In Lewisville, North Carolina, a former electrical engineer is slowly transforming 30 acres of former vineyards into a sustainable fruit and vegetable farm. Kent Layher, bought property on Williams Road in 2014 from the original owners of Westbend Vineyards. The property is now called Y River Farm; it is an outparcel just down the road from the main Westbend property.
Layher bemoans the fact that so many fruit and vegetables don’t taste the way they should. He wants to reproduce watermelons, corn and more the way he remembers it tasting when he was a child. That means he wants to farm sustainably, without pesticides or chemical fertilizers. “I’m not organic, but I don’t worry about that. My goal is to grow good food,” he said. “Instead of spending time trying to get certified organic, I spend my time trying to get things to grow right,” he told journalnow.com. The key to that, Layher said, is creating a rich soil. That has been an uphill battle so far.
When he bought the property, most of the grape vines already had been pulled. But the land, after years of chemical spraying common to the wine industry, was not in good shape. Still, Layher has made some progress in certain parts of the property, and he has planted a lot on the land. It now holds about 1,000 blueberry bushes, a couple dozen Asian pear trees, 30 pawpaws. There’s also a smattering of muscadine grapes, persimmons, cherry and plum trees. Eleven chestnut trees are doing well, but not quite producing enough to sell.
Though he wants to focus on fruit, he does grow some vegetables — and that’s mainly what he has been selling this year. His spring crops of lettuce, spinach and beets are finished, but now he is selling tomatoes. Later in the season he will have Silver Queen corn. In the fall, he’ll have more lettuce and bok choy.