Every Friday on social media, we post a Farm Feature Friday showcasing one of our dedicated North Carolina farmers or agriculture industry workers. David Duong with Oak Ridge Farms 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.
Although David Duong, owner and operator of Oak Ridge Farms in Zebulon, did not grow up on a farm, he was surrounded by the influence of food his entire life. “My dad is Vietnamese and his family always had a close connection with food,” he said, “food meant security and I always had a fascination with it.”
Unlike most college students, David started out at N.C. State University knowing exactly what degree he wanted to obtain, Livestock and Poultry Management. “I raised chickens as a hobby growing up and always really enjoyed it,” he said, “and then I read a book by Joel Salatin called ‘Pastured Poultry Profits’ that inspired me at 13 years old to make this my lifestyle.”
During college, David took a job within the Poultry Science Department at N.C. State University where he obtained a lot of hands-on experience in the field that led him to start his own farm in 2013, Oak Ridge Farm. After working for the college for ten years, he finally decided to make farming his full-time job. “I saw that there was an opportunity and market in pastured poultry and I knew that I had to take it,” he said, “and as much as I enjoyed working for N.C. State, my true passion is in farming.” Oak Ridge Farms is now home to a variety of livestock, including chickens, ducks, pigs and cows.
Although there is no typical day for David, you can always find him around the farm either tending the animals, fixing fencing or other farm maintenance, processing and packaging product and networking with customers. “It certainly never gets boring around here,” he said, “sometimes I can be up at 11 p.m. trying to fill orders or out in the field at 2:30 a.m. helping a sow give birth.” In fact, David recently had to set up a tent in one of his pastures when one of his pigs decided to give birth, not under the shelter, but in the middle of a field in the pouring rain! “They can’t always make it easy on me,” he joked.
According to David, each animal comes with their own set of challenges when it comes to managing and raising them. Cows, for example, need plenty of shade during the hot summer days and easy access to water. “My pigs like to act like little escape artists, so the hardest thing with them in keeping them contained,” he said, “and then, of course, chicken is delicious so everything wants to eat it, including air and land predators.”
Despite the challenges, David wouldn’t trade anything in the world for the pride and joy he feels when customers try his product and give their honest feedback. “It is incredibly rewarding when a mother tells me that her children love my meat because it doesn’t make their stomach hurt or when an older man/woman tells me that it tastes like the meat their grandparents used to raise,” David said, “knowing that I create a service that people enjoy and appreciate is the ultimate gift.”
Products from Oak Ridge Farm can either be found online at their website or by visiting the farmers market on-site. On Saturdays, customers can expect to find other local vendors represented at the market as well.
David also works with Chef Justin Meddis at Noodles and Dumpling Bar in Durham to showcase his chicken in an Asian culinary cuisine setting. “Food has a memory attached to it,” he said, “that’s why I enjoy working with chefs like Justin because they help create that positive experience and fond memory.” With an associates degree in Culinary Arts, David certainly enjoys experimenting with his own products in the kitchen, but a couple of his favorites are herb roasted chicken and a char-grilled ribeye.
In addition to local meat products, David also sells custom made leather products, including wallets and handbags. “I’ve always had a bit of an artistic background and I enjoy the design and engineering of making these products,” he said, “each one is unique, hand-crafted and will make a perfect gift for yourself or someone special.”
For those seeking a career in agriculture, David suggests starting small and listening to the guidance of your parents. “My parents have always helped guide me in the right direction,” he said, “so listen to their advice and start out on a small scale. Figure out what you truly like and what you don’t. Then go from there.”
He also encourages buying as many local products as you can to help support the community and keep our money in local hands. “When you purchase products from local farms and businesses, you are paying for someone’s little league uniform, not another yacht for the CEO of some international company,” he said.
In the future, David hopes to expand his agritourism offerings on the farm by adding farm-stay housing, wedding venues and more. He also plans to diversify his operation by adding fresh-cut flowers in addition to his many product offerings. We look forward to seeing where the future takes you David!