Cultivating an Appreciation of Sustainable Farming in Durham

Cultivating an Appreciation of Sustainable Farming in Durham

Blue Whistler Farm Owner Amy Sliffe connects people with their food source and teaches the importance of raising livestock sustainably

Photo by Briana Brough

Born and raised in Kansas City, Missouri, Amy Sliffe moved to Durham with husband Josh the day after they married in 2010. “We still haven’t gone on a honeymoon; the farm settles you in and you’re not going on vacation very often.” But when they’re not on the farm, she and Josh – who co-owns Remedy, a video production company based in Durham – can be found around town at Geer Street Garden, Surf Club, Motorco and Ponysaurus.

Amy didn’t have the intention of starting a farm. A former horseback riding instructor, she just wanted land, enough to have a horse. When her and Josh’s lease ended four years ago, and after no luck finding a solid home with usable land, she put up an ad on Craigslist. “The people who had this house emailed us and said, ‘We don’t know if it’s too far, but come out and see it,’” Amy says of the quaint home nestled on five acres just north of the city in Bahama. “And we just fell in love with it.” They bought the home just a few months later.

The 11 sheep and 30 hens already residing on the property came with the purchase. And Amy got a horse, though it was short-lived. “She would literally charge the other animals,” Amy says. But during that time, Amy was falling in love with raising livestock, and learning the importance – and delicious results – of sustainably raised products. “The first time we had eggs from our chickens, we were just like, ‘What have we been eating all these years?’” she says. Then they processed a few lambs, some chickens, a couple of hogs … and “my mind just switched. I was like, ‘I have to start teaching people about this.’”

Today the farm consists of layer chickens, about 15 hogs, close to 300 rabbits, 200 ducklings, 100 broiler chickens and about 30 turkey poults. Piedmont will use her ducks and rabbits in dishes this upcoming season, and you can also find Blue Whistler products at the Durham Roots Farmers’ Market and the Open Farm + Market days hosted at the farm on the second and fourth Saturdays of every month. “Every time we have 500 people show up to the farm, that feels pretty great,” Amy says. “Getting people connected to where their food came from, who grows it, why it’s raised this way – those things are so important. Moms come up to me all the time and they’re like, ‘Oh, my kids are so excited, they call it “their farm.”’ And I’m like, yes, this is exactly what I want to hear! I want them to feel like this is their farm, too.”