Every Friday on social media, we post a Farm Feature Friday showcasing one of our dedicated North Carolina farmers or agriculture industry workers. Michael Phillips with Phillips Farms of Cary is one of those industry leaders. The #FarmFeatureFriday campaign will run through December 2021 on our Facebook, Twitter and Instagram pages and from August to December will feature younger farmers in the industry. Be sure to tune in each Friday afternoon on social and help show your support for our local farmers!
Agritourism has been steadily growing on farms across North Carolina and one farm has jumped into the trend with both feet! Phillips Farms of Cary was started over 100 years ago and has grown to be one of the most popular tourism farms in the Triangle area.
“This farm has been in my family for four generations,” said current farm manager, Michael Phillips, “my great-grandfather started this farm by growing some of our state’s fundamental cash crops, like tobacco, so I have that traditional farming experience, but have also been able to put my own spin on things by shifting our focus to agritourism.”
Today, the farm continues to grow one acre of strawberries each year and serves as more of a tourist attraction and host site for other local farms across the state to showcase their products. “This year we started hosting a farmers market every weekend under our shelter at the farm,” Michael explained, “it is a one stop shop for anything you need or want. It’s basically a grocery store and a department store combined.” According to Michael, the farmers market can feature anywhere from 10 to 60 vendors from all parts of North Carolina each weekend, including Ronnie Moore’s Fruits and Vegetables, Mike D’s BBQ, Lizzy’s Apples, Lumpy’s Ice Cream and Goat Soaps.
A typical day in Michael’s life highly depends on the time of year. During the spring and summer, he can be found managing the property and ensuring everything is kept up to date, like landscaping, planting and fixing farm equipment. The fall and winter, however, are extremely busy for both Michael and his team. “We have many agritourism events in the fall and winter, including our fall family fun days, corn maze, haunted farm, Christmas trees and wreath making classes,” he said, “and these events are not just fun for kids! Most of the activities can be enjoyed by children and adults alike. We have fun for everyone!” From sunflower and pumpkin fields to a family fun park with over 30 activities for the entire family, a fall day spent on the farm is a must add to your list this month!
The winter, however, is also a fun time to visit the farm and pick out a Christmas tree to enjoy with your family. “We get all of our Christmas trees from local farms in the Sparta area,” Michael said, “we also have a custom sleigh for families to take a photo with Santa, wreath making classes and a Christmas market, new this year, that will feature anywhere from 10 to 30 vendors for the holiday season.” If it wasn’t obvious, Michael’s favorite part of the job is seeing the smiles on the faces of families as they visit the farm, make memories and traditions and tell their stories. “The tradition can start with us,” he said, “and that is something I take very seriously and am incredibly humbled by.”
For those seeking a career in the agriculture industry, Michael recommends finding your niche and gaining hands-on experience in the field under someone who is experienced and has a passion for it. “The only way to understand agriculture is to get involved,” he said.
In addition to his heart and passion for agritourism, Michael fully believes in buying local products and supporting the community. “The number one reason I wanted to start a farmers market this year is to support the farmers and agriculture industry workers in our community and state,” he said, “these people are the heartbeat of our country.”
In the future, Michael will continue to expand upon his agritourism events and create experiences that are both meaningful and memorable to families across the state and beyond. Be sure to keep an eye out for him on the farm this fall. He might even be found enjoying a fun moment in the haunted corn maze!