Bob Lightner, owner of Rebel Ridge Farm, grew up in the country.
So, when he and his wife, Adena, sold their insurance company roughly 10 years ago, the family moved to the farm. The couple has three grown children: Brandi, Becky and Alex.
“We sold our insurance business and used the money to purchase the farm. We then built a boarding barn for horses, but then the (horse) market went south when the economy went south,” he said, noting that horses were no longer a source for good income.
That’s when Lightner decided to try his hand at raising goats.
“I started out with 80 and it grew to 150 head. I was told that you could make money selling (goats) to ethnic markets, but I just broke even,” he admitted.
Lightner decided he would see what the fuss was all about. After cooking some goat and topping it with JohnBoy and Billy’s Hot and Spicy Grillin’ sauce, he realized raising goats was not worth continuing.
“It tasted like cardboard,” he said. “I could take cardboard and put JohnBoy and Billy’s Hot and Spicy Grillin’ sauce on it and it would have tasted the same,” he said.
So, Lightner decided to sell all but three of his goats, two Kiko and one Nubian.
He instead decided to raise sheep after he had a mouthwatering experience.
“One day I got a leg of lamb at the market and after eating that I fell in love. After that, the goats were gone and I decided to get sheep,” he remarked.
Lightner now has 20 head of sheep and two donkeys to protect them from coyotes and dogs.
“Fifteen of them are breeding and five are market lambs we will butcher at the end of the year,” he said.
Lightner raises a variety of other animals on Rebel Ridge Farm, including cattle, laying hens, chickens, guinea fowl, turkeys, ducks, geese and a few guard dogs.
Lightner said his cattle are a bit different than most because they are leaner than the average cow.
“We have 10 Santa Gertrudis cattle and one Jersey heifer, which will be my milk cow,” he said. “I bought her in the spring.”
Lightner hopes to use her milk for drinking and making cheese, butter and yogurt.
Lightner has 17 laying hens and three roosters, which he said is two too many. He also has 12 adult guineas and nine babies, called keets.
He explained that the guineas, which roam the farm, are great to have because they eat pest bugs such as ticks and fleas. While the chickens will also eat bugs, unlike guineas, they will scratch and destroy gardens as they search for bugs.
He raises chickens for both eggs and meat. Currently, he is raising Freedom Ranger chickens, 100 at a time for meat.
“Bon Appetite voted them as a premier gourmet chicken,” he said.
Lightner noted that all of their animals are free range.
“We are Animal Welfare Approved, which means that we take care of our animals,” he said. “They want us to use heritage breeds and want to make sure our animals live a free and healthy lifestyle before being eaten.”
Along with raising animals on the farm, Lightner grows produce, nuts and fruit trees and has three beehives in order to supplement sugar.
Lightner tried raising his own wheat, but noted that it is labor intensive to harvest; therefore, he decided to roll it up and use it as bedding for the sheep.
He is currently working on an aquaponic system that he will use to raise tilapia and supply water to a greenhouse he will use to grow vegetables out of season.
“We have to have a variety in order to be self-sustaining,” he said, adding that they will only have to go to the grocery store for a very small amount of food they are not able to raise on the farm.
Rebel Ridge Farm sells a little bit of everything at the Kernersville Farmers Market to supplement the feed for the animals on the farm.
“The average family farmer today is 55-60 years of age. You don’t have many young people doing it because you can’t make money at it,” he admitted.
All of Lightner’s meat and produce can be found at the Kernersville Farmers Market.
Lightner said he enjoys watching the way things work on the farm.
“We bought this place to get out into the country,” he said. “When you live in the city you see what man has made, but when you live in the country, you see what God has made.”
Lightner sells his meat and produce at the Kernersville Farmers Market on Wednesday and Saturday mornings. For more information about Rebel Ridge Farm, visit www.rebelridge.us. For more information about the Kernersville Farmers Market, visit www.kernersvillefarmersmarket.com.
*Editor’s note: Although Lightner has a full day’s work, his days are never boring, just as the day of the interview when he laid witness to the mischievous spirit of one of his cows who took it upon herself to see what paper tasted like.
During this interview, I laid my notepad down outside of a swinging gate in order to take a picture of Lightner with one of his cattle, as seen on the front page. Another cow decided to reach under the gate and rip a page from my notes and eat it while smearing cow manure and dirt all over my notepad.