A Labor of Love: Mike Rowland's Farm Has Become a Reality
Dr. Mike Rowland knows a good deal when he sees one.
"God sort of offered me a deal," he says. "'If you become a surgeon, you can have your farm.'"
Rowland, a retired general surgeon who has dreamed of owning a farm since childhood, owns a 50-acre farm in Carthage. He grows a variety of fruits and vegetables and raises cows and horses. His farm is almost entirely organic, as Rowland uses organic compost for almost all of his planting. He and his wife, Judy, do their best to live a self-sustainable life.
"About 75 percent of what we eat, we grow," he says. "It's sort of a way of life, and we do it because we enjoy it."
Rowland purchased his farm in 1994. After moving to Moore County, he worked at FirstHealth Moore Regional hospital until his retirement in 2008. For him, the Sandhills area was the logical choice when deciding where to work.
"I like small towns, but I like big hospitals," he says. "Pinehurst offered both."
Rowland stays busy on his farm. He has several ponds, gardens and sets of solar panels, as well as livestock, bees and a swimming pool. Additionally, he wants to raise chickens and create another pond for irrigation.
"The reality is that there are only 24 hours in a day and seven days in a week," he says. "It takes a lot of time to do anything."
One of the most interesting projects Rowland has undertaken is the installation of solar panels on the roofs of some of his buildings. One set heats the water in his home, and the other converts the sun's energy into electricity. Because the panels produce more power than he can use, he sells the extra energy to the power company, which sells it to Rowland's neighbors.
"It's just one more little thing I'll have in income," he says. "Because of tax credits and depreciation, I eventually won't have any money in it, and instead I'll be making money from it, although it's not something you'll get rich on."
Rowland's garden has watermelons, strawberries, squash, corn, cauliflower and lettuce, just to name a few. He does not sell his produce, but he will often give anything extra away to his friends and family. One peculiar detail of his garden is the complete lack of weeds. Rowland accomplishes this feat by laying newspaper down around his plants and putting hay on top of it.
"You really can't feed animals with moldy hay, so we usually put it on the garden," he says. "We don't want to waste anything."
While he loves working in his garden, Rowland also enjoys taking care of his cows and horses. About once or twice a year he will send one of his cows to a Robbins-based butchering company. The meat he gets is much leaner than the meat from industrial farms. Rowland says, on average, the beef is about 95 percent lean.
"We eat a lot of beef," he says. "Of course, this is healthier for you and better than the meat you find at the grocery store."
This is a common theme on Rowland's farm: producing higher quality fruits, vegetables and livestock than what you will find in a store and doing it in a way that is friendly to the environment and people's health. Rowland tries to incorporate organic farming practices into his farm whenever he can. So far, he has found that organic practices may be more expensive, but their effectiveness makes up for the cost.
"A truckload of organic compost is about $300," he says, "but it still comes out to less than what I would have to spend for commercial fertilizer, because I only have to use it twice a year versus three times."
Although he has a gorgeous property with a stocked pond, beautiful garden and lush pastures, Rowland does not see his farm as his biggest accomplishment.
"I'm probably most proud of my five kids," he says.
When it comes down to it, he is just doing what he loves to do and trying to do it in an environmentally conscious way.
"This isn't work to me," he says. "I mean, some of it is work, but I really enjoy it."
Leigh Pember, a rising sophomore at UNC-Chapel Hill, is a summer intern at The Pilot.
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