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Thirty-five seasons of Rogue Harbor

Tucked in the mountains of Madison County, N.C., is Rogue Harbor Farm, home to Linda and Aubrey Raper.
Now in its 35th season, Rogue Harbor yields crops from early spring to the cold days of winter.
“We sell a mix of vegetables,” Linda said. “We start out with watercress in March, usually. We move through the kales, collards and baby bok choy in the cool season, then bunching onions, lettuces, cucumbers, yellow squash, beans, tomatoes and peppers.”
Watercress comes back in early August and lasts until mid-October, along with fall greens and lettuces.
Once the warm weather has passed, the farm offers a different kind of crop.
“We finish up with Christmas wreaths in December, because we raise a small number of Fraser firs,” Linda explained.
Rogue Harbor Farm came into existence as a way for the Rapers to ensure only the best food would make it to the family table.
“We were living over on the coast of North Carolina,” Linda said. “Aubrey was teaching at a community college, and we had two little girls who were ages 2 and 3. We realized at the time, in the mid-’70s, that the food system was not trustworthy.
“We wanted to grow healthy food for our two girls and for us. We rented a farmhouse, had our first vegetable garden in two rows of our landlord’s garden and we were hooked.”
The Rapers then set out to find a place where they could raise their food and their family.
“We had already bought a horse, a goat and chickens, and we needed a farm to put them on, which is absolutely not the way you’re supposed to do these things,” Linda said.
Their search took them to Madison County.
“We came up to the mountains one weekend and ended up staying,” she said. “We found a little farm and just sort of jumped right in.”
Though the Raper family was new to the area and its crops, they managed the work well. Kind neighbors offered guidance and assistance while the Rapers learned the rhythm of mountain farm life.
“Our wonderful neighbors really took us under their wing,” Linda said. “We shared work with them, and it was a great way to learn. Our three children were always involved in the day-to-day running of the farm, assisting in everything we did.”
The family chose the name Rogue Harbor Farm after a ridge to the west of the farm. Aubrey and Linda could judge the time of day by the sun’s progress over that ridge.
“We’re a mountain farm in a holler surrounded by timbered ridges and abundant springs,” Linda said. “We’re blessed with the wonder and challenges of living and farming in a national forest [Pisgah].”
Through their early relationship with the Madison County Extension Office, the Forest Service and Soil and Water Conservation Service, the Rapers were able to develop a farm management system that protected the natural resources of the farm.
Over the years, the Rapers experimented with different crops and practices.
They grew tobacco for many years, conventionally and then organically. Initially, they raised milk goats, milk cows, wool sheep, pigs and chickens, produced their own meat, farmed with a work horse and raised a big garden.
In their more marginal land, they planted Fraser firs.
The Rapers realized the best way to use their land would be to grow organic vegetables and Fraser firs.
“With our two girls off to college and our son approaching high school, we couldn’t keep raising animals and vegetables, too.”
They received their USDA Organic certification in 1997, after three years of transition.
Originally, the Rapers established themselves in the Asheville, N.C., area as wholesale suppliers of quality produce, selling to a variety of restaurants and grocery stores.
While they still sell small quantities in the Asheville area, the Rapers joined the Jonesborough Farmers Market in 2011.
“We were looking for a direct-sale market, and a fellow vendor told us about the Jonesborough market. He sent us the link to the Farm to Table dinner photos, and the website was so inviting,” Linda said. “We’re thrilled to be selling in Jonesborough. It’s such a good market to be a part of, and we get the bonus of being able to do much of our grocery shopping from our fellow vendors.”
Visitors to the Jonesborough Farmers Market can meet Linda and Aubrey in their booth near Main Street.
Additional information about Rogue Harbor Farm can also be found at www.rogueharborfarm.com.