive Hygienic (VSH) bees, pastured Berkshire pigs and Berkshire-Duroc crosses and pasture-raised chickens and turkeys.
Both Jamie and Sarah grew up learning different aspects of farming from their parents and grandparents, and great-grandparents. Like his great-grandfather, grandfather, and father, Jamie began learning the business of bees as a young boy. As a child, Sarah grew up on a working farm with cattle, produce, and chickens.
“My Great Grandfather Treilly Miles, he lived down the road here (from 7 Stands Farm),” Jamie says. “And we actually have goats on his property, so we are still running goats on the family property. But he was a beekeeper. And, of course he taught my Grandfather (Reid Miles) and then he passed it to my Dad (Jim Miles) and I ended up helping my Grandpa and Dad and we kinda grew it into more of a business with bees and honey instead of just raising it for the honey.”
Sarah explains, “My farming is different because I grew up on a farm, working a farm. But it wasn’t bees. It was produce, cattle (and) chickens. “My Grandfather and my Grandmother and my Mom (Avalee Richardson). If you lived on Jolly Ridge, you had to work in some capacity on the farm.”
7 Stands Farm began as a bee farm with seven stands of hives and after a little persuasion, Jamie talked Sarah into adding a few goats and pigs to their small farm. And within just a few short years, their farm has grown to 60 bee stands, 60 goats, and 50 pigs.
Sarah recalls Jamie’s announcement of adding goats and pigs to the farm. “Jamie said, hey, you know what, we are going to have some goats and I was like, oh my gosh! And then he wanted a pig and I said, absolutely not! And that went on for two or three years. He said, oh I’m just going to get a couple. I’m just going to get a couple. And now, we have how many? 50!”
And Jamie laughs, “Yeah, we went from four to fifty pigs in a year.”
“Fifty, yeah, yeah,” Sarah adds with a smile. “My Mama says she laughs about it every time we go over there. Because I swore I wouldn’t. I hated pigs when I was little. They terrified me.”
In addition to working and managing their farm, the Miles are full time high school teachers–Jamie teaching Health Science and Sarah, an English teacher. And in May, they celebrated their 31st wedding anniversary and both are quick to say, farming was never in their future career plans.
Sarah readily admits with a laugh, “If someone would have told me the day we got married that we would be farming at the age of 52, I would have said, I don’t know what I would have said. I think I would have been speechless. It’s not what I thought I would be marrying into 31 years ago.
“I swore I wouldn’t be a farmer,” says Sarah. “Once I got out of that chicken house, I would not do it again. I wouldn’t go back.”
And Jamie jokes about the careers he has had, while smiling at Sarah. “I haven’t done anything you thought I would do. Paramedic, nurse, teacher, bread salesman, farmer.”
Jamie added YouTube encouraged him to try farming and Sarah believes marrying into a farming family helped as well. “I never gave any thought to being a farmer. We never really grew a garden, so I never really had any farming influence. I think just watching YouTube and saying to myself, this is so easy, I know I can do it,” he said.
Sarah points out,” I think when you married into a farming family too. Mom will be 82 in June, Dad's 83, and she decided recently she’s going to get a farm and a garden. She’s always been a gardener and a farmer.”
Family and childhood memories of working hard and learning from grandparents run deep for both Jamie and Sarah. And these memories help them as they build the legacy of 7 Stands Farm.
Sarah recalls how smells still connect her to memories of her Grandpa. “It sounds ridiculous, but going out with my Grandpa on the farm, especially early in the morning, there’s a certain sweet smell in the pasture, especially in the summer. And I would remember he would stop on the edge of the pasture and take a good deep breath and he would say, ‘ah, smells good.’ Jamie has heard me say whenever I smell freshly tilled soil, like that’s one of my favorite memories as a kid. It was always something Grandpa, I guess he instilled in all of us. Breaking the ground was a big celebration.”
Jamie also remembers his special relationship with his Grandpa, not only as a mentor, but as a good role model in life. “I remember some really cool times with my Grandpa about raising bees and working together with him. That was the main thing. He was really special to me. I guess he kinda was my mentor as a human, as a man. It wasn’t totally farming, but the beekeeping with him was always good memories.”
Through her own farming background, Sarah believes once a farmer, always a farmer–even though there are many “nevers” along the way. “Once you are a farmer, if you are really raised to respect farming, it’s in your blood. Farming is rewarding and unlike any other job. It’s a different type of satisfaction. You grew something and/or made something out of what God has naturally put there.”
“To say there was one time or one moment I wanted to be a farmer, I never really thought I wanted to be a farmer,” Jamie explains. “But now I am pretty passionate about it. I don’t know, there is just something inside of me that draws me to it. I love to watch the animals be born and watch them grow. I like riding the tractor feeding the animals and I love seeing people satisfied with the products we produce. But to pinpoint the exact reason why, I am not sure I can. I just love every second of the work. It is so gratifying to get dirty and stinky. It is also humbling to know people entrust you to feed their families.
“I still struggle with even calling myself a farmer,” Jamie says. “I don’t know what qualifies you to be a farmer. I would say 50 pigs and 60 goats and 60 hives would qualify us. I think I have such a respect maybe for real farmers. I don’t know. I guess we are. Definitely we are farmers. But sometimes I am hesitant to call myself a farmer. I almost feel I won’t say–worthy?. I’m not farming a 1000 acres and running 500 head of cattle or whatever. So it kinda makes me wonder sometimes whether I am a farmer or how loosely can you use that term, farmer?”
And Sarah looks at Jamie and quietly assures him, “I think you are a farmer.”
Stay tuned for the continuing story of 7 Stands Farm. More on Advice to other Small and New Farmers, Their Unique Partnership with Sheraton Farms and Why that is Important to the Small Farms Today, Jamie’s dream–7 Stands Farm YouTube Channel, Market Days, Summers on the Farm, Long Term Plans and Vision for the Future, and much more!
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
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