Spotlight: Stoney Ridge Farm
Hometown: Stoneville, NC
Size of Operation: 200 Acres
Years in Business: 6 Years
Years Working With Farm Credit: 6
One of the things Josh Draper misses most about serving in the military is the camaraderie. While farming can be long days and often without a lot of interaction, this U.S. Air Force veteran has found a way to invite people onto his farm through videos, sometimes shot live and interactive, which he posts on the Stoney Ridge Farmer YouTube Channel.
“I’ve always been a people person and the videos connect me a little more,” he says.
Many of the videos involve a teaching element on what he may be experiencing any given day on the farm. Josh is a registered nurse by training and his foray into farming began in an urban setting on a third of an acre lot in Greensboro, North Carolina. It wasn’t long before he was growing so many veggies, along with establishing several hives of honeybees, that he was selling the home-grown goodness in a small, honor-system farm stand in his front yard. Eventually he was raising enough produce for 10 households. Even more significant, he says, he’d gotten his “hands in the soil again and realized it was something that was calling me.”
Josh’s love of farming led him in 2014 to the nearly 200 acres he calls Stoney Ridge Farm near the Virginia border in Stoneville, North Carolina. As a veteran he thought it would be easy to get a Veterans Administration (VA) loan to buy land but learned that the VA does not make land loans. That’s when all signs pointed to Farm Credit.
“Everybody I went to said go to Farm Credit,” he says. “Without Farm Credit, we could not have this farm.”
Today, Stoney Ridge Farm, a former tobacco farm that Josh and wife Danielle are transforming to a beautiful organic farm, includes several beehives, pastured poultry and eggs, and produce. The Drapers are working toward expanding their operation to soon include grass-fed beef. And Josh keeps churning out videos, most recently a live video chat on veterans helping veterans. For it, he welcomed a guest, another veteran who started Veterans Farms of NC, which help veterans get into farming.
Farm Credit Loan Officer Tim Merritt says that Josh’s big personality and fun style draw people in. “Josh is very personable,” Tim says. “He isn’t afraid to reach out to others and he also loves to help and to teach others; he has a gift for that.”
While Josh uses technology such as videos and drones to teach others, and the latter to check his farm, he acknowledges the value of being connected to the earth.
“A connection with me and my body and the soil is an important thing, and I think we are losing that in our country. You don’t have to be a 10,000-acre mega farm to make an impact on the community, to grow food and feed families in your community. I think there is a big pull back to the grassroots, to the small farmer so you know where your food comes from.”