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Good Growing

Organic farm still going strong

His clay-stained finger tips and earth-toned ball cap tell a story.
The tale begins with a farm family in western Lincoln County. The plot thickens years later when young Donnie Cline takes an interest in the business.
Years after that, the seasoned farmer — back from Vietnam — transforms the property and starts New Beginning Farm.
Much like the farm on which he grew up, New Beginning includes 20 acres of land nestled in the hills of Lincoln County right by the Catawba County border. His childhood home is still visible as well as the property owned by his siblings. What’s new is the techniques used to yield locally grown produce.
Cline is one of three certified growers in the county who run an organic farm.
“I’ve been interested in it since I worked with apples in the ‘70s,” he said.
Cline worked with various pesticides while growing apples.
“I was chemical poisoned years ago, and it made me realize I just didn’t want to mess with it anymore,” he said. “Just seeing what a small amount of that stuff could do to you, I said no more.”
Cline geared up and put his years of farming knowledge to work. He became certified to grow organically, and began planting. His organic vegetable stand was a hit at the Regional Market in Charlotte.
“You could see the demand for it down there,” he said. “They’re looking for fresh produce.”
Cline noticed that the buyers’ desire for organic produce was matched by their want for freshly grown produce. He wanted to find more demand.
The homegrown farmer began visiting restaurants. He marketed his product and now provides produce to 10 restaurants in Hickory and Charlotte. He even bought a VW bus — which he deemed the Vegetable Wagon — for deliveries.
Cline didn’t take marketing or business classes to acquire the necessary skills. He lets the product speak for itself.
“You’ve got to prove to them that the quality is there,” he said.
Proving the quality of his vegetables is a full-time job. Cline estimates working about five and a half to six days a week. Typically he is busier during the spring and summer months, but he plans to expand his winter vegetable production keeping himself busy year-round.
Cline is preparing to put hoops and plastic over many of his winter varieties. The increase in production December through May is something he’s looking forward to.
“You’ll be on your knees, but at least you can gather,” he said.
Some people stop by and ask to pick their own vegetables from the property. If Cline has the time, he gladly obliges. He even has a row of greens growing for his neighbors.
Cline can name each variety of lettuce, green bean, squash, kale, asparagus, turnip, garlic and okra growing on the working 14 acres.
“It’s just part of knowing the land,” he said. “It’s just learning. It’s experience.”by Diane Turbyfill

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