Meet Ashley Parker (Parker Farm & Vineyard)
Parker Farm and Vineyard has been in the making for over a hundred years. Spanning back to as far as any of the living Parkers can remember, farming has been a way of life on the 500-600 acres that Nelson and Clay Parker still farm. One of seven children, Nelson’s father left him a portion of land and the homestead that his son, Clay, and grand-daughter Ashley, along with her husband, Jason, farm today. With three generations actively farming day to day, Parker Farm and Vineyard continues to be a diverse operation in which each generation has the opportunity to pursue the specific farming dream they have in mind.
Jason and Ashley have been dreaming of produce and farming sustainably with no synthetic fertilizers or pesticides. They grow a little bit of everything, from artichokes and celery, to tomatoes and zucchini. Along with vegetable production (every member of the family contributes: mom does a good amount of recipe trials and grandma helps pick and market), Jason and Ashley work in tobacco, and Nelson (aka “grandy”) and Clay farm about 300 acres soybeans, 100 acres of wheat and 125 acres of corn.
“We all help each other,” Ashley says. “Jason and I feel so blessed to be a part of a family that is so generous with their time, land and equipment. There is no way we could both farm full-time without them. Not to mention the patience they have with us. Geesh, I’m pretty sure both Grandy and dad get a lot of laughs out of our everyday mishaps, ha. They’re supportive, but I’m sure we give them some chuckles”
Although Ashley grew up on the farm, she never thought she’d return to farm. She studied environmental science at UNCW and did some traveling and realized that farming sustainably was the perfect way to ‘Think globally and Act Locally’ with regards to environmental quality and making a difference. “Although this is only our second year farming, it’s apparent that local agriculture is important to this community, and that supports and encourages us,” Ashley says.
Parker Farm and Vineyard is located in Hurdle Mills; northern Orange County. Along with produce, cut flowers, herbs, eggs and goat’s milk soap, the farm is open to visitors in the fall for pick your own muscadine grapes.