Staff photo by Allison Potter
Kayla Mixon of Red Beard Farms holds a bag for Mark Offerman as he selects okra at the Wrightsville Beach Farmers’ Market on Monday, Aug. 5.
Carolina Beach local and North Carolina State University graduate Morgan Milne took over his plot of land in Castle Hayne in June 2011. Located just south of the Highway 17 bypass, Red Beard Farms, named after Milne’s own fiery red whiskers, is a small-scale farm with a variety of crops.
After completing his degree in horticultural science from N.C. State in 2008, Milne managed a farm on the Outer Banks for a short time before returning to Wilmington where he got a job as the horticulture specialist with Landscapes Unique. Shortly after that, Milne was presented with the opportunity to take over his land from the Swart family after its owner, Dirk Swart III, passed away in March 2011.
Since that time, Milne and Red Beard Farms have built a customer base around town by servicing local businesses such as Rx Restaurant and Bar and The Reel Café, as well as Tidal Creek Cooperative Food Market.
Red Beard Farms’ products are also available at the Wrightsville Beach, downtown Wilmington, Poplar Grove and Southport farmers’ markets.
Right now, the fields at Milne’s Castle Hayne farm are mostly in a transitional phase, meaning that at their Wrightsville Beach Farmers’ Market booth, manned by former intern-turned-employee Kayla Mixon, only a few items, like blueberries and okra, are available. Throughout the seasons however, Red Beard Farms raises a huge variety of crops. With five to 10 acres working at a time, Red Beard Farms produces everything from figs to pears to tomatoes. Furthermore, everything Red Beard grows is free of pesticides and chemicals.
Mixon, who is currently studying sustainable agriculture at Warren Wilson College in Swannanoa, N.C., says that she’s learned a lot from working for Milne.
“I like working and learning with a group of my peers. ... I do everything, we all do everything,” she said.