Every Friday on social media, we post a Farm Feature Friday showcasing one of our dedicated North Carolina farmers. Jan and Art Williams, of Kalawi Farms, are two of those farmers. The #FarmFeatureFriday campaign will run for an entire year on our Facebook, Twitter and Instagram pages. Be sure to tune in each Friday afternoon on social and help show your support for our local farmers!
“She’s truly a peach,” Maria Williams says of her mother-in-law Jan Williams, owner of Kalawi Farm and Ben’s Ice Cream in Eagle Springs. Jan and Art Williams started Kalawi Farms in 1985 with a few row crops, five acres of peaches and a small roadside stand. Both Jan and Art grew up in the farming industry. Jan is a third-generation peach farmer and Art’s family grew up farming tobacco and other row crops. “Peaches is Jan’s baby,” Maria said, “although she did teach for many years, she always came back to the farm because it’s what she loves.”
The farm has been a family affair since day one, with the boys growing up knowing nothing but peach farming. Even the name has a deep tie to the entire family. “When the farm first started, Jan and Art had three children, which is where the name Kalawi originated, ‘Ka’ for Katie, ‘La’ for Laura, and ‘Wi’ for Will,” Maria said, “then Ben came along and that’s how they named the ice cream stand.” All the children are still very involved with the farm today, especially Will and Ben. They have helped grow the farm from two varieties to now 40 varieties of peaches.
A typical day on the farm, during the height of peach season, starts early in the morning with all crews harvesting in the fields and Jan opening the farm stand around 8 a.m. “Tractors pull straight up to the stand from the field and we sell directly from there,” Maria said, “people love to see the tractors at the stand because they know they are getting a fresh product.” During the summer, the farm stand is open from 8 a.m. to 8 p.m. Throughout the remainder of the year, the family is busy pruning and trimming peach trees as well as caring for the other row crops they grow.
Maria says the uncertainty of the weather is the hardest part of farming, especially peaches, because temperature is such a big factor. “March can be a really scary month for us because the temperature and rainfall can vary drastically and that is a vital time for our crop,” she said. However, even the hardest days cannot compare to the joy they gain from building relationships with their customers. “We have people asking us throughout the year, ‘what’s the peach forecast’, as they anxiously await the next crop,” Jan says, “it is incredibly rewarding to provide a good product to our customers all summer long.”
In addition to produce, Kalawi farms sells ice cream, cider, salsa and more, made with ingredients straight from their farm. “We have a local lady that develops recipes for these items, makes them and sends them to be sold at our farm stand,” Maria said. “We also sell a peach cobbler that is a family recipe on Jan’s side and make our own ice cream.” Products from their farm can be found at local grocery stores in Moore County, like Harris Teeter and Food King, as well as farmers markets across the state, including the Durham Farmers Market, Robert G. Shaw Piedmont Triad Farmers Market and Holly Springs Farmers Market.
Southern Supreme Fruitcake & More uses Kalawi Farm’s fruit as an ingredient in their popular fruitcake and several breweries around the Moore County area use their peaches and blueberries to make beer. “All our products, including the peaches, are a way of life for us, they are our livelihood,” Maria said, “Sunday meals after church in the summer always include a bowl of peaches on the table because we love them just as much as the customers do.”
Kalawi Farms is a member of the N.C. Peach Growers Society and a large agritourism destination for Moore County. In October, many schools take field trips to visit the farm and enjoy the hay ride, corn maze, barrel train, pirate ship and jump pillow. “The jump pillow is a huge hit for the kids, they will stay out there all day,” Maria said, “and all the activity on the farm in October is a great way to end our season for the year.”
When asked why it is important to eat local, Maria said it provides a peace of mind to know exactly where your food is coming from. “I saw a meme one time that said, ‘support local, you are paying for someone’s ballet lesson’ and that is true,” she said, “farmers are people just like you.” In the future, Jan and Art hope their kids will carry on the family tradition of providing the community with delicious, local peaches. When she is not helping on the family farm, Maria enjoys watching Food Network and trying new recipes on her family.