Organic Growers Help Pittsboro Business Grow

Melinda Fitzgerald of Country Farm & Home Supply distributes boxes of seed potatoes. Photo by Cathy Jones

Melinda Fitzgerald of Country Farm & Home Supply distributes boxes of organic seed potatoes. Photo by Cathy Jones.

Tuesday, February 11 was a record day for sales in the 20 year history of Country Farm & Home Supply in Pittsboro. This was partly due to customers stopping by to stock up on feed and other supplies ahead of the week’s snow storm, but also because it was the day the organic seed potatoes were distributed to area farmers.

Melinda helps a farmer load boxes of seed potatoes.

Melinda helps a farmer load boxes of seed potatoes.

In 2012 store owner Melinda Fitzgerald started offering organic seed potatoes. She knew that local organic farmers had been ordering potatoes on their own and that if she could organize the order and distribution, farmers would see significant savings on seed and shipping costs. She would also be able to get seed potatoes shipped in February instead of March which was better for our farmers. The potatoes are grown in Colorado and ordered through New Sprout Organic Farms in Asheville.

That first year (2012) Melinda sold about 3,000 lbs of organic seed potatoes. This year she had pre-orders for over 11,000 lbs. (5.5 tons) of 16 different varieties of potatoes. These potatoes went to about 60 farmers from Charlotte to Wilmington. Chatham County farmers Cathy Jones and Mike Perry (Perry-winkle Farm) and Judy Lessler (Harland’s Creek Farm) brought their crews and helped with distribution on February 11, the day before the snow storm hit.

Organic seed potatoes.

Organic seed potatoes.

Local growers in Chatham County and the surrounding Piedmont region have come to rely on Country Farm & Home Supply in Pittsboro not only for seed potatoes but for many of their organic farming supplies. Melinda recognized a need and an opportunity to provide supplies for organic growers back in 2008 when she started working at the business started by her father Dallas. One of the first things Melinda did when she started working at the store was to contact Fred Broadwell at Carolina Farm Stewardship Association (CFSA) in Pittsboro. Fred invited me and the late organic farmer Bill Dow of Ayrshire Farm to meet with him and Melinda to discuss her plans to make Country Farm & Home Supply a one-stop shop for organic supplies. We offered our advice and I encouraged her to use my small farms listserv to communicate with area farmers and assess needs.

Since 2008 Melinda has worked diligently to make her store a “true farm store, meeting the needs of today’s farmers”. In the past, many organic farmers had to mail order their supplies from other states, and now they are able to save money by sourcing inputs locally and getting them when they need them, while their dollars stay in the community. Melinda is constantly adding new products and figuring out ways to keep costs down for farmers. On many products customers can choose pre-bagged or bring their own containers and buy in bulk whatever amount they need which works for everyone from large growers to small gardeners. Word quickly spread throughout the farming community and now the organic side of the business is the fastest growing department at the store.

In-demand inputs available at the store include organic fertilizers and soil amendments, organic pesticides, organic cover crop seeds and inoculants, organic animal feed, organic soilless media for transplant production, and much more. The store also carries season extension supplies, fencing, equipment, drip irrigation supplies, fruit trees and other edible perennials, and much more. The store serves ALL farmers and gardeners, organic and conventional, and has something for everyone.

In addition to seed potatoes, Melinda also offers certified organic sweetpotato slips, strawberry plugs, and garlic bulbs (in season). Note: Melinda ordered extra potatoes so even if you did not pre-order you can still get some. If you are interested in pre-ordering any of these plants, contact Melinda to get on her email list. Email her or call Country Farm & Home Supply at 919-542-3353.

Visit the Country Farm & Home Supply website.

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