Local Sustainable Food
The value of food is less understood today than in years past. Not long ago everyone knew the baker or butcher as a neighbor (or close to it). Today, with a vast majority of meat being raised in CAFOs and produce shipped from overseas, our food is diminished by all the hands it passes through. Perhaps the most disheartening byproduct is that industrial farming separates us from the value of the food and how much treating it with care is actually worth. The attitudes we’ve developed around food have changed in recent generations. At his farm, Changin’ Ways, Dave Borkowski is going to change some of that back again.
As much as the name Changin’ Ways is a rebuttal to large-scale farming techniques, the name is also a sort of commentary on Dave’s own experience. After a childhood in Detroit and 22 years as a Marine Corps pilot, Dave found himself at MCAS New River near Jacksonville, NC in 2013.
“We’ve never had a plan to stay anywhere,” he says, “We were never in the same place for more than 2 years. When we got here, Victoria said she could see us living here forever.” After they bought a home in Hampstead the only plan was to catch up on vacations missed over the years. Retirement was change enough. That lasted about 6 months.
When Dave began to consider next project, farming was not a passion that called to him. He knew nothing about farming and couldn’t be competitive as a novice, especially not in eastern NC where raising pigs and running farms has been a long, messy tradition. But while volunteering his time at Humble Roots Farm in Scotts Hill, Dave began to see the very opportunity he was looking for. After an informal internship of two years, the idea was ready to sprout.
“There was gap in the Wilmington market and Humble Roots showed me the opportunity for locally-fed animals and products,” David says, “It inspired me entrepreneurially. I don’t compete with Smithfield. I was someone looking at the sustainability of farming. Wilmington has a lot of room to grow in those areas”
Since 2016, Changin’ Ways Farm has raised pigs and chickens with a farm-to-table philosophy that resonates with the maturing tastes of Wilmington. Dave believes in taking care of the animals and the environment. Restaurants that are lauded for their fresh and local menus such as Rx, Pinpoint, Love Lydia and Benny’s Bigtime serve Changin’ Ways meat and eggs. And, like all good food, it brings the community together. It’s why local is so often better.
“Fostering that sense of community is brought through interacting with local businesses. We’ve lost that sense of community. We can’t get the big discount deals but it makes more sense to order locally,” he says.
As local businesses work together, even the pigs benefit from Wilmington’s burgeoning emphasis on quality food and drink: they’re fed a diet that consists, in part, of spent grains from local breweries such as New Anthem, Waterline, and Salty Turtle. Changin’ Ways operates sustainably, rotating the animals on different patches of land so that the land can regenerate itself. As Dave, Chefs in restaurants, and people who eat with enthusiasm can tell you, the extra work and care yields tastier, healthier food.
And something’s working. Despite two hurricanes and the wettest year on record, Changin’ Ways continues to grow. Despite being denied USDA funding and a cooperative opportunity nearly ended in a legal battle, Dave is looking into hiring his first full-time employee this year. Since the farm opened shop (field?), he’s been his own boss and only farmhand.
““You have to balance burnout. When you have animals it’s seven days a week period,” he says, “You’re going and going. I’m just excited because the business is finally starting to catch up to the rest of it.”
When he talks about his farm, Changin’ Ways, Dave Borkowski speaks with earnestness and awe that is frequently punctuated with a laugh. As much planning and intention and sometimes sheer willpower is demanded when operating a farm, Dave’s laugh says he’s as surprised as anyone else. At the boundless resilience of his animals and nature. That after a career as a pilot, he’s farming in North Carolina. That despite brutal shifts in weather, every year Changin’ Ways gains traction.
But as more people learn about the benefits of sustainable farming and supporting the local economy, it’s no surprise that Changin’ Ways continues to grow. Maybe Dave’s laughter is relief: this change is paying off.