Editor’s note: The annual Rutherford and Polk counties’ farm tour is being staged on line this year. Farms can be visited weekly at facebook.com/ncfoothillsfarmtour/
Few families have farming roots that go deeper than Nicole and Aaron Bradley who own and operate Colfax Creek Farm in Bostic.
Both are fifth generation farmers, and their farming methods circle back to the days of their great-grandparents.
“Our farming practices would be similar to the generations that were farming before food was industrialized,” says Aaron, whose farm roots are all over Western North Carolina. Nicole might be considered a farmer transplant, with her family having raised hogs for generations in Upstate New York.
The young couple raises nearly 2,000 animals—beef cattle, hogs, chickens and turkeys for the table and laying hens. Raising that many grass-fed animals on 75 acres is akin to the work of an air traffic controller. Pasture management is a gridwork of putting animals in places where they can contribute the most.
Their approach to managing the Black Angus beef cows and Berkshire hogs and the land they graze is holistic and healthy.
“One of our biggest priorities as farmers is to build soil and healthy, cycling ecosystems. With 100% grass-fed beef, intensive grazing management has a great effect on both the quality of pure beef and also the pasturelands that we use for grazing,” Aaron says.
Their practices lace together a strategy for building soil, capturing rainwater and sequestering carbon. Cattle go onto a grassy pasture first, then when the cows are moved to the next pasture, chickens and turkeys take their place on the grass. This naturally provides another application of diversified nutrients for the soil through animal manure.
Over the past few years, Aaron and Nicole have developed solid relationships and partnerships with restaurants and craft butcheries in Western North Carolina and Upstate South Carolina.
“We sell to about 25 or so restaurants now,” says Nicole, who manages the farm’s finances. “Customers can also find us at the Polk County Farmers Market and the Hendersonville Farmers Market, and we offer food pickup at the farm.”
Processing that meat became especially challenging when the constrictions caused by the pandemic began to hit processing plants, but the couple quickly worked out arrangements that allowed them to continue their pace.
Adapting and changing is how the Bradleys live their lives and farm their land. It’s all about roots.
And yet another new root is on its way. Nicole and Aaron are expecting their first child, a boy, Christmas Day, a gift that would create the possibility that a farming legacy that began in 1901 will continue well into this century.