The open forum of a marketplace provides a refreshing getaway from shopping aisles. Each venue offers a unique setting that may include activities for children, live entertainment, and an array of foods. The curious shopper discovers she has direct access to fresh and locally grown fruits, herbs, flowers, and vegetables, dairy-based products, proteins, homemade goodies, and artisan-based, handmade crafts. In addition, the welcoming man or woman behind the table provides a small sampling of popular items. Whether you are a first-timer or repeat customer, take the time to introduce yourself, ask questions, and inquire if owners receive visitors or have a farm store. Most likely, the answer is “Yes” or “It’s coming soon!”
Winston-Salem Fairgrounds Market
The parking lot off 27th Street leads drivers to one of the oldest year-round farmer’s markets in Winston-Salem. Visitors will discover an indoor market with three long rows, running north to south, and a midway; the market extends an aisle east to west. In addition to food trucks and live music, shoppers will encounter dedicated craftsmen, growers, horticulturalists, farmers, and ranchers in 10-foot booths. Stop by and meet the owner of Alchemy Ranch! You’ll find Gayle Straight in her usual location each Saturday from 6 a.m.to 1 p.m. Don’t forget to bring a cooler!
Forming a Business
Gayle’s story begins with the words, “Yes!” Living in Wilmington, North Carolina, she agreed to join her parents’ new endeavor in opening a restaurant. The years spent learning how to handle foods, define quality and practice customer service would then be applied years later to a future business model. Gayle shares, “Food is the foundation of our relationships and memories. I wanted to be a producer of qualified meats. What initially began as an endeavor for just us turned into an opportunity to attend, care for, and offer the healthiest, most delicious, flavorful profile of meats to our customers.” In 2018, the devastating impact of Hurricane Florence in Atkinson, N.C., changed the property address of Alchemy Ranch. In 2019, David and Gayle Straight found the perfect property with ample land and trees to start anew, mere miles from US-52 in Mount Airy.
Rotational Silvopasture Grazing
Cows roaming through grassy pastures, shaded by areas of dappled light from native, mature trees, provide ideal vistas. Unfortunately, it’s not the usual pretty picture. Most farmers contain their cows in small, fenced boundaries, and they walk in paddies of manure. The method matters! David and Gayle Straights’ practice of rotational grazing creates an opportunity for their animals to be clean, healthy, and happy. “Silvopasture” is a science-based grazing technique to complement workload, reforestation, fertilization, and tree pruning. During the hottest summer months, the cows will transition to a well-shaded pasture, offering high nutrition.
Ensuring that cows can meander in safety, Gayle drives the perimeter fence daily, keenly assessing for gaps and potential holes in the ground, while inspecting the trees for dangerous limbs. Tall fescue and clover serve as one part of the animals’ forage base. In addition, each animal receives a special customized soy-free, non-GMO diet. At the same time, cows receive an exceptional blend of Brewer’s wet grains, and the pigs, lambs, and rabbits consume fruits, vegetables, and sweet potatoes, when available.
Two and Four-Legged Friends
Growers and ranchers share a commonality. Whether plants germinate from seeds to thrive into mature plants or animals grow from birth to become adults, Gayle’s pride of ownership is apparent. She delights in openly telling stories of her lambs, pigs, rabbits, and cows. Nearing the pasture, she yells out in rapid succession, “Here cow, cow, cow!” For 26 months, the Limousin-Angus breed, termed Lim-Flex, will change direction and walk toward a friendly voice. She holds a treat in her hand, a semi-large square of compressed Timothy hay; then, Gayle says quickly, “I cry when they have to go for processing!”
Join the Fan Club
The exceptional taste of the steaks, pork, ribs, BBQ, and sausage—a few items from their extensive inventory—explains why the methods of Alchemy Ranch set them apart from 90 percent of other farmers and ranchers. Join Gayle at a “Let’s Meat” event at a participating farmer’s market—or schedule a delivery! Whether it’s a protein product, farm-fresh eggs, or handmade soaps, you, too, will be impressed!
Reach out to Alchemy Ranch at 910-231-3830 or through alchemyranchllc.com/.
Next Month: The Kordick Family Farm