After 30 years of cultivating endless varieties of produce at their five-acre farm in Westfield, Bill and Margie Imus officially opened Minglewood Farm and Nature Preserve two years ago.
A group of residents from Arbor Acres retirement community from Winston-Salem recently visited Minglewood Farm.
The Arbor Acres residents were given a tour of the crops that are grown on site at Minglewood Farm, walked through the greenhouses, went on a nature walk, created personalized floral arrangements out of freshly cut flowers and feasted on freshly picked foods.
Bill explained that the corn, tomatoes, butternut squash and other items were all picked out of the garden just hours before the Arbor Acres residents arrived. In addition, all of the flowers that were used for the floral arrangements are native to North Carolina and were hand cut by Margie that morning as well.
Minglewood Farm is a 501-C non-profit organization and primarily targets its offerings to local schools, having hosted students from East Surry High School, North Stokes, Wake Forest University, and North Carolina A and T State University.
“We wanted to give back to the schools,” Bill said, adding that it all started when his children’s classes came to the farm many years ago and were mesmerized by what they saw.
“A kid seeing a carrot pulled out of the ground, it’s like pulling a rabbit out of a hat,” Bill said of the eye-opening experience for kids who visit the farm.
The farm offers a more interactive and tactile approach when dealing with school groups in an attempt to have the students open up their senses by exploring displays of turtle shells, animal skulls, feathers, Native American artifacts and bees’ nests.
One of the more unique items that Bill shows to school groups include what are known as owl pellets, regurgitated materials from their pray that can’t pass through the digestive tract.
“These kids don’t have a relationship and connection with nature,” Bill said of students who have visited the farm with school groups. “If you don’t have a relationship with nature, you don’t know to protect it.”
Bill and Margie bought the property that is now home to Minglewood Farm and Nature Preserve in 1986.
Before giving their undivided attention to Minglewood Farm and Nature Preserve, Bill worked in the restaurant industry in Winston-Salem as a chef for Marriott Hotels, and he later opened his own restaurant, The Cumberland Cafe in 1987. Margie taught hand weaving at Sawtooth Center School of Design and was an original member of the Fiber Company in the Winston-Salem Arts District. From 2004 until 2015 she also operated Minglewood Flowers in Winston-Salem.
“We bring all of our past experience to what we do now,” Margie said of their past careers.
Bill explained that during his time in the restaurant industry, he quickly realized the demand for high grade and locally grown produce that restaurants wanted to serve in their establishments, which prompted him to start growing lettuce in the back of The Cumberland Cafe.
“There wasn’t any local produce sold to restaurants,” Bill said. “Chefs want a lot of different things in small amounts.”
Bill and Margie now sell part of their crops to local restaurants, including Merideian Restaurant, A Nobel Grille, 1703 Restaurant and Catering, and Fabian’s Restaurant, all of which are located in Winston-Salem.
According to Bill, Minglewood Farm grows a wide range of varieties in rapid succession throughout the early spring, summer and fall seasons, adding that in order to grow crops over an extended period of time, he’s very selective in targeting what crops grow should grow when.
Minglewood Farm doesn’t grow any crops between November and February.
One of the challenges that the farm encountered was the fact that the land had been used to grow tobacco for several hundred years, and according to Bill, the soil was simply worn out. To combat the difficulties that he and Margie faced with the soil, Bill explained that they planted cover crops and ran an assortment of soil tests.
“I’ve gotten the soil to a very rich state,” Bill said.
Other activities that the farm offers for school groups include greenhouse production, insect studies, creek life and aquatic studies, forestry, photography and art in nature, creative writing influenced by nature, and environmental studies.
Aila Boyd may be reached at 336-415-2210.