Hard work suits young farm family just fine

Published 8:36 am Thursday, April 13, 2017

ADVANCE – Matt and Kimberly Busse aren’t afraid of work.

It’s a good first step for the young couple trying their hand at farming on 6.5 acres of land. They’re already selling eggs, and are raising lamb, with the first product expected this fall.

River Birch Farm is a dream for the couple, who had lived in Myrtle Beach, S.C. for 10 years before finding the land in Davie County a year and a half ago.

“We’re beginners,” Kimberly said. “This is our way to get our hands dirty.”

An veteran of the War on Terror in Iraq, where Matt developed a taste for lamb, they participate in the Homegrown Heroes program for farmer veterans.

Kimberly attended workshops as well, including the Women in Meat Workshop, where she learned to butcher a lamb. They also cooked the fresh meat on the grill with three ingredients, salt, pepper and olive oil.

“It would knock your socks off,” she said. “It’s simple when you have good, fresh meat.”

That’s their goal at River Birch, to take care of the environment while getting the most they can out of the land. It’s one of the reasons they chose lamb, more can be raised on fewer acres than beef.

The 17 Katahdin Hair Sheep on the farm are perfect for the project, which is to sell product directly to consumers. They don’t need shearing. They’re docile, parasite resistant, good on pastures, and can better withstand hot, humid summers here than other breeds.

Matt realizes that to be successful, they’re pretty much grass farmers. The sheep graze on a portion of the land, then are moved to another while grass comes back.

He knows the pasture well. He dug, by hand, the 455 fence posts holes that support the fence surrounding the property. Movable, electric fencing will be used to help with the grazing rotation.

Matt built the chicken coop, too, in part from materials salvaged from a deer stand that was on the property. It includes plenty of room for the birds to roam, and an easy box to collect the eggs. From time to time, the chickens are allowed out to roam. River Birch Farm eggs, from Rhode Island Red and Bard Plymouth Rock, and soon-to-be Black Austrolorp chickens, are available at the Peachtree Farmers Market in Bermuda Run, she said. The farm also has website and Facebook page.

It isn’t her first interest in farming. In Myrtle Beach, she coordinated an online farmer’s market, matching farmers with consumers.

Matt works for Landmark Builders, and had been in Myrtle Beach working on high-rise projects. A job that didn’t require traveling near Davie County sent the couple on a property search.

“We came here and said, ‘Here it is. This is it’,” Matt said of the property. It was perfect for their family, which includes sons Dayton, 14, and Grayson, 9, and their farming project.

Kimberly had already said that if the land wasn’t in Davie County, she didn’t want to live there. She works part-time as a teaching assistant at Shady Grove Elementary.

Matt had visited friends in Davie  County before, and also liked the area.

“We want it as big as our land can support,” he said, “taking care of the environment with rotational grazing. We prefer they eat grass and as little feed as possible.”

“We want to make sure we have a quality product,” she said, convinced that once people taste the fresh meat, they’ll come back for more.