Cecilia Redding is the farm entrepreneur at Down 2 Earth Farms. On 143 acres in Rougemont, she’s growing a wide assortment of produce year-round — right now, we’re looking forward to green onions and asparagus, and shiitake mushrooms and edamame are always a fun treat. Here, Cecilia tells us the basics about her farm, the realization of her longtime dream.
Cecilia has always wanted to farm. “I got the bug when I was at the University of Florida,” she says. There, she began undergrad in the mechanical engineering program; but she really loved the agriculture classes she was taking. “I changed my major to agriculture engineering,” and later went on to get both her bachelor’s and master’s degrees in Biological and Agricultural Engineering and an MBA in global business at UNC-Chapel Hill. Throughout a career in the food and beverage industry, “I continued to work toward farming someday.” That day arrived in 2011, when she and her husband bought 143 acres in Rougemont. She’s been growing there since 2012.
A high point for Cecilia came when Down 2 Earth was officially certified organic by CCOF (California Certified Organic Farmers, a nonprofit that certifies farms nationwide). Among her sustainable practices are utilizing the site’s 5-acre irrigation pond for drip irrigation as needed, and planting early or late to avoid pest infestations. Of the farm’s 143 acres, only about 6 acres are for growing produce; 25 acres are in hay, 5 are the pond, and 100 are in a forest stewardship program with Triangle Land Conservancy for wildlife preservation.
Growing year-round is possible thanks to two high tunnels for winter growing and a greenhouse where most crops are started as transplants. The cycle of seasonality is one of Cecilia’s favorite parts of farming. “Every year you feel like you learn so much that you can apply to the next year. It always feels like a great challenge to continue to improve.”
At the end of the day, the land and its bounty give way to the community, and that’s what keeps Cecilia going. “The people are great. Our customers, other farmers, our employees — all are wonderful people to work with.”