Producer Spotlight: Alyson Wade of The Farm Connection
The Farm Connection, a young nursery and garden store in Marshall, NC, opened its doors in May of 2020. Alyson Wade and her husband Ian had recently moved with their children from Oregon, where they both had immersed themselves in the world of local food and small-scale economy. After returning to North Carolina in 2019 to be closer to family, they purchased property in Marshall and decided to put their passion for sustainable agriculture to work.
Alyson spoke with us on the phone about her experiences starting up a nursery business and her vision for collaborative agriculture in Madison County. Listen to the full interview below, or scroll down to read the transcript. Their products range from houseplants to vegetable starts to CBD products to macramé plant hangers, so look for them in our marketplace, open from 9am Thursday mornings to 6pm Monday afternoons!
Kade: All right, Alyson, if you're ready, we'll go ahead and get started. Why don't you go ahead and start by introducing yourself a little bit--so, for anybody who doesn't know, who are you, what's your business, what do you do?
Alyson: So, my name's Alyson Wade, and our business is The Farm Connection. We're located in Marshall. We just kind of landed here. I feel like it was some kind of magical blessing. We could have never imagined how perfect it feels like to be here right now, doing what we're doing. Ian and I are from North Carolina, but more of the Piedmont region. I grew up in Salisbury, he grew up in Raleigh. I graduated from NC State. From there, I did chemical engineering and paper engineering degrees at NC State. When I graduated, we moved out to Oregon. We really got into growing food and local food and local economy while we were there. I was part of the local food action team, the Corvallis Sustainability Coalition. We really learned about farmers' markets, and of course local food is huge out there. Oregon grows so much food. People are really supportive of local. We just kind of got immersed in it and started to love it, and growing food ourselves too out there.
Then we had a couple of kids, and my mom was giving me the guilt trip about living so far away, so we decided to move back, but the Piedmont area didn't really speak to us. We'd lived there before. We were thinking Appalachian culture is more like the West Coast culture that we had come to love, and it seemed like a nice area. And then I got a job down in Asheville. They actually moved us across the country. I had this big relocation package, and part of it was covering the closing costs on a home purchase. We had never owned a home or land before. We couldn't afford to do so in Oregon, because while we were there cannabis got legalized and land prices shot up. It's out of control. So we were like, maybe we could own some land in North Carolina, let's go back! On top of that we had this relocation package, so we were like, "Let's do it! Let's buy a home!"
We were originally looking in Haywood County, but the realtor was like, "Hey, this thing popped up in Madison County, and I know y'all were looking in Haywood, but this seems kind of right up your alley." I think we were out here that night. We had an offer in on it the next day. That's the property we're on now, where the business is. The house and the land behind the business--that's where we live. We have part of Hayes Run here--probably three or four hundred feet of Hayes Run on our property. Then we cross this bridge, and the Farm Connection is there on its own little one-acre plot. So we kind of live where we work and work where we live, and it really makes this place super family-oriented. We have three children, and so they're here at the business. They participate in meetings and all kinds of stuff with us. That's kind of how we ended up here.
The nursery and all the infrastructure was here, but the business wasn't operating. That was May of 2019, was when we purchased the property. We didn't get anything going that year. We operated last year--we learned a whole lot--and now we're going to be in our second season this year.
Kade: Oh, wow, congratulations.
Alyson: Thanks! Yeah, we're trying to refer to last year as Year 0 to be easy on ourselves. We had never owned a business or owned a nursery, but what we have done is grow our own food, and we're passionate about local economy and local food. We saw this as