Ken’s ancestors have farmed the Piedmont soils of Virginia and North Carolina for hundreds of years. Ken himself sold radishes door to door from a backyard garden in Richmond, Va. when he was 6 years old. After summers spent on his Grandparents’ farm growing up, he came to Orange County to attend UNC 50 years ago. Four years later he was growing organic produce in northern Orange County, selling in Chapel Hill. He and his wife Libby Outlaw founded Maple Spring Gardens in the early 1980’s selling at the Carrboro Farmers Market and to Wellspring Grocery in 1981. Ken has farmed full time for the past 36 seasons and has been a pioneer in small scale, organic farming in the south, developing a viable farming operation using organic practices when there were few successful models. He has taught widely throughout the South, mentored countless young farmers, served for 24 years on the Boards of local farmers markets and currently serves on the Orange County Food Council and the Orange County Ag Preservation Board. Farming has been his passion, his career and his life. He is pleased to be currently engaged in the process of transitioning management of the farm to the next generation.
In December of 2013, Ken and Libby’s daughter, Sunshine, having left the farm in 1999, returned after 4 years in Sonoma County, California, where she completed the Roots of Herbalism Program at the California School of Herbal Studies and worked for 3 years at the Sonoma County Herb Exchange - a collective of medicinal plant growers. After having studied Massage Therapy, Yoga, and Skin Care, Sunshine found her calling with medicinal plants and herbal healing. Sunshine brings a broad range of experience and a passion for both growing and using herbs, and has become a partner in the business and co manager of the farm, carrying on the family tradition.
Fern has been working in sustainable vegetable production since 2001 when, on a whim, she took a summer job with a farm out in San Juan Pueblo, New Mexico. Since then, she has farmed in Virginia, Maryland, Maine, Massachusetts, North Carolina, and even a brief stint Spain. She managed a small organic farm in New Jersey, growing mixed vegetables and flowers along the Delaware River for a couple years before coming back to put down roots in the North Carolina Piedmont. She has been co-managing vegetable production at Maple Spring Gardens since 2014. Fern is passionate about hard work, good food, cultivating community, and nurturing resilience in the face of a changing climate.
The Farm Crew
Each season, we hire 6-8 people who are responsible for the varied tasks and long hours of hard dirty work that it takes to put fresh veggies on our customer’s tables. Our crew members come from a wide variety of backgrounds and educational experiences. Some are seasoned farm workers; some have never set foot on a farm before, but are fueled by starry-eyed dreams of good hard work and less time spent behind a desk. The farm crew takes part in all aspects of the production and marketing of our crops, including seeding, bed prep, transplanting, weeding, irrigation set-up and maintenance, staking and trellising, mulching, harvest, and selling at farmers markets. Our farm would cease to function without the hard work and contributions of this perennially rotating crew of folks.
Interested in joining the crew? Find out more about employment opportunities on the farm here »