In this week's DISH issue, each writer's exploration of artisanal food led to the same source: the small farm. The notion of farming and the determination to go "back to the land" have been romanticized among a generation of young farmers looking to create a fair, sustainable food system.
Dani and Austin Genke, a young couple in Cedar Grove, are feeding their desire to work the land with Boxcarr Farms (boxcarrfarms.com). Two years ago, they bought 30 acres near Hillsborough that included a home built before the Revolutionary War and spacious grounds, which they made suitable for farming. Now Boxcarr Farms is the Genkes' home, business and lifestyle.
"People say farming is hard work. Austin and I have always been OK with hard work. We've always worked two jobs and not flinched at it," says Dani Genke. She shares the workload with her husband and his sister, while taking care of their toddler son. "I think the hard work has a lot to do with organizing, planning and marketing. That's the hard work, not the physical labor. If you know what you have to do, and wake up and do it, it's done. The challenge is: We need to make ends meet. There's really no money in small farming."
With an entrepreneurial spirit as strong as their work ethic, they've launched a food truck, Local in Motion, sourcing almost all of their ingredients from the one and a half acres they are currently farming. This year, they cleared a total of 15 acres for growing more crops and pasture-raising animals.
Dani has been working in restaurants since she was 18. She and Austin met while he was completing his degree at the Culinary Institute of America. That course of study eventually led them to Las Vegas, where Austin cooked for celebrity chef Mario Batali at the famed Enoteca San Marco in The Venetian hotel.
"A restaurant is crazy enough as it is, and a farm is crazy enough as it is, so we figured doing both wasn't that practical," Dani says. "The food truck is the way that he's able to still cook his food. That's really where he's passionate."
Local in Motion has parked recently at the Eno River Farmers Market in Hillsborough on Tuesday evenings. The menu reads like one you'd find handwritten on a swanky bistro's chalkboard. Breakfast beckons with homemade biscuits and a smattering of fixings including smoked ham, braised greens and pickled red onion. Brunch adds poached eggs. Lunch and tapas offer crisp pork belly, fennel soup, homemade tamales, broccoli rabe and a sorghum molasses cheesecake.
Boxcarr also sells produce to Geer Street Garden in Durham, and it has catered events at Chapel Hill's 3Cups and the Yum Yum Supper Club. The farm sources beef from Rogers Cattle Company in Roxboro as well as lettuce from Two Chicks and sweet potatoes from Hurtgen Meadows, both in Hillsborough.
The family hopes to win a grant to fund their own milking parlor and be able to add cheeses to the menu. (Austin's sister Sam is a cheesemaker, currently at Chapel Hill Creamery.)
You can reach Boxcarr by phone, email, Facebook and Twitter, all found at boxcarrfarms.com.