After cold winter, Lomax Farm coming back strong in Concord

After cold winter, Lomax Farm coming back strong in Concord

By Dave Friedman. In 1971 Alice Waters opened Chez Panisse in Berkeley, Calif. Over the past four decades the restaurant, which features almost entirely fresh local ingredients, has been recognized as among the best in the world. Waters has been lauded for being at the forefront of the farm-to-table movement. While local, organic, and fresh has become a hot trend in restaurants throughout the country, major hurdles faced the Elma C. Lomax Incubator Farm in Concord. While still facing financial difficulties, the farm is persevering.

In the land of barbecue and hush puppies the air is thin.

Lomax Farm manager Aaron Newton


“We could end up in a better spot than we were down the road,” said Lomax Farm Manager Aaron Newton. “We may end up doing more training, but we’re still dealing with the effects of having the carpet pulled out from under us. We’re not out of the woods. We’re not fully funded for 2015. We’re not fully staffed. We are continuing to ask people to do a lot for little or no money.”

Last summer three lame duck members on the five-person Cabarrus County Board of Commissioners abruptly eliminated the farms $116,489 budget. With no power or means to harvest crops that had been planted throughout the 31-acre facility, desperation set in.

Newton lost his job in the cuts, but led efforts to publicize the situation. Between an initial $10,000 check from Scott Avett of The Avett Brothers, and a partnership with the Carolina Farm Stewardship Association, Lomax farm is transitioning from being county funded to becoming self sufficient.

Newton, who has been hired by the Carolina Farm Stewardship Association to run Lomax farm, is cautiously optimistic about Lomax’s future.

“After graduating five farmers last year, we have six in training now plus a beekeeper,” said Newton. “We have less production now than in the past because three of our six are brand new. They are just getting started. We have onions, potatoes, lettuce, spinach, kale, and broccoli rabe growing.”

Scott Avett


One of the major contributions CFSA assisted in was organizing a crowd-funding project on The farm netted over $25,000 from people who donated between $5 and $1,500 to help keep Lomax farm going. Between that money, Avett’s donation, grant funding, $25,000 from the new Board of Commissioners and events, farmers are continuing to learn and grow at Lomax.

Newton says interest in the farm has blossomed since it nearly was forced to close. Volunteers are not only writing checks, but asking how they can help out and support the farmers. The Rotary Square & Market in Concord will have produce from three of the farmers available when it debuts in May.

Lomax farm also has a presence at the Davidson Market, the Atherton Mills Market in Charlotte, the Cobblestone Farmer’s Market in Winston-Salem, and at the Peachtree Market in Concord, which is owned by Newton’s wife Jennifer.

On May 15, Avett will be present at the farm when many of the people who helped keep Lomax opened will be recognized. He’ll be joined by Vivian Howard who runs Chef & The Farmer in Kinston, N.C. Howard and her “Progressive Eatery” are featured on the PBS Show A Chef’s Life. The show details Howard’s restaurant which has similar ideology as Chez Panisse.

There is no farm-to-table movement without farmers.

“What we are teaching is scale. Most anyone can grow tomatoes, but how you grow 500 of them, that’s the thing,” Newton said.


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