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Coastal Carolina farm preserves agricultural history

by Taylor Harris

When picturing North Carolina beaches, many families don’t immediately envision a farm. However, the coastal areas of the Tarheel State are steeped in agricultural history, some of which are still thriving today. The Island Farm in Manteo dates back to 1757, and is not only a working farm today, but also a place of education and entertainment for visitors.

In 1757, Adam Etheridge rented the farmland that the Island Farm now sits on for fourteen years before his son Jesse purchased it to carry on the farming tradition.

“Jesse purchased the land that is now known as the Etheridge Homeplace, and built the farmhouse around 1847. The homeplace stayed in the family until it was donated to the non-profit, Outer Banks Conservationists in 1997,” said Michelle Clower, Site Manager of the Island Farm.

“Since then, the site has become a living farm for people to visit and learn about the rich agricultural history found in this part of the state.”

The Island Farm continues to grow a variety of produce in their four garden plots, like Irish potatoes, sweet potatoes, root veggies and peppers, as well as raise livestock animals, including a cow, mule, horses, chickens and sheep.

“We try to keep everything as it was in the 1850’s,” Michelle said. “So, we grow crops and raise animals here that were grown on this farm by the Etheridge family, and we cultivate and harvest them using their methods. Therefore, everything on the farm is hand harvested.” Every Tuesday through Friday from March to December, friends and families alike can visit the farm to see their processes, meet the animals and so much more.

The Island Farm is open to the public from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. Tuesday through Friday. Admission costs $10 for ages 4 and up but includes everything the farm has on-site that day.

“Our farm tours are self-guided, but there are typically three or four interpreters walking around for anyone who has questions about the farm or the on-site demonstrations that are happening on that day,” Michelle said.

Demonstrations take place daily at the Island Farm but change from month to month. Check their website for a detailed schedule of events on the date that you plan to attend. Demonstrations can include blacksmithing, hearth cooking, toys and games from the 1850’s, sheep to yarn and more! Families can choose to stay the entire day, enjoying lunch at the farm picnic tables, or go and come back. Stickers will be given to families who go off-site to gain admission back into the farm.

Although Michelle loves every part of her job, including the role that she plays in preserving a rich heritage and history of a farm in our state, her favorite part of agritourism at the Island Farm is seeing people light up as they learn something new about farming or life on a farm in the 1850’s.

“We serve as a bridge between agriculture from the past and agriculture of the present,” she said. “I love to see the fascination and joy on the faces of visitors when they see something that they’ve never seen before or even try it for themselves. It demonstrates and builds an appreciation for farm work as well as the folk heritage and agricultural history in this part of the state.”

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