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Carolina Farmin’: Wayne Long Returns to His Roots

Carolina Farmin’: Wayne Long Returns to His Roots

Wayne Long knows dirt. He knows the taste of Brunswick County’s soil on his tongue. He knows how it looks under his nails and on the knees of his work pants. More importantly, he knows the flavor it brings to the fruits and vegetables grown in it. Long is part of Prospect Farms, a 65-acre farm near Supply, and his newest venture, Carolina Farmin’, has him back where he was as a kid — on the family farm.

Growing up in Shallotte, Long helped work in his father’s grocery store and on the family’s farm. After graduating from West Brunswick High he attended UNC Chapel Hill, earned a degree in business and returned to the area. He’s a businessman, and until recently his position as CEO of WellCare, a home-healthcare provider, was his only job. Now his path has come full circle.

“When I was a kid, my dad owned the Red and White Food Store,” Long says. “We had locations in Shallotte, Bolivia and Whiteville. We grew some of the produce we sold in the store, so I guess you can say that this was a natural next step for me.”

This is a return to the farm where his work ethic first began to develop and to the grocery business that served as his family business for many years. This is Carolina Farmin’.

Carolina Farmin’, a new grocery store located at 2101 Market Street in Wilmington, has put Long back in the field, growing the produce he will later sell in his new neighborhood grocery store.

“We’ve got a lot of emphasis on fresh produce,” says Long’s son, Ben, the 22-year-old manager of Prospect Farms. “What we have available will change with the season and will be dictated by what our local farmers can sell to us.”

Carolina Farmin’ sells the produce grown at Prospect Farms as well as by other local and regional farmers.

“Look around and tell me what you see,” Long says, surveying the busy produce section a few days after Carolina Farmin’ opened. “I’ll tell you what you see. You see produce from right next door. You see signs telling you this was grown by such and such farm. You see smiling faces on customers and employees. You see a community growing around fresh local produce.”

Community was Long’s focus when he came up with the concept for Carolina Farmin’. He wanted to return to a simpler time like his childhood in Shallotte when neighbors shared what they’d grown with other neighbors, stopping by on a summer evening with extra beans or tomatoes and going home with squash or cucumbers. He wanted a grocery store like his father’s. It took a while to get there, but Long’s vision has taken shape.

“It took two years and hundreds of people running around to help us give this vision life, but we did it,” Long says.

At Carolina Farmin’ you’ll find organic produce grown by local farmers, bread baked by local bakers and fish caught by local fishermen. The market also carries a staple of dry and frozen grocery items, but their focus and their passion is in the produce.

“Building that sense of community was very important to me,” Long says. “That’s why we partnered with several area farms to supply us with produce, and that’s why we continue to build relationships with farmers and fishermen.”

Currently, Carolina Farmin’ uses close to two dozen farms, fishermen and bakers ranging from Faison to just across the South Carolina line, but the heart of their produce lies very near the heart of Long — in the soil of Brunswick County.

Prospect Farms currently supplies the store with watermelon, cantaloupe, sweet corn, cucumbers, squash and zucchini, but other Brunswick County farms are in on the act as well. Holden Brothers Farms grows sweet corn, tomatoes, squash, zucchini, bell peppers and blackberries for Carolina Farmin’. Waccamaw River Farm supplies strawberries. Shelton Herb Farm’s fresh herbs are sold in the produce section and add flavor to the store’s lunch counter.

“I guess Brunswick Catch is the other big one we have missing,” Long says. “We’re working on getting together and I think it has to happen soon. I want our customers to be able to eat what I ate when I was growing up — produce fresh from the garden and oysters or fish fresh from the water.”

When the doors to Carolina Farmin’ opened in early August 2011, the expected happened. Farmers they’d been pursuing for months resurfaced, seeing that the store is a reality and watching how it fares. Now their list of farms has more than doubled, and they and the farmers are looking ahead to see what crops will be available in the coming seasons. Long expects that next season they’ll include many more farms large and small from across Brunswick County and the region.

“We expect to surprise everyone with what’s available, especially since so much of it is locally grown,” Long says.

Carolina Farmin’s offerings will change seasonally. Late winter and spring will bring lettuce, spinach, asparagus, peas, radishes and arugula. Summer’s bounty of tomatoes, squash, melons and okra will be a staple. Through the fall and early winter, fresh spinach, onions, pumpkins, melons of all sorts, potatoes and sweet potatoes and apples, along with many more fruits and vegetables will be available.

“And let’s not forget collards,” Long says. “We’re growing 25,000 collards at Prospect Farms so our customers can have them during the holidays and so they can enjoy one of our collard sandwiches — braised collards sandwiched between cornbread. There’s not much finer.” n

You see produce from right next door. You see signs telling you this was grown by such and such farm. You see smiling faces on customers and employees. You see a community growing around fresh local produce.

Building that sense of community was very important to me,” Long says. “That’s why we partnered with several area farms to supply us with produce, and that’s why we continue to build relationships with farmers and fishermen.

For more information on the fishermen and restaurants participating in Brunswick Catch, head over to
www.brunswickcatch.com.

Carolina Farmin’ is located at 2101 Market Street in Wilmington.

Holden Brothers Farms supplies Carolina Farmin’ with a wide array of produce. Stop by their farm stand at 5600 Ocean Highway West, or check them out at Carolina Farmin’ or a local farmers’ market.

Waccamaw River Farms’ tomatoes end up in restaurants across the region, and, of course, at Carolina Farmin’.
It’s located at 6351 Kingstown Road in Ash.

Shelton Herb Farm, at 340 Goodman Road in Leland, grows and sells herbs, vegetable plants and flowers at its farm and at Carolina Farmin’.

Prospect Farms, the Long family farm, can be found in Shallotte, but their produce can also be found at area farmers’ markets and at Carolina Farmin’.

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