Burgaw, North Carolina
Nestled in Pender County, you will find a farm that means a great deal to those that own it and to the school children that learn from the land, livestock and owners.
Old River Farms is a working farm and “outdoor classroom” owned by AgCarolina Farm Credit members Dean and Susan Lanier along with Dean’s father, Admah Lanier. The farm consists of swine finishers on contract with Murphy Brown, a cow/calf operation and hay, and the Lanier’s have recently found a niche in the agritourism business.
Returning to his roots
Mr. Admah Lanier, a World War II Veteran, was discharged in 1946 and decided to go back to the farm where he grew tobacco, corn, soybeans, hay, sweet potatoes and peanuts. In addition to farming, he was also a mail carrier until retirement in 1981. In 1973, the family bought an old dairy in Pender County which became the farming headquarters. The farm name, Old River Farms, originated because the 600 acre farm backs up to the Old River, a run off of the lower Cape Fear River.
Investing in the next generation
Dean had a love for farming, but had a strong desire to diversify their operation. He and his wife Susan, a fifth-grade teacher, began discussing the idea of offering educational field trips to elementary-age children. This vision became a reality in the fall of 2011, and the farm expanded to include an agritourism component to offer “outdoor classroom” field trips to elementary school children from Pender and New Hanover Counties.
Cultivating hands-on experiences
The outdoor learning experience on the farm allows children to learn in a fun and engaging atmosphere while meeting the objectives of the North Carolina Essential and Common Core Standards. “Teachers have said on several occasions that bringing their students to our farm has been the best field trip they’ve ever taken,” states Dean. “Depending on the time of year, we tailor our activities for the children. Whether it’s making bird food ornaments in the spring or picking pumpkins and building scarecrows in the fall, we offer fun and educational hands-on activities for the children.” Each field trip includes a hayride around the farm with numerous stops where students learn about livestock, the importance of agriculture in their daily lives, plant germination and participate in soil activities.
Dean became a Farm Credit member about 30 years ago, when he purchased an adjoining farm to the farming headquarters, and he says very little has changed at Farm Credit since that time. Dean currently does business with Cale Horne, Burgaw branch manager. Dean states, “The employees at Farm Credit are not just bankers; they have become personal friends. It’s more than a source of money; the people at Farm Credit are friends and willing to stick by you even when you experience tough times.” Admah continued to say, “Although this is the first time since the 60’s that I haven’t owed money to Farm Credit, the relationship I have with Farm Credit has been ideal and enabled me to do a lot that I couldn’t have done otherwise.”