Ray Gora / Lincoln Times-News
The Lincoln Soil and Water Conservation District has chosen as its 2013 “Conservation Farm Family” Gerald and Leslie Frye.
The couple, who raise beef cattle exclusively at their more than 200-acre farm on Flay Road in western Lincoln County, will officially be recognized during an awards banquet in August.
“We find it to be a wonderful life here,” Gerald Frye said this week.
The Fryes purchased the land, near the border with Cleveland County, in 1992 after moving to the area from Troutman.
Though he had no background in agriculture, Gerald Frye said it had always been a dream of his to get into farming.
“By pure good luck, we ended up in western Lincoln County,” he added.
The area, he notes, has a proud tradition of agriculture. Along with that tradition comes plenty of local support.
Both the Lincoln County Cooperative Extension and the Soil and Water Conservation District have offered advice and guidance along the way.
“So many people have been very supportive of us here,” he said.
This has included help making improvements to the land and preventing the possibility for runoff from waste materials, as part of a continual learning process.
And while he considers his work a pleasure, it is also something that he said needs to be taken seriously. With rapid population growth, safeguarding the food supply is something that should be of particular importance moving forward.
The Fryes are doing their part to better secure the future of agriculture. In 2010, they completed a conservation easement with the Catawba Lands Conservancy. This legal agreement will ensure that — no matter what happens to them — their property will never be sold off and used for purposes other than farming.
“It will never be a shopping center,” Gerald Frye said.
The permanent protection will help make the land a “lasting thing,” he said. While it won’t necessarily have to remain a cattle farm, the property will forever be an agricultural operation.
“I’m very proud to conserve the farm,” he said.
Rick McSwain, director of the Lincoln Soil and Water Conservation District, said Gerald Frye is extremely concerned about having a low impact on the environment.
“He limits his use of chemicals on his pastures and hay fields because of the negative impact it could have,” McSwain said. “He also protects the wildlife and wildlife habitat as much as possible and still be able to maintain the farm.”
Gerald Frye said that since he got into the industry, more and more emphasis has been placed on the animals’ welfare. Those calves raised in proper conditions and with low stress are also good for his bottom line.
“The better you take care of them, the better and tastier the product,” he said.
In an effort to maintain his standards, he follows the guidelines of the Beef Quality Assurance program.
The Fryes’ farm has roughly 60 mother cows that they breed with bulls, raising the calves until they’re about 8 or 9 months old as part of the first stage in the overall beef operation.
Most of the calves are born in late fall or early winter and then sold and shipped off to feeders in August for the next phase.
The market over the years has been somewhat erratic, Gerald Frye said, but business tends to even out over the long haul.
While some of his calves are sold locally, they can go anywhere in the United States. Most of those from last year went to Texas, Kansas and Nebraska.
The farm is run entirely by the couple, and Gerald Frye is quick to credit his wife with keeping things going.
“I couldn’t handle it here without Leslie,” he said.
They also won the 2013 Area VIII Outstanding Conservation Farm Family of the year for the Area VIII Soil and Water Conservation Districts and went on to compete in the Mountain Region contest in the spring.
Gerald Frye hopes to stay at it for as long as possible, with no current plans for retirement.
Though running the farm keeps the two from going on real vacations, it doesn’t seem to bother them.
“I’d rather be here than anywhere,” Gerald Frye said.