Eastern Wake: Community

Five Minutes with... Joni McPhetridge

This self-proclaimed nature girl wants to teach her daughter how to live off the land.

Q: You purchased some land in Zebulon not long ago in hopes of creating a sustainable farm. What led up to that decision?

A: “I have been in this area since 1996. I was raised in the Burlington area of Alamance County. When I graduated high school, I came to Raleigh and attended N.C. State. I was interested in wildlife conservation. I met my husband, Todd, and we married in 1998. I didn’t finish at State but I didn’t want to go back home. I liked this area. I liked being close to Raleigh and other things but I still wanted to live in the country. When I first met my husband, he was working in a supermarket and I was working in childcare. We bought about 3/4 of an acre here and started out with one goat and a few chickens. Our goal was to be as self-sufficient as we could be.”

Q: So did your farm slowly grow?

A: “Over the years, we have slowly added to it. We added duck, geese, bees and chickens. We breed and sell Labradors. Our daughter was born in 2009 so we sort of slowed things down for a while and I concentrated on raising her. We got back to it in 2011 and started adding more. We have Nigerian dwarf goats. The main reason we have them is for the milk. I do a lot of canning – preserves, and stuff like that.”

Q: Are you totally self-sufficient? Able to eat only what you grow?

A: “Not yet, but we are getting there. We do eat the eggs. We have meat – we do eat the duck, geese and chickens. For a while there, we were really trying to live off the land as much as we could because my husband and I lost our jobs at the same time. So finances are another reason we got involved with it. Saving money is another incentive. I just recently started subbing at different pre-schools.”

Q: Do you sell a lot of items?

A: “Not really. We just harvest enough for our family.”

Q: It sounds like you have quite a bit going on on just 3/4 of an acre?

A: “We have to make do with what we have. We are looking for more land though.”

Q: Is your husband a big part of the farming?

A: “He works as a mechanic but we are in this together. It was more of my passion initially but we both really enjoy it. And our daughter helps out to. She likes to help pick up the eggs. She likes to take care of the animals. Our goal is to one day farm full time.”

Q: What is the main inspiration for this?

A: “We want our daughter to know where the food she is eating comes from. We want to teach her how to do for herself so she will be a productive adult. We can tell she is learning a lot. She interacts with the animals. She harvests in the garden.”

Q: What do you have growing in your garden?

A: “That kind of changes every year. We have blueberries, muscadines, cucumbers, potatoes, tomatoes – it just varies.”

Q: When you are not milking goats or picking up eggs, what other hobbies do you have? Do any interests take you away from the farm?

A: “My husband and I both enjoy hunting, fishing and camping.”

Q: So you are a true nature girl.

A: “Most definitely. When I was a kid, I would disappear for hours and just play in the woods. I loved to explore. It was a lot of freedom and I loved it. My daughter and I also take part in the St. Andrews gleaning project.

Q: What exactly is that?

A: “Several farms will open up their lands after a harvest and people can come and glean. They want you to take some for yourself, but to also remember other people. We have been to farms in Louisburg, Clayton, Middlesex, Zebulon – they are all over the place.”

Q: What are some of the crops you have gleaned?

A: “Strawberries. Sweet potatoes are big. Tomatoes and squash. We came back one time with a truckload of watermelons. Doesn’t matter what we are doing, it always comes back to the land and farming.”

Correspondent Dena Coward