Shining a light on agriculture at Sonlight Farms

by | Oct 5, 2023

#EscapeWithNCAg is a year-long series that will focus on agritourism across North Carolina. Many farms, wineries and other agricultural businesses in our state offer events such as tours, yoga, educational classes, pick-your-own events and festivals, to entertain the public and teach them about our state’s number one industry. Each Thursday, we will feature a new site for you to visit with friends or family. Stay tuned and learn how to escape the stresses of life by diving into agriculture! 

A beacon of light to the community and beyond, Sonlight Farms in Kenly loves creating fun on the farm! “My family has always farmed at Holland Farms, which is our parent farm right down the road,” said April Phillips, co-owner and operator of Sonlight Farms. “My husband and I are the sixth generation to work on the family farm. We wanted to expand our impact within the community by offering agritourism events, so in 2010 we bought this property and, in 2016, started Sonlight Farms.” Today, the two farms work together to present a beautiful and accurate picture of the NC agriculture industry. Holland Farms continues to grow and harvest a variety of crops, including tobacco, soybeans, sweet potatoes, and corn, while Sonlight Farms hosts a plethora of activities during the spring and fall for the community to learn and enjoy.

In 2017, nearly a year after the farm opened, Sonlight Farms began offering agritourism events for the community through field trips on the farm. “Every year we try to add something new for people to enjoy,” April said. “We want to share our passion and knowledge of agriculture with everyone that we can while also allowing them and their families to have a fun space to spend the afternoon together.” April and her husband Josh often develop ideas for farm activities based on what their children, ten-year-old Riley and eight-year-old Kamryn, would enjoy.

Sonlight Farms is very well-known in the area for their fun fall afternoons on the farm. For just $12, families and friend groups can come out from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. on Saturdays and enjoy a variety of fun events and activities, including hayrides, a corn crib, an 80-foot slide, John Deere pedal carts, an obstacle course, inflatables, an animal barn, bungee bounce, rock wall and more! “This year we will be open on Saturdays from September 23rd through October 28th,” April said. “We love seeing kids enjoying the fun zones on the farm, but we also offer educational opportunities for them to learn about agriculture through the education connection area, local products barn and animal barn, where they can learn how to milk a cow and meet our farm animals, including goats, chickens and donkeys.” In fact, this year the farm’s new offering is the local products barn or market. The building will feature local crafts, pumpkins, baked goods and more, so be sure to stop by and support all things local! As stated above, Saturdays on the farm will cost $12 per person this year with the rock wall and bungee bounce costing an extra fee for interested individuals. Pricing to be announced soon!

In addition to fall weekends on the farm, Sonlight Farms hosts a walk-through live nativity the first weekend in December. Seven churches around the Kenly area come together to put on the event each year. From live animals like donkeys and sheep to the characters we all know and love, like Mary and Joseph, this event is an interactive way to see the full story of the birth of Jesus. “Everyone will get a coin to pay their taxes when they arrive,” April said, “then they walk through the entire nativity story, are counted, pay their tax as they enter Bethlehem, and end at the birth of Jesus. It is a really fun time for us to host an event on the farm that not only gets more people out to the property but allows us to educate them on the importance and truth of the gospel.” The guided tour of the live nativity is free to attend so make sure your family visits this winter on the first weekend of December.

Although April and Josh truly enjoy watching their own family grow up on the farm, their very favorite part is getting to meet people from across the state and beyond. “Everything in life always starts with agriculture because it is so central to who we are as humans,” April said. “So, being able to teach people about this farm and our products is truly a special thing. I love being able to hear their stories and, in turn, share mine.”

Children and adults alike can learn a variety of things during their visit to Sonlight Farms including how both peanuts and sweet potatoes are grown and harvested, the different crops grown in that area of our state and how to advocate for farmland preservation and agriculture in general. “We are passionate about education and preserving this industry for many generations to come,” April said. So, check out their website and social media pages for the upcoming fall weekends and mark your calendar for the live nativity in December. It’s a great way to spend the weekend with your friends and family while also supporting our state’s number one industry!