The worlds of art, music and farming have collided in Cabarrus County, and the mix has garnered national attention for the Elma C. Lomax Incubator Farm Park.
For six years, the farm has operated as the only certified organic incubator farm in the Southeast. While providing land, equipment and guidance to beginning farmers, it has strengthened the backbone of the local food movement.
The Cabarrus County Board of Commissioners on June 16 cut funding to the farm in a series of controversial budget moves, eliminating farmers’ access to coolers, freezers and water.
The county has since restored temporary funding until the nonprofit Carolina Farm Stewardship Association takes over operational management in September.
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The future of the farm, the farmers and their crops was further aided by Concord native Scott Avett – of national recording artists the Avett Brothers – pledged to underwrite immediate and long-term operations of the roughly 31-acre training farm.
His effort made headlines throughout the community of Avett Brothers fans, many of whom quickly joined the cause to help the farm.
“This outpouring of support from within our community and beyond is just what we needed on the heels of our unexpected calamity,” said Aaron Newton, the Lomax Farm’s interim project director.
“We have stabilized the situation at Lomax, and now we are creating our own future and looking for people who want to help be a part of that future.”
Details for multiple fundraisers are still being finalized, but people can learn more or donate online at www.carolinafarmstewards.org; scroll down to The Sweet Potato section, which has two articles about the Lomax farm efforts and a way to send donations.
Scott Avett said more young farmers are needed locally and nationally, and Lomax helps meet that need.
“Economically, we talk about the need for regional jobs, manufacturing and the state of our health and health care,” Avett said. “A farm like Lomax that produces, as well as trains, farmers is at the core of reformation regarding these points and more. …
“Cabarrus County is both developed and rural enough to grow and raise its own food and source it appropriately and efficiently to its region. Lomax farm is key in this fact.”
Avett said he remembers when he was a child hearing his parents talk about growing and canning their own vegetables, slaughtering their own chickens and milking their cow. While the county’s local food movement is among the oldest and strongest in the state, Avett said Lomax will continue to play key role in the development of the whole region’s local food efforts.
“Lomax farm sets an example for what can be done, educationally, to move to a better, local food source,” he said. “The fact that Cabarrus County has a place like this makes us proud.”
Sarah West, 27, is owner and director of the Sarah West Gallery of Fine Art in Smiths Station, Ala. She and her mother, Michele, recently visited Lomax to paint on-site.
Sarah West plans to donate five oil paintings, using likenesses of the Avett Brothers band, to be sold at an upcoming auction. The paintings are expected to be on display in coming weeks at Lomax and at The Peachtree Market, the county’s first local-food-based grocery store.
The Wests also have organized fundraisers in the past for the Boys & Girls Clubs of Georgia and Ronald McDonald House. Her artwork of the Biltmore Estate is exclusively sold at the historic site in Asheville.
“Although Alabama is our home, North Carolina has, for many years, been an endless well of inspiration, a source of artistic strength, enrichment, energy and mystery,” said Sarah West. She said she discovered the Avett Brothers’ music about four years ago.
The Wests also designed a hand-painted banner meant to raise more awareness for Lomax. Known as the Summer/Fall 2014 Avett Nation Banner, it’s following the band on tour, and fans can sign it.
A final banner-signing event is planned for 3 p.m. Oct. 31 at Karmasonics Record Store in Asheville.
“This is a cause that is the perfect representation of what every community needs, ” said Sarah West.
Vince Villani, 32, recently moved to Charlotte from New York. He has created a nationwide raffle of Avett Brothers memorabilia. The raffle will include donated items, such as show posters and original drawings, from his personal collection and from fans.
The grand prize is a signed 2014 Red Rocks show poster from Colorado that was designed by Seth Avett and features images of all seven band members. The grand prize drawing was scheduled for Aug. 24.
“I wasn’t sure if it would come together and amount to much, but pieces fell in place pretty fast,” said Villani. “The Avett Brothers have long been a charitable group, helping raise money for St. Jude, as well as other charities. …
“It’s that giving nature that inspired me to get involved, as well as the importance of the farm to the local community,” Villani said. “I can appreciate the efforts of the local farmers and would like to help support those folks who put food on our plates.”