The house builder and sustainable farmer, along with his wife, was invited to the White House to speak on our nation’s “green economy.”
Q: Many people know you and your family from your many years with Olde Heritage Builders, which has received numerous awards in house construction. But you are also gaining quite a bit of notoriety with Ray Family Farms – tell us about that.
A: Yes, there is still Olde Heritage Builders, which my mom, Betty Ray, started as a realty company in 1976 and my dad, George Ray, started the construction part of that in 1984. My dad was a farmer, and he worked with DOT (Department of Transportation). He later got into construction.
In 1997, my wife (Jodi) and I built a farm on Pearces Road on land my family had. Both of our families have farming backgrounds, like many families did in the area years ago. We have free range pork, turkeys – all of the animals are free range.
Sign Up and Save
Get six months of free digital access to The News & Observer
On our website (rayfamilyfarms.com), we inform people about our farm, whether it’s field trips or people who want to visit, or people who want to purchase our products. We are a 4-H sponsor of 65 kids. We promote our products as being natural, ‘from conception to consumption.’
We really don’t have a large staff there – we have a couple of college kids who help us. It is really all about education. When we have small kids visit, we tell them, that when they are older, it is important to know how to prepare their meals. They have to know how to grow and prepare good food.
We have two big issues in our country – hunger and diabetes. Corporations are not doing a good job when it comes to processed foods. People are not making good decisions when it comes to their health. No one gardens anymore. No one cans anymore. We have a farm that is the way people raised crops and produce for thousands of years. We need to get back to doing it the way we did it years ago.
Q: What would people be surprised to learn about you?
A: I am a very open book. There are not a lot of surprises (laughing). But I would have to say that people may be surprised to know that my wife and I were invited to go to the White House two years ago. We were honored for what we were doing on our land, and our efforts at sustainable farming and energy conservation. It was just the honor of a lifetime. It was part of an effort called ‘Champions of Change.’
Q: Did you get a chance to meet President Barack Obama?
A: No. We did get a chance (laughing) to meet Bo (the first family’s pet dog). If I remember, there was a crisis going on at the time so I am sure the president was busy with that. We served on a panel in which everyone discussed green economy. We had a great time. We had our lunch in the Eisenhower Building. We toured the White House. Just seeing all the pottery, the paintings, the furniture that belonged to different presidents – it was just incredible.
Q: What most impressed you or what was the most interesting thing you learned while there?
A: The State Room is called the State Room because presidents Abraham Lincoln and John Kennedy lay in state there after their assassinations. Just being in that room – that was pretty big.
Q: How long have you been married?
A: My wife and I got married in 1996. We were high school sweethearts and stayed together through college.
Q: What other groups are you a member of? Are you a member of a church?
A: I have served on a lot of boards – I am past president of the chamber. I serve on the East Wake Academy school board. I am a member of Ducks Unlimited. My wife and I attend church but really, we consider our farm as our church – it is our mission field.
Q: What people have been a big influence in your life?
A: I would have to say my wife, my parents, and my wife’s parents. They are my top five.
David Howle (Chad’s football coach while he was at Bunn High) was also a big influence.
He encouraged me, when I was a walk-on for the football team at (North Carolina) State, that if I stayed on the team and gritted it out, I could make it. I was able to play every game my senior year at State.
I would also have to say that a man who served as a father figure for many years to a lot of boys was also a big influence, and his wife – David and Shirley Pearce. They led the RAs (Royal Ambassadors) at Pilot Baptist for many years.
They led my dad, and they also later led my age group. I have learned as I got older that it is true what a lot of people tell me- you have to put good people around you to be a good person.