Farmer of the Month: Alicia and Wayne Conger

In a quaint corner off Catfish Way, in Madison, lies a unique 110-acre farm run by Wayne and Alicia Conger.  Named in honor of their Native American heritage, Cherokee Creek Farm is Certified Naturally Grown, a non-governmental organic certification.  They grow heirloom fruits and vegetables – meaning that the plants are unaltered by GMOs or chemicals and are grown from original seeds.  No synthetic fertilizers, insecticides or herbicides are used and the garden beds are composted with mushroom compost and mulched with wheat or rye straw.

The Congers’ farm grows a wide variety of crops, including beans, beets cabbage, cantaloupes, carrots, cucumbers, eggplant, lettuce, onions, peppers, radishes, summer squash, winter squash, Swiss chard, tomatoes, turnips and watermelons. They are especially interested in growing Native American heirlooms and currently grow Native American varieties of tomatoes, winter squash, beans and watermelons..  They are always searching for more Native American heirlooms to feature at their farm.  Behind their main growing area lies a 110-plant blueberry patch.  The Congers practice sustainable farming, crafting their raised beds with no mechanical tools, instead working by hand, starting with a broadfork to begin the process of raised beds.

Cherokee Creek Farm has been in operation since 2013.

Although farming is in their blood, the Congers did not initially plan on making their life path lead to the dream of Cherokee Creek Farm.

Wayne was born in Coral Gables, Fl. and grew up in Hialeah, Fl.  As a child, Wayne was often in his grandfather’s garden, helping him water and pick the produce.  He joined the Army at the age of 21 and after completing his tour of service, he obtained his Ph.D. in Clinical Psychology from Florida State University.  He retired from his clinical practice in 2002.  Currently, he  consults part-time and helps maintain the farm.  Alicia grew up spending a lot of time at her grandparent’s farm near Gainesville, Fl.  Her grandfather was a farmer all his life.  There, she learned about the practice of farming.  When her father decided to follow his career with the USDA, Alicia and her family moved to an agricultural area near St. Augustine, Fl.  Alicia left the farming community to attend college and earned a Ph.D. in Behavior Analysis from Florida State University.  The two of them returned to their country roots when they purchased the land that would become Cherokee Creek Farm.  She officially retired from her career last year.

Even though they purchased the land in 2003, it took about 10 years before they decided to expand their original garden area into Cherokee Creek Farm.   Originally, the land was used as their place to escape the hustle and bustle of Tallahassee.  They traveled back and forth several times a week from Tallahassee to balance their jobs and their need for a country retreat.  In 2005, they built a small “country cottage” to stay in.  That small cottage became a guest house when they built their current family home in 2013.

“I would’ve never dreamed that I would be here,” said Wayne.  “I am still amazed that we have this land.”

In addition to the farm, the land serves as a wildlife sanctuary that caters to a wide variety of wildlife species.  Approximately 18 acres of tall, longleaf pines have also been added to the land for the benefit of the wildlife.  The longleaf pine tree was in serious decline due to excessive timbering.  The 18 acres that have been planted are a way of adding to the comeback of the longleaf pines as well as being of benefit to the natural wildlife of the area.  Wayne also built an eight-foot fence around the vegetable growing areas in order to keep the animals from eating more than their share of the produce.  The fencing also allows the Congers to live in harmony with their animal neighbors.

The Congers take great pride in what they do and see their farming as a hobby rather than a business.  “I just love growing things,” said Wayne.  “[To me], there is something magical about putting a seed in the ground and watching it grow,” said Alicia.

The Congers are members of the Red Hills Small Farm Alliance and the Red Hills Online Farmers Market in Tallahassee, where they sell their produce.  They also sell their produce to restaurants in Tallahassee and Monticello.  They are also happy to provide produce to locals who are interested in picking up their orders at the farm by appointment.  They will also provide tours of their farm for local groups who are interested by appointment.

Cherokee Creek Farm is located at 350 NW Catfish Way, in Madison.  To contact Cherokee Creek Farm, call (850) 228-5042 or email them at heirlooms@cherokeecreekfarms.com.

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