By Kay Whatley, Editor
Well, it’s kind of a dog and pony show. There is a dog — her name is Kady and she is yellow with a little white on her muzzle giving away her age. There are no ponies; however, there are horses… tiny, little horses.
I’m referring to Yellow Dog Farm and Teddy’s Treasures, adjacent farms run by members of the same family. Randy and Lisa Whitley grow produce on Yellow Dog Farm, where Kady lives. They are both teachers in Franklin County NC schools. Ted and Rosemary Roberts, Lisa’s stepfather and mother, breed miniature horses on Teddy’s Treasures farm, located right next door.
Yellow Dog Farm and Roadside Stand
Teaching school is only part of Randy and Lisa Whitley’s work. Year-round, they manage Yellow Dog Farm, with the physical labor kicking into high gear on “summer break” when they harvest and run a roadside stand at their Wendell NC farm. Next door, Lisa’a family breeds miniature horses.
According to Randy, when people stop at the farm stand, they often take a moment to pet the horses before buying their produce.
The day that we visited, Randy and Lisa had been harvesting potatoes. Planted in early March, the potato plants were already yielding, and Randy expects that their various plantings will keep potatoes available for several months. As any farmer knows, planting isn’t a once a year job. It’s a continuous job.
Plants across the farm’s fields were blooming or already covered with small fruits. Root vegetables were already tall and growing fast.
Local folks stopping at the farm stand to buy for their tables will only be offered fresh-picked goods. Each morning that the farm stand is open, Randy, Lisa, God-son Chase Jones, and several cousins pull and pick what will be sold that day. Fruits and vegetables bought at the farm stand will be fresh from the fields that morning. At the end of the day, anything left is used by the family or donated locally. No day-old goods here!
The roadside stand at Yellow Dog Farm opens on June 4, 2016, and will be open throughout the summer. The stand is at the farm, located at 1705 Eagle Rock Road, Wendell NC. They will be open:
- Tuesdays, 3-6pm
- Thursdays, 3-6pm
- Saturdays, 9am-noon
Farm stand produce planned — already planted or about to be planted — includes cherry and regular tomatoes, broccoli, cucumbers, hot peppers, radishes, carrots, rutabaga, okra, melons, corn, and more.
Farming has been good to the Whitleys. In addition to daily farm tasks, they have been planting blueberry bushes, fig trees, and more to expand the farm offerings over time. When they both retire from teaching, the farm’s fields, bushes, chickens, and trees will be their full-time job.
To cut back on some of the weeding time, the Whitleys utilize black plastic sheeting. Rows in the front field have stripes of black beneath the plants. Keeping back weeds means less time pulling them, and more time harvesting. It also helps ensure the plants have more space for their roots to grow. Strong roots make for strong plants.
In addition to the produce sold at the roadside stand, Randy and Lisa raise chickens and collect their eggs. Like most farmers, they face nature and adversity — farming is not an easy way to make a living. This month, they are down to two chickens, since a possum or fox broke into their coop and killed all the other chickens. One of their summer plans is to set up a new chicken coop — closer to their house where they, and Kady, can keep an eye out for predators.
As much as farming is in the Whitley’s blood, so is teaching. When visiting their farm to find out more about their farm fields and to see the “minis” next door, I brought several teens with me. Randy asked them if they knew how to drive a tractor, and then proceeded to show them how to drive one. Teaching doesn’t end at the classroom door. He even gave us all an overview of drip irrigation systems, gave the kids baby root vegetables to taste, and explained seasonal crop management.
To find out what’s on the produce stand at Yellow Dog Farm, call 919.366.0909 — but keep in mind that as you’re thinking about what to put on the table tonight, they are out in the fields picking it fresh for you.
Teddy’s Treasures Miniature Horses
Yellow Dog Farm is one part of the family’s labors. While Randy and Lisa are tending their crops at 1705 Eagle Rock Road, Wendell NC, next door Lisa’s stepfather and mother run the miniature horse farm. Teddy’s Treasures, owned by Ted Roberts, 82, and his wife Rosemary, breeds and sells miniature horses.
In the early years of the farms, Kady — the original “yellow dog” — ran the fence on one side, while a miniature filly, Honeybee, ran along the other side. The two grew up together on the adjacent farms. Kady is 8-1/2 year old now, and the mismatched pair are still buddies. Either or both of them might be seen hanging around at the produce stand.
Ted has his hands full this summer too. With newborn colts Bo and Daniel, and their horse Honeybee about to give birth, they’ll have their horses plus three foals to tend. The foals will be for sale later in 2016. As any horse breeder knows, breeding horses is a continual process and Ted and Rosemary keep busy tending to their mini mares and stallions.
Ted and wife Rosemary walked us around to meet their mares and on-farm stud, Risky Business — well, that’s the short version of his name — who was born in South Carolina. All the miniature horses are gentled. The mares allowed their colts to be touched as they stood watchfully by. The teens on this farm trek with me were awed by the size and adorable nature of the foals. One of them even got the chance to pat Honeybee’s expansive, pregnant belly.
Randy and Ted said that one of the miniature horses born on the farm last year was a “dwarf mini” only 13 inches tall at birth. That little foal is now a therapy horse in Ohio, and his owner takes him into hospitals to bring joy to the patients.
Ted has been raising miniature horses for over 40 years. He remembers seeing a photo in National Geographic magazine, back in the 1950s, showing a mini born in Georgia. He was hooked, and has been raising miniature horses most of his adult life.
To find out more about Teddy’s Treasures, call Ted Roberts at 919.365.3757.
For fun, and in homage to the teachers of Yellow Dog Farm, here’s a little horse terminology:
Colt — a young male horse, generally used if the horse is less than four years old
Filly — a young female horse, generally used if the horse is less than four years old
Foal — a young horse of either gender
Yearling — a horse 1 to 2 years old of either gender
Mare — a female horse
Stallion — a male horse
Gelding — a castrated male horse (can’t be bred)
When stopping by the Yellow Dog Farm roadside stand, feel free to ask questions about the produce and farming. Randy and Lisa Whitley are happy to share their farm knowledge with their customers. Teaching is in their blood.