Bill Dow, one of the state’s sustainable-farming pioneers, passed away this week at the age of 67. Bill was a kind and gentle man whose humility served him well, first as a doctor and then as a farmer advocating a healthier way to grow food and consume it. This lovely story detailing his many achievements ran in the News & Observer today. Those include becoming the state’s first certified organic farm, in 1980; helping start the now famous Carrboro Farmers’ Market; and placing a conservation easement on much of his land, in Pittsboro. Chatham County extension agent extraordinaire Debbie Roos put together this lovely tribute page for Bill.
I included Bill in “Farm Fresh North Carolina” even though his farm had no official public interaction. Still, I felt he was so notable that I asked if I could include him. (Other private farmers of similar status turned me down.) I cautioned him that he might get calls from strangers wanting to see the farm. He was fine with that, he said, saying that it helped spread the good word. This is what I wrote in the book’s introduction:
While this book features many farms that are set up to serve the public, others are private, but the farmers nonetheless feel it’s important to let people see the work they do. As organics pioneer Bill Dow at Ayrshire Farm in Chatham County told me, “If people don’t learn about where their food comes from, then we’re in serious trouble. I feel like it’s my duty to show them.”
And below is my entry on Bill’s farm. May his lasting legacy give comfort to his loved ones. Thank you, Bill Dow, for your years of dedication.
Bill Dow of Ayrshire Farm, near Pittsboro, became the state’s first certified organic farmer in 1980. Three decades later, he’s still farming without pesticides, though he dropped the certification. Bill also helped start the Piedmont Farm Tour and the Carrboro Farmers’ Market, and is still active in both. On about three of his twenty-two acres, all held in a land-conservation trust, Bill grows a mix of vegetables, including greens, tomatoes, and peppers, as well as heirloom apples and blueberries. During the course of our thirty-minute visit in the late morning, three restaurant owners called, asking, “Hey Bill, what do you have today?” Bill welcomes visits from individuals and small groups because, he said, “It’s terribly important to show people where their food comes from.” He also helps groom future farmers. “Farming is a viable option for young folks—if they can afford the land.”