The Farm Family of the Day program is a new addition to the N.C. State Fair. The program recognizes 11 farm families who work hard everyday to impact our state’s agriculture industry. Families either nominated themselves or were nominated by members of the community. The program is sponsored by Tractor Supply Company and will run from October 14-24, 2021.
Lineberger’s Maple Springs Farm in Dallas strives for diversity in all aspects of its operation. Although the family specializes in strawberries, blackberries, muscadines and pumpkins, the farm is also home to a variety of other produce items, including blueberries, tomatoes, peaches and cucumbers.
The farm was started in the 1920’s originally as a flower farm. However, sometime during the second generation of farmers it transitioned to a strawberry operation and ventured into the agritourism sector to help educate the community about farming and the importance of eating local.
Today, farm manager Ethan, his wife Frankie, his sister Erin and her husband Aaron are the fourth-generation of family to work on the farm and to say they love what they do would be an understatement.
Ethan graduated from N.C. State University with a degree in soil science and took on the farm with determination and passion to innovate as much as possible. We asked the family what they loved about farming and each one had a different answer that encompassed their true passion for the industry.
Prior to attending N.C. State, Ethan actually dreamed of going to West Point until one day he heard God telling him to grow food.
“My sister and I grew up helping my grandparents on the farm during the spring and summer, but it was never in my plans to take over the business until that moment,” he said. “Although, considering I used to carry around a model tractor instead of a teddy bear, I guess it shouldn’t be that surprising.”
Ethan’s favorite part of farming is the strategy behind it. “There are so many ways to grow crops in functional and beneficial ways,” he said. According to his sister, it is incredible to watch Ethan work on the farm because of the way his innovative mind works when it comes to growing crops.
Frankie also attended NCSU where she obtained a degree in natural resources. Today, she manages the communications side of the farm and absolutely adores the farming lifestyle.
“The way this lifestyle reflects natural patterns, the sustainability of local food and the farm as a place of playful learning for our two children gives me immense joy,” she said. “Being able to show my children this lifestyle, raise them on the farm and allow them to grow up that way is incredibly rewarding as a parent.”
Fun fact, one of Frankie and Ethan’s children slept with a real pumpkin last fall because he wouldn’t let it go! Looks like he is adjusting to farm life just fine.
Erin, Ethan’s sister, is an environmental educator for Gaston County’s Soil and Water Conservation District. She also helps manage education programs at Lineberger’s Farm.
“Last fall, when field trips were canceled, I developed a virtual field trip for the farm so that teachers could continue to bring local agriculture into their classrooms,” she said. “My favorite aspect is helping connect people to their food system because that understanding is a vital component of environmental literacy.”
Erin’s husband, Aaron, married into the farm but has fallen in love with the farm as much as the family. “My wife often jokes that I married her just to have access to the farm,” he said.
Ethan manages the farm markets, including their two roadside stands and farmers market booths. “I absolutely love the taste of locally grown produce,” he said, “as we farmers know, it is a completely different experience than the shipping varieties they sell at the grocery store.”
Both siblings’ commitment to carrying on their family tradition in agriculture led to them being featured as a 2021 N.C. State Fair Farm Family of the Day for Oct. 17!
The Lineberger family grew up going to the N.C. State Fair every year. In fact, Ethan and Erin’s parents would even take them out of school for the day to enjoy the fair!
It may come as no surprise that, although these kids loved the rides and food at the fair as well, their favorite areas were the agriculture exhibits.
“From giant vegetables to N.C. cheeses, there is no better place to learn about the richness of N.C. agriculture than the N.C. State Fair,” Erin said. “Growing up, my brother and I would volunteer at the Soil and Water Conservation booth, but our favorite exhibit was the Got To Be N.C. area. I distinctly remember my brother spending an hour one year on the corn growing simulation game!”
In addition to farming, the Lineberger’s offer educational field trips to local schools, giving students the opportunity to see where their food comes from and learn about life on the farm. They also have a variety of agritourism events throughout the year to invite the community to come and experience the farm.
“The local community is why we farm,” Erin said, “and providing affordable, healthy food to local people is our passion.” The family also allows gleaners to work their fields after harvest and provide food to the homeless throughout their community.
The Lineberger family can be found at the N.C. State Fair this year enjoying all the agriculture exhibits and supporting N.C. agriculture. If you happen to run into them on the grounds, be sure to congratulate them on this honor and thank them for their hard work and dedication to our state’s No. 1 industry – agriculture!