A Southerner’s Lucky Charm

02 Dec 2020

Health, wealth, and happiness in the New Year

By Christine Hall

Growing up in Southern Pines afforded me the opportunity to dine on many locally grown Southern foods. Whether it was juicy figs from my grandmother’s backyard, fuzzy peaches grown in Candor, or field peas from Betty’s Produce, each delicacy brought comfort and familiarity to family gatherings. The highlight came on New Year’s Day, when I was sure to expect three things on the menu: Greens, Black-Eyed Peas, and Pork. No questions asked.

A good southern child was taught that eating these three items would ensure your health, wealth, and happiness in the New Year. Armed with this insider knowledge, every year I anxiously awaited the steaming pot of collard greens that would mystically increase my childhood allowance.

›  The symbolic green Greens – for wealth – would be boiling with bacon or bubbling with some other pork fat
of choice.

› Black-Eyed Peas – for happiness  – would be cooking in a pot of bone broth and spices.

› Pork – for health – would be country ham or another pork product of choice, and would seal your prosperous future.

“The more collards you eat, the more wealth you will obtain,” my mother would chirp. My brother and I would wholeheartedly fill our chipmunk cheeks to the brim.

Other than family tradition, there is also a practical reason fresh items like collard greens are eaten in the South around the New Year – they are one of the last crops still in season! And they pack valuable nutrients for your health
and wellbeing.

But don’t take my word for it. Just ask Davon Goodwin, a cultivator of collards in the Sandhills, whose farming venture turned out to be quite the lucky
charm itself.

Turning a New Leaf

Davon Goodwin‘s farming story did not begin around the dinner table over collard greens. Nor did it begin with a long heritage of farmers. Goodwin’s farming ventures began in a more powerful way – following a 2010 tour in Afghanistan after suffering severe brain and back injuries from his vehicle hitting an Improvised Explosive Device.

During his medical recovery, he met two doctors who had a farm and were looking for a farm manager. Prior to his injuries, Goodwin had been studying biology and botany in pursuit of a PhD. His academic interests collided with his pragmatism and, not long after that, he began farming.

For him, farming brought a sense of normalcy back to his life and was a way he could still serve his country and community. “A farmer has the same discipline, same persistence, and same commitment to their community that a soldier has,” Goodwin says.

Today, he farms collards, kale, muscadine grapes, blackberries, and other produce on his own farm in Laurinburg –
aptly named, Off The Land Farms. Goodwin also manages the Sandhills Ag Innovation Center, a food hub in Ellerbe, North Carolina, that connects local farmers to markets, and where local community-supported boxes, like Sandhills Farm to Table, are packed.

Farming Collards – a new way

Goodwin is one of the local farmers who has been growing a variety of collard green called Flash Collards. Grown for its paddle-shaped smooth leaves, Flash Collard leaves are taken from the stalk, instead of the more traditional method of ‘bunch-cutting’ the entire plant. This approach allows the plant variety to continue producing leaves over and over for longer harvesting.

Goodwin remains active in the communities in which he serves. While not in the field, you can find him working with youth and other veterans at Growing Change, an organization that turns former North Carolina prisons into therapeutic farms and community centers. Goodwin is also a member of the Farmer Veteran Coalition’s new North Carolina Chapter, which serves veteran farmers throughout the state.

To learn more about Davon Goodwin's military to farming journey, family, and work in the community, visit OTL Farms on Facebook @OTLFarms. More information about the Sandhills AgInnovation Center can be found at sandhillsag.com. For more information about Growing Change, visit growingchange.org and for the Farmer Veteran Coalition, visit farmvetco.org.

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