Last Updated on July 3, 2023

Everyone loves farmers’ markets. We flock to these venues in their many forms from localized, coordinated, regional markets to friendly roadside stands. Large or small, elaborate, or simple, one characteristic unites them all: the farmer.

Since relocating from central New York to North Carolina’s Piedmont region, finding the perfect farmer’s market was high on the list of things to do for this farmer’s daughter. I diligently searched for the best place to source seasonal favorites, fresh from the vine, branch, patch or row.

I wisely chose Lineberger’s Maple Spring Farm in nearby Dallas, NC. Lineberger’s Farm offers an array of farm fresh crops, creative baked-goods and ice creams, along with a playground for the kids.  

Taking a Working Farm Tour

Linberger's fresh strawberries.
Linberger’s fresh strawberries. Photo by Monica Mattioli

During growing season and at harvest time, there’s no better education on the topic of authentic farm life than a tour of a working farm, including a long stop for picking, hosted by the farmer himself, like fourth generation steward, Ethan Lineberger.

Lineberger’s Farm offerings include an array of seasonal berries, peaches, muscadines, tomatoes and pumpkins. Visitors can pick their own or purchase it off the farm stand shelf. More than forty acres allow for abundance and diversity of managed crop production.

Either on foot or wagon ride, visitors are led to the best spots for u-pick opportunities and are charged by the container back at the farm stand. Whether traipsing back to the finest fields or buying off the shelf, the experience is reminiscent of the good old days. There’s nothing more wholesome and refreshing than purchasing direct from the grower.

Meanwhile, Ethan is happy to answer all manner of questions from visitors of all ages.

Beyond simple farming – which is never really easy – this place leverages its decades-long heritage of lovingly working the land, extending beyond the corn row and into the larger community as provider, entertainer, and educator to visitors and school groups.

What’s the Buzz?

Recently, I was drawn back to Lineberger’s Farm for a special visit to explore and appreciate Lineberger’s recent accomplishment – certification as a Bee Friendly Farm.

Simply put,bees are life!

Humans cannot live without healthy ecosystems, and these include insects and pollinators. Seventy-five percent of the world’s crops are reliant upon pollinators like bees.

Nature tells us that bees are busy little insect friends. They’re highly regarded for their work ethic and have a specific way of conducting their business. And bee folklore surely rings true that “if you plant it, they will come.”

So, what’s the buzz? Vibrations (the buzzing) from bees causes the release of the pollen that starts the process for growth and reproduction of our seasonal favorites, such as tomatoes, peppers, blueberries, and strawberries.

Just like humans, bees are social creatures. They operate like a family. Their hives are populated by a queen and her workers and they exist within a social order. Their lives are immensely purposeful.

Bee Friendly Farming Certification

Hive boxes in the field at Lineberger's Farm.
Hive boxes in the field at Lineberger’s Farm. Photo by Monica Mattioli

So, here’s where Bee Friendly Farming Certification comes in.

The Pollinator Partnership encourages landowners to help in promoting pollinator health. Why? To provide the best possible environment to facilitate bee interaction with food production to meet the community’s fresh produce needs.

Studies indicate that beekeeping actually involves a low risk of stinging. Bees’ requirements are straightforward. They need food, water, shelter and space.

As Ethan revealed, Lineberger’s Farm is home to stacked hives owned and stewarded by collaborator Gary Barnett. The objective of the collaboration is to engage in farming practices that protect wild space while providing 15 acres of diverse plants and cover crops to ensure bee health.

The growing and harvesting season in this part of North Carolina ranges from March to November. During those months, the bees forage and vibrate to keep warm throughout the season. Generally, the “sweet spot” for the bee falls between April and June, during the interval when blooming generates nectar.

The scientific intricacies of bee friendly farming involve determination of the ideal number of bees per acre, propagation and growth factors, and an array of plantings. Lineberger’s bee boxes are stacked adjacent to the berry patches and are curated throughout the season. From there, nature takes its course.

Bee Habitat Management

Bees making honey at Lineberger's Farm.
Bees making honey at Lineberger’s Farm. Photo courtesy of Lineberger’s Farm

Bee boxes are stacked with a top box and brood boxes that are turned from time to time to facilitate optimal entrance and exit for the bees. Lineberger’s is home to 10 hives where the bees work on a variety of fruits and vegetables throughout the growing season.

Locating the ideal relationship between the hives and the plantings is a scientific process involving GPS mapping. This calculus involves determining the ideal number of bees per acre, monitoring temperatures, situating the boxes, number of hives and specific plantings. Beekeeper Gary Barnett is responsible for stewarding the hives.

What’s in it for the consumer?  

Bee management cuts down on insecticide use, encourages more beneficial insects and provides a low treatment threshold for crops. These benefits continue annually from spring to fall. In Ethan Lineberger’s estimation, that’s the interval from berries to pumpkins. The season finally abates in late autumn.

Future of the Farm

Lineberger’s Maple Spring Farm has served its community for 90 years with local produce, baked goods, educational programs, farming fun and ecological practices. On the horizon, the fourth generation of Lineberger’s is poised to take the helm, preserve tradition, stay rooted in science, love of the land, respect for farming and wild places, and remain committed to a healthy community.

The tradition will continue as the Lineberger family persists in passing to future generations the organic details of farm and community life blessed by fertile soil and those wonderful buzzing bees.

Author

  • Monica Mattioli

    Based in North Carolina, Monica Mattioli's passion for storytelling sparked during business trips that took her from New York to San Francisco, all around the Southern U.S., and internationally to Brazil and Italy. Her background spans marketing, public relations, academics, travel and tourism. Equally at home at the keyboard and on camera, Monica is a people person with a gift for languages. Reporting these days primarily from the U.S., number one on her travel bucket list is Hondarribia, Spain, a village in the Basque Country.