Incubator Farmer Morgan Vickery: Local and Sustainable

Morgan Vickery has always had a deep love for nature and the outdoors. He currently works in the solar industry doing engineering consulting, but has followed the slow food and sustainable ag movements. Now, he’s trying his hand at farming as an Incubator Farmer on Inter-Faith Food Shuttle’s Teaching Farm on Tryon Road in Raleigh – something he sees as an extension of the clean energy movement. “I’m trying to do my part to lessen the effect of carbon, as well as other pollutants, on the environment.” He wants to develop a local, organic product and really likes the idea of food for folks in Raleigh and the surrounding area coming from within Raleigh. Local food means less need for transportation and shipping of food, and thereby, less carbon emissions! He hopes eventually to sell produce from his venture, named “Rising Sun Farm,” to local restaurants and catering companies.

Although this is his first foray into farming solo with his own hands, he often volunteered at a friend’s organic vegetable and hog farm north of San Francisco, where he studied Environmental Management and lived for six years before moving to Raleigh in 2009. He grew up in northern Virginia, where his family had a place they call “the farm,” though it’s no longer actively cultivated. Now, he also volunteers at NC State's Agroecology Farm with Green Planet Catering.

Morgan serendipitously lives just down the road from the IFFS Tryon Rd Teaching Farm. He first visited with his son last year during Carolina Farm Stewardship Association’s Eastern Triangle Farm Tour, and after hearing our Division Chief of Agriculture and Farm Educator Sun Butler on his “soapbox” about sustainable agriculture, he was hooked. He learned about the Incubator Farm Program and decided it was something that would be a good fit for him.  In addition to farming his own plot, he loves taking care of the chickens. As part of his volunteer service requirement to farm on the land, he opens up the farm on Thursday mornings and closes in on Saturday evenings.

incubator transplantsWhat’s he going to grow? Those rows behind him may look empty, but not for long! Once he finishes composting the rows, and the deer fence around the incubator plots is completed, he’ll put in transplants of beets, cabbage, Chinese broccoli, and lettuce that he started from seed (his first attempt at doing so! He even got his wife and 4yr old son involved in the project). He hopes to have some early summer crops ready and will plant late summer crops as well – tomatoes, eggplant, and okra. But he’s most excited about the Chinese broccoli, which he says is great in stir-fries. He hasn’t found anyone else around here that grows it, so that’s a market he hopes to tap into to carve out his niche.

But his plot won’t be all vegetables – he’s planning on interspersing some medicinal herbs and flowering plants to attract pollinators as well.

When asked if he plans to make farming his full-time venture, he says he does have that dream, if he could make the farm profitable and produce enough to feed his family (he has another son born just a couple weeks ago – on the same day as our Assistant Farm Manager Joshua’s son).  He’d like to eventually get his own land - 10-15 acres, maybe 20 miles outside of Raleigh, and get some hogs as well.

“The possibilities are endless,” he says, when there’s such a demand for local food.

For now, he says it's great to be able to piggy-back on IFFS’s name and product in the community through as he builds his own through the Incubator Farm Program.

“I’m so excited to be part of an organization whose primary goal is to help people, grow people, teach people,” Morgan says.

The long-term nature of the 3 year program is also something he likes, and he’s really excited about the quality of soil at the farm as well. We'll check back later in the season and see how Morgan's first growing season is going - the soil is fertile for plants, and for new farmers!