As you walk down the driveway, past the large white farmhouse towards the barn owned by Dan and Liza Green, you’ll likely hear the distant chatter between the goats, chickens, sheep and other farm animals. , plus greetings from Sadie, the Border Collie. Rising above the sounds commonly associated with farms, there is a loud, rhythmic thump of metal on metal, followed by a short silent pause, then the rhythm picks up again.
In the not-too-distant past, blacksmithing was a regular feature of life on a working farm, with tool-making skills learned and passed down from generation to generation, much like Dan Green’s father, Allan, the did with him.
Allan and Chris Green purchased the farm on Dairyland Road in 1993 and founded Woodcrest Farm. The couple raised their family there and spent more than two decades turning their home into a working farm, complete with gardens, farm animals and a working blacksmith shop, where Allen ran blacksmithing classes.
In 2020, Dan and Liza purchased the property from their parents with the intention of expanding the working and teaching aspects of the family farm. Today, Woodcrest Farm & Forge offers camps, tours, blacksmithing classes, and sells produce, eggs, beef, and pork.
The former Greens have moved to a smaller house nearby, but they remain closely involved in running the farm and its expanding offerings.
“We see so much potential here and we see so many opportunities to create a community space that is welcoming and meets the immediate needs of many people,” said Dan Green, who now runs the blacksmithing classes. “We see unlimited opportunity and opportunity for our family to share in so much of what my parents have built.”
The Green family had originally moved to North Carolina from upstate New York. Even though they hadn’t lived in a particularly busy part of New York, the family still had to deal with some culture shock. But life on the farm was okay with Allen and Chris learning new skills and building a working farm.
Dan went to Stanford Middle School and graduated from Orange High. He attended UNC-Chapel Hill, starting out as a Poli-Sci major, but soon returned to his love of acting, which he had been involved in since early high school. After graduating from UNC, Dan briefly lived in Atlanta where, although he didn’t enjoy his time there at all, he met his future wife, Liza. The two moved from Atlanta to New York.
“We had a great life there,” he said. “I started working for Blue Man Group as an electrician. I specialized in lighting and special effects and that sort of thing. I worked there around 2003 or 2004, until we left in 2016.”
While working for Blue Man Group, Dan’s responsibilities within the company increased. He became more skilled with his hands as a technician and gained managerial and administrative experience while leading his department.
Shortly after he and Liza had their first child, Dan began to notice changes in the company he worked for. The couple talked about wanting to try something different. Around this time in 2016, Dan’s parents were expressing their desire to get away from the long days of farm management and downsize their property to another part of the road.
That year, Dan and Liza returned to Hillsborough for a month to determine if this was the move they wanted to make. They ended up spending the next four years, during which they had another child, working with Dan’s parents, learning what it was like to work on the farm and planning what their version would be like.
“And then we bought the farm from them in 2020, just before the pandemic hit,” Dan said. “In February we said ‘OK, here’s the plan. This is what we’re going to do. This is the business we’re going to maintain and this is the timeline for us to move into this house here’, because we were living in a rental across the road. And then the pandemic hit. It was the best decision we ever made. We have this acreage and we had a place for our kids.
So now, the same person who, in his youth, questioned his parents’ decision to buy a farm, is now relishing in the benefits the farm will bring him to raise his own children.
While Liza works full-time in Raleigh as associate director of the NC State Live performing arts program, Dan is largely responsible for maintaining the farm and organizing classes and camps. And, hopefully, he wants to make it a sustainable business.
The on-site forge plays a key role in these plans. One of the unexpected benefits of the pandemic has been an increase in people looking for educational activities that can be done outdoors. Woodcrest Farm had previously been marketed to homeschools, but often even kids in Orange County schools had at least one open house a week when there weren’t virtual classes. Woodcrest offered an option.
“My sister-in-law is an educator and she and I started doing the first camps here, and now we’re working with another camp leader who works in the area and shares our values of having this place for kids to come and play. and learning about the farm and going out,” Dan said. “That seems to have really resonated with a lot of people.”
While Woodcrest Farm offers plant and animal care classes and camps, as well as hiking trails, there is also a large barn on the premises which provides plenty of space and tables for classes. art and projects. Art on the Farm camps even include creative movement collaborations with goats and other farm animals.
For blacksmith camps and courses, equipment is provided for learning basic techniques, workshop and tool safety, forge and fire maintenance. Dan said students will learn how to make hooks, fire tools and home decorations, but there’s no specific pace or expectation for students, even though most kids who go through the courses leave with a sense of accomplishment.
“There are people who feel empowered by the transition they are able to make to bring steel here to raw materials,” he said. This is a difficult work. It’s physical work, and if they’re not ready for it, a lot more guidance may be needed. But I can’t think of a time when someone didn’t appreciate it.
Dan said he was eventually considering enclosing the forge and adding a ventilation system so the classrooms could be protected from cold and heat, as well as the elements.
“We really think nonprofit status is probably in our future,” he said. “We have, we have dreams and we have goals. We’d like to see the farming aspect of this place – raising and selling our own all-natural pork, beef, and eggs – grow, but I’m doing it on my own, more or less at this point. We have volunteers who come from time to time. But we would really like to develop this aspect and continue as an educational farm.
Dan also said he sees Woodcrest Farm operating as a kind of incubator, where guest farmers or young farmers can come in and use some of the farm’s land, resources and experience.
“We really want it to be a community space,” he said. “We want this to be a place where people in this area — not just our neighborhood here in Orange Grove — know they have a farm where they can come and get that food, that vital resource that’s going to be good for them. It will be good for the environment. This will be how he is brought up. And they can see how everything is done. They can learn how everything happens.
For more information about Woodcrest Farm & Forge, visit www.woodcrestfarmnc.com