Growing a family legacy with kale, broccoli and more

by | Oct 2, 2020

Amy Douglas and family

Every Friday on social media, we post a Farm Feature Friday showcasing one of our dedicated North Carolina farmers. Amy Douglas, owner of The Farmer’s Daughter, is one of those farmers. The #FarmFeatureFriday campaign will run through December 2021 on our Facebook, Twitter and Instagram pages. Be sure to tune in each Friday afternoon on social and help show your support for our local farmers!

If the land could talk, it would tell stories about the farming legacy of the Icenhour family. Purchased in 1875, the land where The Farmers’ Daughter now sits has survived many generations and grown many commodities from broccoli and yellow squash to tomatoes and strawberries. “My two brothers and I were raised on the farm,” said Amy Icenhour, owner and operator of The Farmers’ Daughter in Taylorsville, “and even though our parents sent us off to college, they told us to make a career out of what we love, and we all ended up running our own farms and helping with our family farm, Morning Dew Farms.”

The farm originally raised dairy cattle. It wasn’t until later that the family decided to switch to vegetable farming and the idea came from a simple desire to grow healthy food for the family. However, what started as a simple vegetable garden is now a well-known farm growing over 50 varieties of fruits and vegetables, including strawberries, squash, pumpkins and kale. In fact, The Farmers’ Daughter is currently the only vegetable farm in Alexander County.

A typical day on the farm varies from season to season. During strawberry season (end of April to early June), days start at 6:30 a.m. in the field for irrigating, harvesting and marketing the day’s pick. “My husband and I always joke that we wear a lot of different hats,” Amy said, “he is not only the equipment operator, irrigation specialist and farm maintenance man, but also a full-time brick mason and father. I am a mother, planner, farmer, crew boss, marketing ‘guru’ and social media/website manager.”

The biggest challenge for Amy and her family is the amount of uncertainty and factors outside their control. She compares the amount of uncertainty farmers face daily to the uncertainty that the world is feeling now due to COVID-19. That worry, however, is nothing compared to the joy that they feel by giving back to the soil. “Planting a crop and getting to see its full lifecycle through harvest makes everything worth it,” Amy says, “and we are blessed to be caring for the land in the way that we are called to.”

Next Wednesday, Oct. 7, is National Kale Day, a crop that came to be grown at The Farmers’ Daughter on a whim and by surprise. The Douglas family cares deeply about their customers and decided to start growing the crop due to a request for it by a CSA member. “We try to treat everyone like family and create an atmosphere that people want to come back too,” Amy said. She also shared that when harvesting kale, do not cut the stalks but only pick the leaves. If the stalks are cut, the plant will not produce anymore kale.

Products from The Farmers’ Daughter can be found at their on-farm stand, the Hickory Farmers Market and their new online web store. In addition to selling their fresh produce, they also have poundcakes, pies and jams available that are made by Amy, her mother, daughter and niece. “It’s a multi-generational family tradition and they are delicious,” Amy says. Her favorite of the sweets is a strawberry cobbler.

Next time you’re in the area, be sure to stop by Crossroads Grill and try their slaw on a delicious cheeseburger or chopped BBQ sandwich. We’ll tell you a secret…it’s from The Farmers’ Daughter! The family takes pride in providing safe and quality products for all members of the community. “We have always been about building the local economy and connecting people with agriculture,” Amy said, “our kids walk through the field and graze because we know it is safe, so you should be confident in that too.”

Amy lost her father, who also spent his life farming on the same land and worked on the farm until he passed away due to a farming accident in 2017. She hopes to make him proud through future innovations on the farm. “Dad worked hard on this farm until he left it,” Amy said, “and like a true farmer, he went out with his boots on.”

Vinson and May Ann Icenhour

In the future, the Douglas family hopes to expand their farm with a new country store, with ice cream. “We want to continue to provide healthy options for our community,” Amy said, “we especially want to grow our business to better support our own family and, one day, maybe even our children’s families.”

Although she loves the farm life, Amy sometimes wishes she had a crystal ball to know what the demand will be from year to year for various crops. “In 2020, for instance, we sold more lettuce than we ever have and could have sold more,” she said, “and lettuce is a quick crop to grow and has a good return! We also would have planted more tomatoes, because our yield was effected by Southern Blight and poor soil conditions due to heavy rains.” All of which could have been avoided, according to Amy, if only they could predict the future.