At the conclusion of the Civil War, a portion of what is now Summerfield Farms (then “Many Oaks” farm) had been abandoned and homesteaded. Part of the land was owned by Ms. Katherine Hoskins, the historian of Summerfield.
The Bascom Gambles bought Many Oaks farm in the 1930’s and used lumber from the property to build Many Oaks farmhouse. They raised tobacco and produced milk, the proceeds from which paid for the children’s schooling. The barn was built in 1946, thus the “46” painted on the upstairs wall of the barn. Mr. Gamble achieved notoriety around town for having bought the first tractor available after World War II. Mrs. Gamble loved to fish, so Mr. Gamble built a pond in 1946 which he surrounded with Catalpa trees. The Catalpa tree is the sole source of food for the catalpa sphinx moth, the leaves being eaten by the caterpillars. Because the caterpillars are an excellent live bait for fishing, some dedicated anglers plant catalpa mini-orchards for their own private source of “catawba-worms”. Needless to say, Mr. Gamble carefully monitored who had access to the pond.
In the early 1950’s, the Gamble children could not agree on distribution of the property and the farm went up for auction. J.C. Cowan, CEO of Burlington Industries, put in a winning upset bid for the farm. Mr. Cowan hosted many fishing and camping outings for the Boy Scouts on the land. It is also interesting to note that all of the rocks for the old Summerfield school gymnasium came from Many Oaks farm.
The Clarkes bought the Many Oaks farm property in 1977 and utilized the land to raise black Angus cattle for beef. They converted three stalls in the barn to house horses and also kept goats on the farm. Mr. Clarke fixed up Mr. Gamble’s tractor, which he purchased along with the property, and allowed the Farm-AU Club to use the tractor to pick up hay that was harvested from the lower fields twice a year. The Clarkes installed a large bell at the front of the house to call the family in from the fields for dinner.
In 1998, David Couch purchased the property that constitutes the heart of the farm, and over the years since that time, he has acquired the adjourning parcels of what is now known collectively as Summerfield Farms. Over time, the decision was made to raise cattle for beef on the land. The results of introducing herbivores to these abused and health depleted soils has been nothing less that stunning. By way of their impact, the cattle feed the soil’s microbial ecology, which in turn stimulates healthy plant growth and increases diversity. Strong, diverse plant growth is critical to nature’s model for a perfect balance of health in all its ecosystems. Now the cattle are being harvested as high-quality, great tasting, nutrient dense meat produced entirely with solar power. This process actually heals and rejuvenates the land and sequesters measurable amounts of carbon.