NEWPORT – Never in her wildest imagination did Kim Nead think the little piece of land she and her Marine husband, Russell, bought would turn into such a bountiful blessing for them and countless others.
Back in 2006, she and Russell took ownership of six acres outside this Carteret County town. For starters, a small shelter was erected, and they were given a goat. Then came gifts of chickens. Fast forward 10 years … to where The Barnyard is now home to more goats, chickens, ducks, pigs, sheep, cows, rabbits, a donkey and turkeys. And it’s a place where all sorts of memories are being made.
In 2010, Kim enrolled in an entrepreneur class at Carteret Community College. She pitched her small farm idea and vision to the class, got lots of encouragement to forge ahead and soon afterwards did just that, becoming a member of the ever-growing N.C. Agritourism Networking Association and the rest became the genesis of the farm’s history.
As I set out on my quest to simply find a local source for a farm-raised turkey to serve during the holidays, I came across this little farm, tucked down a short path, with a story that became much bigger than just a turkey for the table.
It was late afternoon, second feeding time of the day, on a dreary rainy day when Nead graciously welcomed me. Sitting at one of the colorful picnic tables, we chatted underneath the event pavilion while Russ busied about us, feeding up all their critters. Birds gobbled and clucked around us, while Abraham the donkey brayed behind the shelter. Mallard and Pekin ducks waddled about, cows mooed and pigs squealed. The goats were most amusing, several climbing high on their surroundings, “crying” like babies as if saying, “Hey, over here, look at us!”
But my heart melted when I met Esau. This little red Angus calf nudged me when I first walked up, purely by accident. Because, you see, Esau is both blind and deaf. He was adopted by the Neads and is a darling of the farm. While Nead and I talked, Esau had the entirety of one of her hands in his mouth, slobbering profusely, as if suckling from his mama.
Having been raised on and around farms, I’ve always had a special love for cows. I love to hear them, watch, smell and pet them. I’ve even ridden a cow or two in my youth. So it didn’t take much for Esau to quickly capture my attention.
I asked if he was a “pet,” but Nead said their animals are raised for food as was to become plight of little, but soon-to-be-big, Esau.
“We haven’t had to buy meat or eggs in 10 years,” she said. “Our farm feeds us and continues to grow into a food source for others around our community too.”
As our conversation continued, I found so much more at The Barnyard than just turkeys. What I found is a couple with such a kind spirit of giving. Now retired, Russell served in the Marines for 22 years as an air wing mechanic. His time was mostly spent at nearby Marine Corps Air Station Cherry Point, but he also completed a few tours in Japan. Meanwhile, Kim held down the home front, raising their three children, all grown and now flown the coop, so to speak.
Russ grew up on a dairy farm in Florida, but Kim’s experience in farming was nonexistent, with exception to the few pet horses and rabbits they had over the years. Amber, their daughter and now a Havelock resident, is now the farm’s social media manager but she enjoyed showing animals in her youth. These days, The Barnyard has a horse, Traveler, who entertains there and travels about to events and birthday parties.
The farm also offers horseback riding lessons. As the afternoon turned into a dark and dreary wet evening, a warm glow came about Kim as she started sharing tales of some of their riding students and something near and dear to her heart. She and Russ donate time to the Carteret County Autism Society and hold events where portions of the ticket sales benefit the society.
“I am just so amazed when I see a child come here, and somehow, the animals change their lives,” she said. “I have seen children start speaking while on the back of a horse. One child went from not speaking, to showing goats. They just seem to blossom physically as they ride the horses and play with the chicks.”
She went on to tell me about their volunteer work with the Newport Road Runner 4-H Club and had, just the week before my visit, taken the kids to Raleigh to set up their exhibit at the N.C. State Fair. The club also participates in Cookies for The Troops, works with Veteran’s Affairs and participates in the Veterans Day parade, the Newport Christmas parade and many agricultural events. They have “Ag Days” at their farm, which are open to the public as fun, educational experiences for families.
The Barnyard is also mobile. In addition to holding birthday parties and year-round seasonal events on the farm, the Neads love taking some of the animals out and about to teach new generations to appreciate where their food comes from and how it gets to the table. Recently, they again were at the Old Beaufort Farmers’ Market with their petting zoo. More family fun can be had during summertime at Friday movie nights and day camps. More than 600 friends of the farm recently enjoyed their annual Fall Festival, and their Winter Wonderland Tours are now underway, with Russ as Santa.
Thanksgiving and Christmas, though, are turkey time. Turkey poults, or chicks, come to The Barnyard at just two or three days old from here in North Carolina.
“Our chicks have been here with us since late spring and are ready,” explained Kim. “We have turkeys in a variety of sizes.”
Their birds are fed a nutritious grain diet while assisting with pest management by grazing on all sorts of insects and bugs there on the farm.
The Neads raise a couple of different breeds of turkeys. They taste the same, but grow to different sizes. Their Broad Breasted Bronze birds dress out to about 15-25 pounds, while the Domestic Black and Golds dress out somewhat smaller, around eight pounds.
“We take orders in advance until our annual supply is sold out,” Kim said. “The weekend before Thanksgiving, we process the birds. We allow volunteers to come help if they would like to be a part of that.”
As with most turkeys, brining the bird before cooking is recommended. This is a process that tenderizes while making for a really juicy turkey. Many store-bought birds have been injected but you won’t find that with a bird from The Barnyard.
“For those who want something besides turkey, we can have a duck dressed for them with 48-hour notice, and our freezers are stocked with lamb (limited availability), goat meat (mostly in spring), beef and pork coming soon,” Kim added.
Not all the farm animals are raised for eating. “Our chickens provide us and customers with farm fresh eggs, and they too, help with pest management by eating bugs but are not processed for meat,” Jim said. “Our rabbits are considered domestic and although we do not raise them for consumption, we do sell their babies.”
Other products the farm produces are wool from their lambs, manure, some compost and one group comes to harvest gumballs for crafting.
A few turkeys were still available at this posting. How fun it will be to let your guests know their juicy brined turkey came from just down the road this year, while you can feel great knowing you are supporting a local, N.C. coastal, family farm.
Visit with Santa at The Barnyard today and Saturday. Enjoy the barnyard animals and have some warm hot chocolate too. Find all the details on their website and Facebook page.
Round out your holiday meal with fresh produce from the family-owned and operated Garner Farm also in Newport. Cabbage, collards, cabbage collards, sweet potatoes and more are available depending on the weather.
And also in Newport, pick up fresh pecans for your pies and cakes at the Willis Farm, owned and operated by Alan and Rodney Willis.