Why the Ganyards sold the farm | Front Porch | Indy Week
Pin It

Why the Ganyards sold the farm 

In his book About Looking, radical art critic John Berger describes how zoos ease our collective nostalgia for a period--long past--when people had essential relationships with animals through their daily work. At the zoo, we regard the living animals in their cages as dead symbols of that vanished connection, he says. It's almost a form of mourning. "The zoo to which people go to meet animals, to observe them, to see them, is in fact, a monument to the impossibility of such encounters," Berger writes.

I was thinking about that essay on a recent trip to Ganyard Hill Farm in southeast Durham to buy a Halloween pumpkin. It's a seasonal ritual observed by many in the Bull City. That day, the place was crawling with urbanites of all ages in fleece jackets and fancy athletic shoes who'd come to feed the animals, milk the mechanical cow and select a pumpkin from the rows alongside the ramshackle barn.

This year, the nostalgia is sharp as a change in the weather, because the farm is moving to a new site in Fuquay-Varina after years of struggling to make ends meet. Oct. 30 marked its last day of operation. A small portion of the 60-acre Durham property will become a nature trail. The rest will fall to the development bulldozer.

The Ganyards, a couple of research scientists, fought the good fight for years, trying to maintain their small-scale growing operation in the face of varied obstacles. They battled plant viruses, hurricane damage, even a sign ordinance that discouraged roadside marketing of the 25 fruits and vegetables they used to cultivate. Finally, the same development pressures they thought they'd vanquished when they bought the former dairy farm 10 years ago grew too great, and the Ganyards sold their land.

We'll certainly miss Ganyard Hill's quirky charms. But was it ever really a farm? From the start, its owners leaned more toward "agri-tourism" than agriculture, setting up hayrides and picnic areas alongside their fields. The fresh produce was long gone, replaced by the cash crop of holiday pumpkins. (This year's batch was actually trucked in from elsewhere.) As Milton Ganyard says, "People are more willing to pay for fun than food." Besides, how much actual growing can you do when 400 schoolkids are tromping across your property every day?

The new location in Fuquay-Varina, known as Ganyard Family Farms, will feature the same mix of rides, picnic shelters and animal petting areas. It's bigger--100 acres--and is also a former working farm, so preservation principles are being upheld.

While I wish the Ganyards well, Berger echoes in my mind when I think about our fading ties to family farms. The survival of faux farms buys us green space, but like the zoos in About Looking, they're more about loss than a viable living.

"Everywhere animals disappear," Berger writes. At the zoo, we go from cage to cage like visitors at an art gallery or museum. "Yet in the zoo, the view is always wrong."

Latest in Front Porch

More by Barbara Solow

Comments

Subscribe to this thread:

Add a comment

INDY Week publishes all kinds of comments, but we don't publish everything.

  • Comments that are not contributing to the conversation will be removed.
  • Comments that include ad hominem attacks will also be removed.
  • Please do not copy and paste the full text of a press release.

Permitted HTML:
  • To create paragraphs in your comment, type <p> at the start of a paragraph and </p> at the end of each paragraph.
  • To create bold text, type <b>bolded text</b> (please note the closing tag, </b>).
  • To create italicized text, type <i>italicized text</i> (please note the closing tag, </i>).
  • Proper web addresses will automatically become links.

Latest in Front Porch

  • One vote

    • Nov 12, 2014
  • Box of one

    Was I paying to be helped or to feel important, a bona fide expert on only myself?
    • Sep 24, 2014
  • The Old South (Hills)

    The Old South (Hills)

    • Sep 17, 2014
  • More »


Twitter Activity

Most Recent Comments

'Anna Lee' is a truly beautiful song, Ms Dossett. And I love Levon Helm's rendition. You are blessed with a …

by Byron Miller on A song for Levon (Front Porch)

Just now seeing this....Liz and I were super close friends in the early 80s. She was so special. I had …

by RoBert 1 on In memoriam: Liz Holm, 1959–2013 (Front Porch)

Nobody will be surprised to learn that Hocutt never went to Nam. He was in the Navy but washed out …

by Jefflenter on Raleigh bad boy no more (Front Porch)

I see his concern. Yes, it was a well written story and showed his caring side for sure. But not …

by Linda Bates Terrell on Motorcycle men (Front Porch)

Follow-up to my "nervous mom" comment. The last coupe of weeks we have been in many situations with individuals that …

by paulapowers on Governor's School blues (Front Porch)

Comments

'Anna Lee' is a truly beautiful song, Ms Dossett. And I love Levon Helm's rendition. You are blessed with a …

by Byron Miller on A song for Levon (Front Porch)

Just now seeing this....Liz and I were super close friends in the early 80s. She was so special. I had …

by RoBert 1 on In memoriam: Liz Holm, 1959–2013 (Front Porch)

Most Read

© 2016 Indy Week • 201 W. Main St., Suite 101, Durham, NC 27701 • phone 919-286-1972 • fax 919-286-4274
RSS Feeds | Powered by Foundation