30 Days: Stanley Hughes and Linda Leach, Pine Knot Farms

Stanley Hughes, left, with fellow farmer Alex Hitt, right. Photo by Nancie McDermott.

Pine Knot Farms needs no extra praise, but we just can’t help it.

A crowd of almost 1,000 people erupted into a standing ovation last week when Stanley Hughes and his wife, Linda Leach, received the 2013 Farmers of the Year award from the Carolina Farm Stewardship Association.

Stanley’s farm turned 100 years old in 2012. It is also the first African-American-owned farm to be certified organic in North Carolina and of the first to grow organic tobacco.

Award-winning writer and cookbook author Nancie McDermott details the history of the Pine Knot Farms in her article for Edible Piedmont magazine, offering up charming truths about the transition to organic:

Hughes’ dedication to organic farming is both old and new; while his farm wasn’t officially certified organic until a decade or so ago, it has always been a natural, sustainable enterprise. “We didn’t have the money to go out and buy a lot of pesticides,” he says with a smile. The youngest of his father Bennie Hughes’s 12 children, Stanley Hughes helped the family tackle the problem of weeds the old-fashioned way, working the rows with his hands and a hoe.The old ways have always made sense to him, not simply because of cost, but as the key to growing healthful, delicious food. As a third-generation farmer, he continues to farm in the sustainable, environmentally friendly ways his father and grandfather taught him, with the benefit of modern equipment, knowledge, and agricultural practices that make organic farming a viable business.

While Stanley and his children are out farming, his wife, Linda Leach, is behind the scenes crossing the t’s and dotting the i’s, as she says. Her marketing savvy has led to wonderful growth for the farm, including a viable market for organic tobacco. But as we near Thanksgiving, we’re thinking about his sweet potatoes and collards, lauded by famed culinary magazine Gourmet.

So thank you, Stanley and Linda, for keeping up with 100 years and going strong!

To nominate your favorite farmer or food hero for RAFI’s 30 Days of Thanks, click here.

Follow along every day at rafiusa.org/30daysofthanks

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