Spring is coming, and it’s time to get planting! If you are looking for high quality, organically grown plants for your garden, look no further than Windcrest Farm owned by Mary Roberts and her husband, Ray Tarlton, in Monroe, North Carolina.
Mary Roberts moved to her 14 acre farm in 1978. She worked as a corporate trainer and project manager for 20 years before turning her love for gardening into a full time business in 2003. Mary and Ray started Windcrest Farm with a vision to grow organic and heirloom plants for other gardeners. They specialize in “old timey” varieties of plants like tomatoes and peppers that you can’t find in big box stores. Over time, customers at the farmers market began to ask “where’s the produce?” The farm is now about 50% nursery and 50% produce.
Thanks to Ray’s handiwork with constructing and recycling greenhouses, Windcrest Farm is able to have a tropical environment year round. Warm, humid temperatures mean a longer growing season and a wide variety of plants and produce. Elderberries, blueberry bushes, chamomile, lavender, peppers, tomatoes, eucalyptus, kohlrabi and the list goes on and on- and in multiple varieties. Herbs like turmeric and ginger have been “stars” among the customers according to Mary. Currently, the cooler weather crops like broccoli, kale, perennial herbs, collards, and swiss chard (just to name a few) are available for purchase. Spring is just around the corner though and the warmer season plants are getting ready.
Unique work environment
Mary loves that her job is mostly outside since leaving the corporate world. “It’s great not having to sit in rush hour traffic,” she says. “My commute is just a short walk to the greenhouses…Even my worst day on the farm is better than the best day at the office.”
Still, farming is never without its challenges. “The weather is something that farmers will always bring up in conversation. It’s always changing, but it keeps me interested…there’s always something to learn in farming,” she says. Mary and Ray’s work schedule adapts with the seasons. In the summer, they wake up at the crack of dawn and finish their work by noon because the heat in the greenhouses can get stifling. In the winter, they don’t start working outside until about 10 am to allow the sun to warm up the greenhouses and high tunnels.
Organic before it was “cool”
Windcrest Farm is USDA certified organic and has been for a long time. “Us old hippies were doing organic farming in the 70’s and then it came back around,” says Mary. Becoming certified organic requires a lot of paperwork, inspections, and fees which can be hinder smaller farms like Windcrest from going through the process. However, it’s always been important to Mary for her farm to be “healthy for plants, produce, people, and our planet” despite the work it requires. “We are currently the oldest established certified organic plant farm in the greater Charlotte area.”
Thriving not just surviving during Covid-19
In 2008, the economic recession led people to show an interest in home gardening, possibly in an effort to be more self- sustainable. This helped Windcrest Farm’s business to take off. A similar increase in business occurred this past year with the COVID-19 pandemic. People wanted to try growing their own food after grocery store shelves ran empty. Staying at home more meant people finally had the time to garden, and some families were just looking for an outdoor family activity to try.
While the in person classes and camps normally offered are on pause during the pandemic, Windcrest Farm has opened up more in other ways- particularly online. Unlike the farmers market or a store, online customers can see everything that Mary and Ray have available at any given time- which is a lot!
Mary and Ray have also teamed up with The Patio Farmer, Erin Hostetler, in the Charlotte Metro area. Customers can learn how to grow food at their homes with The Patio Farmer and have Windcrest Farm plants delivered directly to them.
So are you ready to get planting?
You can buy plants and produce from Windcrest Farm in a variety of ways.
Check out their website at store.windcrestorganics.com
Pick up plants/ produce directly at Windcrest Farm: Saturdays 11 am- 2pm at 518 Greenfield Drive Monroe, NC by appointment.
Pick-up and/ or shop Windcrest Farm plants at Dandelion & Friends Mercantile at 105 S. Hayne Street, Monroe, NC – Saturday from 10 AM to 4 PM.
Starting Thursday, March 25, 2021, Wise Acres in Indian Trail will be another pick-up location for Windcrest Farm products and online order pick-up.
Delivery is available in the Charlotte Metro area through The Patio Farmer. Check out www.thepatiofarmer.com for more info.
Delivery is available to certain Monroe locations by request. Shipping of certain products also available.