By Taylor Parrish
NC Department of Agriculture
Pace Family Farms in Clayton is not only focused on providing high-quality products for their customers, but also educating the public on the importance of farming and eating local. Michelle Pace Davis is the sixth generation on the family farm and has been involved with agriculture since she can remember.
“I majored in agriculture education at N.C. State University and worked as an ag teacher for three years before returning home to the family farm,” she said, “and even though we all love farming, our true mission is to educate the public and help them get to know their local farmer.”
Pace Family Farm was started in 1914 as a tobacco farm. In 2016, the family started transitioning to grow strawberries and fully switched to produce in January of 2019. Today they grow a variety of produce, including strawberries, squash, zucchini, tomatoes, sweet potatoes, eggplant and kale.
A typical day on the farm starts at 6 a.m. when the family and the H2A workers arrive. All harvesting is done in the morning to ensure the ultimate freshness of product. “Each day we only pick what we need to fill our CSA boxes and stock the on-site farm stand,” Michelle said, “we want our products to be as fresh as possible for our customers.”
In the afternoon, she wears a variety of other hats as a farmer, social media manager, book keeper and more. “Although staying busy and playing many different roles can be challenging, it’s also the most rewarding part of farming,” Michelle said, “I get to do a different thing each day and be involved in every part of the process, including meeting and getting to know our customers.”
All products from the farm can only be found at the farm-stand on site because the family believes in customers visiting the farm, seeing the process and getting to know the family. They offer four sizes of CSA boxes to cater to all their customer needs from May to July.
“We offer an extra small, small, medium and large CSA box to meet all our customer demographics from single people to families of six,” Michelle said, “we put a variety of seasonal products in the boxes and let people choose which day of the week, Thursday through Saturday, they would like to come pick it up.” All CSA boxes are packed that day to ensure ultimate product freshness.
As a young farmer, Michelle reminds those seeking a career in agriculture to make as many connections as possible within the industry and never give up.
“This job, like anything else, can get frustrating,” she said. “But when you develop connections within the industry, those are the people you can call on a bad day for help, encouragement or even a venting session.”
Many of Michelle’s friends in the industry are also members of the N.C. Farm Bureau Young Farmers and Ranchers program. In the future, Michelle and her family will continue to service their customers in the best ways possible and educate them about the importance of buying local and agriculture in general.
When she gets a break from the farm, you can find Michelle relaxing to a Netflix show or enjoying a weekend getaway with her family.
(Reprinted with permission from NC Department of Agriculture)