Graham’s and Wendy’s connection to Western North Carolina, to its land and community, and to one another began as teenagers, starting their summer break at Eagle’s Nest Camp in Pisgah Forest, near Brevard. We fostered our interests in farming separately over the following ten years, but the seasons we spent at Eagle’s Nest and Outdoor Academy played an integral role in bringing us together in these mountains, helping us form a respect for them, for our communities, and for each other.
We’re both North Carolina bred; Graham grew up in Charlotte, Wendy in Raleigh, and we both grew up in families that valued the outdoors and valued the enjoying of one’s livelihood and lifestyle. We’re both lucky to have families that encouraged us to find our own way to a lifestyle and livelihood that empowers us.
Wendy’s interest in farming was sparked simply by a regular drive by a beautiful dairy farm near her home in Raleigh; she felt an attraction to the open spaces, to the animals, to the outdoor work. That farm has since become a monstrosity of a subdivision, with no trees and gargantuan castle-like houses, barely smaller than their plots of land. The transformation made it seem that much more urgent to play a role in preserving farmland for future generations. Graham has always been connected to working with his hands and being outdoors. From outdoor recreation to carpentry work, Graham found himself headed toward farm life throughout his early adult life.
After high school, we parted ways; Graham went off to Colorado to enjoy those mountains before returning to the Asheville area to attend school at UNC-Asheville, and Wendy took a year off to travel and work on organic farms, before going to school at Carleton College in Minnesota. Graham’s focus on Environmental Science and Economics, and Wendy’s on Biology and Environmental Science have become a good foundation for their joint farm business venture.
We met again, 10 years after our first connection at camp, when we both moved back to the Piedmont region of North Carolina after college. In April 2009, Graham had just begun working with Eliza McClean and Charles “Doc” Sydnor at Cane Creek Farm and Braeburn Farm, and Wendy was about to start her work for TROSA in Durham, NC, helping them develop a small grocery store in a food desert of East Durham, that would serve to increase access to affordable food for the community while providing vocational training to residents of TROSA’s long-term recovery program for substance abusers.
We quickly began falling in love, with each other, with animal husbandry, with our rural lifestyle, and with food production and retail. I guess the rest is a predictable history. While we both like the Piedmont region, we both craved a return to the mountains of Western North Carolina, and we started planning for a future together, raising our own animals on our own land. Our land search moved westward, and we found our little slice of heaven in Mars Hill, North Carolina. The land seemed made for us, set up with barns in the right spots, a perfect homesite, and pastures galore.
We bought our land on October 12th, 2011, got engaged on February 7th, 2012, got our first meat chickens on February 10th, our sows and boar on the 12th, our rabbits and first layers on the 27th. It was the beginning of many very busy months, but we’re happy that our paths led us to the same interests, lifestyle goals, and back to each other. We’re enjoying the adventure of starting Dry Ridge Farm, and continuing to foster our connection to this area, its land, and its community.