Gary Wise learned old farming ways and a love of the lifestyle from his Grandpa, a traditional North Carolina farmer in Duplin County. He kept a little livestock, and worked what he could in produce through June before shifting his energy to the cash crop of the time, tobacco.
Though only 43 years old, Gary vividly remembers a massive produce market in their little town of Faison that was one of the biggest in the southeast. “I am not exaggerating – you could stand in one spot and see trucks lined up for half a mile in every direction. It was an astounding scene.”
Coming up in the 1980’s, when there was no real money in farming, Gary put his degree from NC State to work teaching 9th graders geography and civics at the high school he graduated from. So he shaped young minds for 3 years, just long enough to meet his wife, who also taught at the school. Then one day at the farmers’ market, he suddenly wondered to himself, “Why am I not doing this myself?”
A New Path
So he decided to team up with his parents, William and Helen, and got back to working the core piece of land that’s been in his family for 4 generations now. As they expanded their family business, more land began to open up around them. “Daddy went off and bought an additional 30 acres in 2012, which surprised me given his age. So I decided to follow suit and picked up another 38 of my own.” Now they’re on about 150 acres total, owning around 125 of that.
While Wise Farms continue to grow every year, they’re also mindful of maintaining healthy growing practices, and have continued to acquire land so as to have more to rotate between to mitigate disease, insect predation, and nutrient depletion. Though some methods have modernized, Gary still uses a lot of what he learned from his Grandpa. And he sometimes wishes, in keeping with his memories of the old days on the farm, he didn’t have to put so much time into marketing. “Back then we would just take what we had to market, sell it, and could get back to the farm.”
Why partner with Farmer Foodshare?
In addition to the benefit of giving back to the community, farmers receive marketing assistance and training about how to present their items for the POP Market audience. Although the old days on the farm required less marketing, they also had zero control over the price they received, which is a more recent change in market structure that has enabled the resurgence in local farms and food. In addition to a daily presence at the State Farmers Market in Raleigh, Wise Farms also sells to a handful of large buyers, including POP Market. However, many of those large buyers are purchasing different things each week, and sometimes none at all, depending on their needs. Because POP Market buys produce from them twice a week, it’s allowed them to be able to plan for where the food is going to go and when it will be sold. “Farmer Foodshare has become one of our bigger buyers. And you’re buying consistently, unlike some of our other large buyers, which really helps in production planning and budgeting.” And it’s perfect for Farmer Foodshare too, because our customers love the produce they receive from Wise Farms.