"Some say, why do you still do all that work? ... I say I don't know no differently" -- Nevida Faircloth, 81-year-old Orange county farmer
It's 8 o'clock in the morning, and Nevida Faircloth is already tending a row of snap beans. "It's a way of life; I don't know what I'd do otherwise," she said as she toiled in the carefully tended vegetable garden, surrounded by a chest-high electric fence to keep Orange County's prolific deer out.Faircloth turned 81 in April, but it hasn't slowed her down. If anything, farming keeps the petite woman with gray-blue eyes young. "My mother had a cousin named Nevada, and she liked it a lot, but she wanted to add her own special twist," she said of her unique first name. "I've never met anyone since with the name of Nevida." It's August, but Faircloth is still picking blueberries, canning tomatoes, harvesting corn, checking on snap beans, and talking about the mustard greens and collards that will be ready come fall."Some say, why do you still do all that work?" she said. "But I say I don't know no differently."
Some 64 years ago, as a girl of 17 Faircloth Pendergraft married James Faircloth and came to the farm off Gilmore Road. There were only three houses on the road then. Today, neighborhoods surround her 191 acres. Her goal is to hold on to as much of her land as she can, to preserve the peace she's always enjoyed out here in the country. The farm sits on the border of Orange and Chatham counties and runs to Jones Ferry Road.Faircloth Farms is best known locally for its annual you-pick-blueberry season. Late June, Faircloth begins to receive calls: "Are the blueberries ready?" Some of her bushes are over 30 years old. Faircloth doesn't spray pesticides, and her blueberries can be eaten right off the bush while morning dew still clings to them. When Faircloth married James, she went straight to work in the fields. They raised tobacco until the mid '50s. "I'm not afraid of hard work, I'm used to it," she said. "If you've ever seen tobacco or done it, you'll understand why a garden is nothing to worry about. "Tobacco, well, that's a lot of work."The Faircloths moved away from tobacco in 1957, when James went to work at the university as a carpenter."It was the best thing he ever did," Faircloth said.
Cobblers and stews
As much as she enjoys gardening, Faircloth relishes cooking and sharing what she grows and cooks. She spent some 20 years selling her produce at the Carrboro Farmer's Market."I started about the year they opened the market. I quit about six years ago, because it was getting too much for me."Today, Faircloth fixes cobblers and stews, and fresh delectable dishes for the local shut-ins at Mount Pleasant United Methodist Church. The Rev. Jimmy Owens says Faircloth epitomizes the creed, "Do Unto Others as You'd Have Them Do Unto You.""When I think of Ms. Nevida I think of the classic image of a genteel kindhearted Southern lady," Owens said. "She has her ear bent to the needs of those around her.""I'm from Louisiana and we have a creole word lagniappe, and it means 'a little something extra,'" he said. "Ms. Nevida will hear about a situation, and she'll call and say she's bringing over a loaf of bread, and not only does she bring fresh bread, but a blueberry pie, or preserves, or anything she's thought you might like!"Faircloth's life has been devoted to raising her family and sharing with her extended church family. She has three children, two daughters and a son. "They were all spaced out. I had my daughter, then 11 years later had the second girl, and just when I thought I was finished, 12 years later, I had our son." They all attended UNC, and Faircloth considers herself a Tar Heel mom.Ronald Faircloth helps his mother, turning the fields for her and keeping an eye on things, though Faircloth still manages to do the lion's share all by herself. Faircloth describes the pleasure in sharing her cooking with those who can't get out and about. "It's important to have home cooking when you aren't feeling so well. And I enjoy cooking, it makes me happy to share."Terry Whitfield, a member of Mt. Pleasant UMC, has known Faircloth for 20 years. She recalls a poignant moment from when she was a new mom and had just gone back to work. "One rainy day I came home from work, and pulled into my driveway," Whitfield said. "It was almost dark and I was loaded down with baby-carrier, briefcase, and diaper bag. The baby was hungry and wanted to eat immediately when we pulled into the driveway. I almost cried trying to get out of the car with a crying baby in the cold rain. When I got to my front door sitting right inside the door was a jar of warm homemade soup!"The jar of soup was just the kind of thing Faircloth is known for."I've never met a sweeter, or kinder heart, and I've known a lot of people," Owen said.Even though she's seen a lot of changes, Faircloth isn't afraid of them. Instead, she focuses on the positives, and recalls a trip she took two years ago, when she and her daughter went to visit granddaughter Lauren Miller, who was in Ecuador serving in the Peace Corp. "My granddaughter took us into the poorest villages, and I saw how they were cultivating what they could, and it just made me so grateful for what I had here in North Carolina." One image in her mind stands out. They met a family raising guinea pigs for food. Faircloth almost shudders as she recalls the scene. "That was all they could do to feed themselves, and here on our farm, we used to raise big ol' fat hogs," she said. "So much abundance here." Come winter, Faircloth will be baking food to share, looking forward to spring, and the turning over of the soil, planting of the seed, and waiting for the harvest. The cycle has marked her life for as long as she can remember."I plan to keep doing this until I can't anymore. Every year, I think I'll cut back the garden." She sighs, and smiles. "But I just can't do it yet."