Randall and Renee Parker operate Parker Family Farms, a third-generation farm in Orange County. The farm is their primary source of income and is a family-wide effort that actively engages each of their four children. Together they raise hogs, laying hens, and meat chickens on pasture and grow small grains and a small allotment of tobacco. Also, in 2009, they planted their first asparagus and added more this past year. “Over the years, our farm has been in a slow transition away from tobacco. We’ve shrunk our tobacco allotment from 50 to 8 acres and are gradually diversifying our farm in response to market demand,” says Randall.
Randall and Renee each grew up on farms in Orange County and met in High School. After they got married, Renee left her job at Piedmont Electric and joined Randall in running the farm and home-schooling their children. “I’ve always loved having a connection to the land and taking care of animals. I can’t imagine my life without this farm,” says Renee.
Their farm encompasses just over 100 acres, close to 30 of which is dedicated to hog production. They raise approximately 20 sows (momma pigs), each of whom farrows (“gives birth”) twice a year to approximately 9-10 piglets. That means they sell about 150 or so fully-grown hogs each year. The Parkers have transitioned their hog genetics over the years to include a mix of Duroc, Hampshire, Berkshire, and Chester White. Notes Randall, “We’re pleased with how the hogs perform, both in terms of mothering and meat quality.”
The Parkers have developed a variety of market outlets. Roughly 90 percent of their hogs are sold to wholesale markets such as Firsthand Foods
, but they also sell at Farmers Markets and through buying clubs. “We really like to see our pork sold within the community but don’t have the time to market everything ourselves. It’s been a blessing to have increasing local demand for our products,” notes Renee.
Their children offer a ray of hope for the future of agriculture in the Piedmont. Of particular note is their daughter Tiffany, who from an early age demonstrated a natural affinity for farming and has been the entrepreneurial force behind their chicken operation. Now 14, Tiffany is trying her hand at marketing their farm products and can be sometimes found at the Person County Farmers Market.
For more information about Parker Family Farms visit http://www.rparkerfarms.com.