Chris Murray’s family has lived on the family land for four generations and over the years each generation has added their mark. His great grandfather, who was a fruit tree salesman, built the first house on the land and planted a few fruit trees that can still be found growing today. After WWII Chris’s grandfather returned to the homestead to work in the famous Alamance County mills, but started keeping cows and pigs to supplement the big garden they had growing up. His father was the first of the family to farm the land for a living, and dug a pond where a spring is that they now use for irrigation even during drought. “My grandfather told us that the spring never went dry in his lifetime,” Chris says.
Gary Murray, Chris’s father, started selling produce at the Carrboro Farmers’ Market in 1982, while also working for the county extension service. This work with the county meant that they knew about many resources that most farmers don’t have the time to find about. Chris saw the value to this, and pursued a career in soil conservation, working in that field for ten years before the lure of the land drew him back. By the time Chris joined his father on the farm full time in 2009, they had 56 acres of land, with almost 6 acres in production. With Chris’s support they moved towards sustainable farming practices, incorporating more crop rotation and cover crops. Father and son worked the land together until Gary passed away in the summer of 2013. Gary’s passing was a huge loss for the family and farming community, but Chris fondly remembers the support fellow farmers showed by coming out to help with the harvest during that difficult time.
In the year since, Chris has been thoughtfully putting his mark on the farm. He added a grass fed herd of cows to his production, and has been experimenting with the best breeds to use for that diet. He is purchasing equipment that will allow him to explore innovative strategies in sustainable production thanks to a grant he received from RAFI. He’s installed a high tunnel and new water lines to the farm through the federal high tunnel program and services offered through Alamance County Extension, respectively. And to top it all off, Chris is starting to pursue organic certification. “I have the application sitting on my desk, but can’t seem to find the time to fill it out.”
While it’s clear that Chris is an innovative farmer, he carries on some of the old traditions from his father too – staying involved in agriculture issues off the farm. He serves on the Alamance County Voluntary Agriculture Board, which reports to the county on farmer issues. He still works as a soil consultant for the county. And for the last two years he’s served as President of the Carrboro Farmers’ Market Board. He’s appreciative of the vote of confidence they showed in putting him in this leadership position, but it’s clear that they have been lucky to have his knowledge and enthusiasm for farmers and community.
Chris and his wife Jamie have 3 kids, also growing up on the farm, eating mostly off the land and learning every day about where their food comes from. Hopefully one day they’ll carry on this rich family farm tradition.