Editor’s Note: This story is from the N.C. Department of Agriculture’s #FarmFeatureFriday campaign and will run through December 2021 on our Facebook, Twitter and Instagram pages
Farming is one of those things that often gets in your blood and stays there. At least, that’s the story for Randall Patterson, co-owner of Patterson Farm Market & Tours, Inc. in China Grove.
In 1919, Randall’s grandfather, James A. Patterson, started the family farm on 200 acres by growing cotton and tomatoes. “I started helping on the farm when I was about 7 years old and learned a lot from both my grandfather and my father,” Randall said. “I always knew that I would come back after college because farming is what I love to do.” Currently operating on the fourth generation of farmers, the Patterson family truly has made it a family affair.
Since the farm’s conception in 1919, it has grown from the original 200 acres of cotton and tomatoes to over 1,000 acres of tomatoes, squash, green bell peppers, cucumbers and Ruby June strawberries. “We are probably most well known for our round and roma tomato varieties, including Red Mountain and Villa,” Randall said. “We planted around 250 acres last year, making us one of the largest tomato growers in North Carolina.”
Although there is no typical day on the farm because life is full of curve balls, every morning starts at 4:30 a.m. for the Patterson family with a daily staff meeting. Directly following the meeting, crews leave to start work in the fields while Randall meets with the farm foreman to discuss daily plans for the packing house and other farm maintenance responsibilities. “Farming is made up of a wide variety of daily tasks, from driving a tractor to running a packing house to work on the computer,” Randall said. “You learn a lot on the farm, and it certainly is never boring.”
Although adapting to the environment, weather or people can be challenging, Randall finds true joy in working outside every day beside people he cares about. “The agriculture industry is home to the best people, and we have truly made a family out of this operation, both blood-related and not,” he said. “We are blessed to have such hard-working employees.”
Products from Patterson Farm can be found at local retail chains across the state, including Food Lion and Harris Teeter. You can also enjoy products at local restaurants near China Grove, including Stag & Doe. In addition to providing local produce to wholesale and retail chains, Patterson Farms also partners with our NC Farm to School program to provide fresh strawberries and tomatoes for school-aged children across the state. “This partnership is important to us not only because they are a valued customer, but also because it allows us to help feed the next generation,” Randall said. “We often wish that school continued through the summer so that we could work with them all year.”
Randall loves tomatoes just about any way you can fix them, from tomato pie or pudding to caprese. His absolute favorite, however, is either scrambled eggs with tomatoes or a fresh-off-the-vine tomato sandwich. He encourages eating local because of the nutritional value of hand-picked produce and the limited number of touches before it gets to you. “Local needs to stay strong in our state and across the world,” he said. “Not only does it pack a higher nutritional content, but it is delicious and offers a little taste of home.”
In the future, Randall hopes to continue the legacy of the farm through future generations and progress in the industry as it evolves. Victoria Patterson, Randall’s niece, is already well on her way to making a difference on the farm and in the agriculture industry as a whole. She interned with our marketing division last year and we are incredibly proud of the work that she did and look forward to where the future takes her!