Historic Farm Offers Heirloom Berries
It’s rare these days to find a 200-year-old family farm exhibit such endurance.
Such is the history of the McLeod farm located in Carthage.
The farm began in 1777 when the McLeod family emigrated from Scotland and continues to exist in the 21st century. Other Highland Scots have taken their prominent historical place in the Cape Fear Valley of North Carolina.
Archie Ray was an immigrant from Scotland who purchased the land grant and began farming the area that is now known as McLeod’s Table. One of Ray’s daughters married Hugh McDonald, Esq., and the land was farmed by his descendants.
McDonald’s grandson, Allen C. McDonald, donated land for what is now known as Sandhills Farm Life Elementary. McDonald’s daughter, Margaret, married John McLeod, who moved to the side of McLeod’s Table Farm in 1870.
John and Margaret had nine children, one of whom was Cary McLeod Sr. He farmed the land with his grandson, Cary McLeod Jr. Cary Jr. remained a bachelor, and about 25 years ago he began producing blueberry crops.
Cary Jr. willed the land to his nephew and wife, Sandy and Carol Stewart, in 2008. The Stewarts moved to farm the land in 2010 and currently oversee the crops.
Originally, tobacco and cotton were cash crops, with corn, wheat and soybeans produced at different times.
Cary McLeod Jr. began truck farming and was soon producing food for the local community, which initiated the term “locavore” long before its usage among 21st century farmers.
Moore County old- timers knew it as “The Garden.” But today, that same farm is known as McLeod’s Table.
“There is a mountain formation in Scotland called The Table,” says owner Carol Stewart, wife of Sandy Stewart, whose 80-year-old mother, Sarah McLeod Stewart, still resides in the original homeplace. “We have patterned the farm after the two plateaus. The land has always been a working farm in one family. We have somewhat of a hidden treasure. It’s a big challenge to get the place up and running. But we are confident in the future of the farm.”
The trend appears to be a generational class of young working farmers who believe in sustainable models for eating local and preserving farmland, according to Stewart.
“Historically the farm grew tobacco,” she says. “My husband learned everything from Cary. He became so interested in the farm that he has since earned a doctorate in crop science at N.C. State University and is the director of research stations at NCSU and NCDA.”
They consider themselves stewards of the property.
There are 163 acres of forest and 65 acres of crops. There is a very large family garden.
“Our blueberries are all natural,” says Stewart. “We are waiting for certification. We never spray or use any herbicide, pesticide or fungicide. We believe in sustainable models for eating local and preserving farmland.”
The Stewarts want people to know that they are here to stay.
“Our children know the lineage inside and out,” Carol Stewart says.
The future dream is for the farm to be self-supporting.
“We want kids to be aware of the generations before us and preserve the story,” Stewart says. “We invite everyone to visit and bring the kids. We also sell at the Farmers Market.”
The farm offers heirloom varieties of both early and late blueberries.
“They are some of the biggest, best and sweetest berries you will ever taste,” says Stewart.
The family plans on growing organic sweet potatoes in the future.
McLeod’s Table Farm offers We-Pick-For-You or Pick-Your-Own and is located near Carthage at 228 McLeod’s Corner in Carthage.
For further information, call (910) 986-4062.
Contact freelance writer Anita Stone at writer7136 @yahoo.com.
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