Nichole Spruill wants you to eat your vegetables. She is a farmer. Born and raised in Coastal Carolina. She wants you to know that there is a bounty of food being grown just miles from the beaches of the Outer Banks. Her company, Coastal Farmers’ Co-operative, will bring it to your doorstep.
Spruill’s family is from Currituck, where growing your own food and self-sufficiency were a way of life. Grocery stores were far away.
“I’ve always had a garden. My grandfather loved farming, working on cars and cooking and I didn’t stray too far from that,” says Spruill, who also grows micro-greens, which have shown to have tremendous nutritional value and can be cultivated in small spaces with little resources.
She has two children; a son, Isaac, and a daughter, Isabell, has grown up working at her mother’s side. Spruill’s sister, Veronica Spruill, helps her run the business.
Spruill is a strong woman who has worked in agriculture and ranching most of her life. She moved to New Mexico in 1998 to work as a horse wrangler on a large ranch. She moved back to the Outer Banks and began farming at Weeping Radish Farm Brewery in Grandy, and then on two acres of family land in Waterlily, North Carolina, which planted the seed for Coastal Farmers’ Co-Operative.
Its mission is to connect people to quality, locally grown food and to support family farms. Spruill was instrumental in the development of farmers markets in Avon on Hatteras Island and on Ocracoke Island. She opened two brick and mortar locations but was not able to compete with larger grocery store chain. In 2009, she began offering community-supported agriculture shares delivering food from Elizabeth City to Ocracoke Island.
What is Community
Community-supported agriculture (CSA) connects farmers and people who want higher quality food with an emphasis locally grown, cleaner, biodynamic methods of farming. Joining a CSA allows the consumer to subscribe to the harvest of a certain farm or group of farms.
It is an alternative, socioeconomic model of agriculture and food distribution that allows the producer and consumer to share the risks of farming with a goal of strengthening a sense of community and supporting healthier lifestyle by making plant based foods more accessible. Subscribers receive either a weekly or bi-weekly box of produce or other farm goods, which includes in-season fruits and vegetables, and can expand to include dried goods, eggs, milk and meat, etc.
Spruill is passionate about helping others, especially single mothers who are raising families on their own. She often employs women with young children to help at the farmers markets, as well as with deliveries, which enables mothers to avoid placing their children in daycare. She also advocates for healthy eating practices and teaches people in learning how to prepare healthy meals and snacks that kids will enjoy eating.
Vision for Coastal
Spruill is busy making deliveries, sourcing food and keeping up with harvests, but says her dream is to see more people participate in the CSA program, so that more farmers can “get off their tractors and plant some tomato plants.”
North Carolina agriculture is a commodity-based system with most resources going to grow soybeans and canola crops used in mass production and fast food industries, she says.
Spruill believes in farming and distribution of what you grow to contribute to a more healthy community, and that has extended to assist those in the community who feel disenfranchised and are struggling: Her latest project is creating partnerships to develop a farm school for women in Recovery; a place where women can learn life skills and heal themselves from within by trying out new things in a supportive safe environment.
“It’s a job that allows you to be yourself and challenges you,” Spruill says of farming. “You see what you’re really made of.”