2017-10-06 / Home & Garden

Carolina Bay Farms

Stopping to smell the flowers
By Arlene Marturano

If you have ever dreamed of leaving the hectic life of the city for retreat on the rural land of your roots, Sharon Ray and James Hopkins Helms are models. Since 2012 they have been living the good life on a six-acre free-range farm in Hopkins on property owned by John’s family since 1760.

Perhaps the only feature that’s been there longer than Helms’s kin is the 80-acre Carolina Bay, a circular geologic depression with a sandy rim. Bays act as freshwater wetlands for particular plant and animal species. A boardwalk protects this bay from disturbances to the ecosystem.

The small farm, like many new family farms in lower Richland, is part of a farming trend in the midlands where landowners are growing fruits, herbs, vegetables, and raising their own livestock for personal consumption and satisfaction first. Surplus is shared with family and friends and sold by word of mouth at farmer’s markets and local restaurants. The Wired Goat Café in the Vista purchases their duck eggs.


All Carolina Bay farm animals are fed an organic diet. All Carolina Bay farm animals are fed an organic diet. At Carolina Bay Farms, preserving the heritage breed of farm animals is as important as preserving heirloom seed. Heritage animal breeds benefit farmers and consumers with genetic diversity, hardiness, adaptability to local conditions, and rich flavor.

Ray introduced me to their fowl family of hen and tom turkeys, guineas and keets, buckeye chickens, silver appleyard ducks, as well as to the milking goats and American Guinea Hogs.

Farm animals are fed a GMO free diet of organic grain. Animals roam freely taking in the plants, insects and minerals they need. Ray grew up eating healthy organic food and wants nothing less for the animals she raises, eats, and sells.

Pigs and laying hens are certified Animal Welfare Approved (AWA) assuring the consumer knows they are raised outdoors on pasture using sustainable livestock husbandry.


The Hopkins family celebrated the 250th anniversary of living on land in lower Richland in 2014. The Hopkins family celebrated the 250th anniversary of living on land in lower Richland in 2014. Ray, a nurse by profession, grows herbs in the kitchen garden and will be adding more in the new greenhouse. She is enrolled in the School of Natural Healing in Utah to learn about growing, making, and using herbal medicines.

The kitchen garden doubles as a certified wildlife habitat. Helms’s philosophy of land is to “let Mother Nature tell us what to do, not for us to change Mother Nature.” The farm, its produce and livestock, and owners live as part of nature.

Winter and summer squash and tomatoes grow in the greenhouse. Jerusalem artichoke is one cover crop planted to enrich the soil. Helms grows sorghum and performs an annual ritual of making sorghum syrup the traditional way by pressing and boiling the cane.


The buckeye chicken originated in Ohio in the late 19th century. They are favor i te backyard chickens and making a comeback for their flavorful meat and eggs. The buckeye chicken originated in Ohio in the late 19th century. They are favor i te backyard chickens and making a comeback for their flavorful meat and eggs. City folk can keep up with the good life down on the farm at www.facebook.com/CarolinaBay- Farms/

Returning to Your Roots
(references)
Living the Good Life— Scott and Helen Nearing
The New Organic Grower— Elliott Coleman
How to Grow More Vegetables…— John Jevens
The Good Food Revolution— Will Allen



Silver appleyard ducks were bred in England in the 1940s as a large flavorful roasting duck and productive layers. Silver appleyard ducks were bred in England in the 1940s as a large flavorful roasting duck and productive layers.

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