“Most of my life, the people I looked up to were farmers. And now to say that I am one of them, well, there’s been a lot of pride in it.”
Gary Purgason’s pride and joy is what makes us so thankful for farmers like him. Like many North Carolina farms, his family’s fourth-generation tobacco farm was left dormant after the decline of the tobacco economy.
A U.S. war veteran, Gary felt compelled to continue working the land. With a RAFI grant, he turned his family’s Buck Pigg Plantation in Madison, NC, into a 97-acre free-range chicken and produce farm.
He turned 14 acres of former tobacco land into seven vibrant acres of fresh produce and four acres of pasture for at least 100 free-range chickens. With the help of his dad, Gary now grows tomatoes, corn, watermelon, cantaloupe, squash, cucumbers, figs, okra, cherries and mushrooms, and also keeps honeybees. He provides food for CSA subscriptions in his area and sells product through Piedmont Local Foods, a year-round online farmer’s market.
Nearly 30 years old, Gary says, “I want to be completely self-sustained, pay off my expenses, and provide an income for me and my future family.”
As the average age of the American farmer rises to almost 60, Gary is proof of a determined generation that will sustain a farming tradition. Our food relies on folks like Gary. For that, we can’t thank him enough.
Learn more about Gary in the beautiful audio slideshow below.
Gary Purgason: a farmer, veteran, & his Pasture Poultry Project from RAFI-USA on Vimeo.
To nominate your favorite farmer or food hero for RAFI’s 30 Days of Thanks, click here.
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