Change of Pace | Living the Country Life

Change of Pace

A North Carolina couple moves to the country to celebrate fresh food, healthy living, and sustainable farming.
  • New Career

    Moving to the country was a giant leap of faith that brought a bountiful reward for Lee and Larry Newlin. When they bought their 18-acre farm outside Chapel Hill, North Carolina, in 2010, the Newlins also launched a new career together. They thought they would miss the bustle of life in the city, but they were too busy enjoying the harvests at their new endeavor, Peaceful River Farm. “Our lives have totally changed in so many ways,” Lee says.

    Date Published: August 15, 2017
    Date Updated: August 16, 2017
  • Life-Changing Event

    Their big transition was precipitated by a life-changing event: In 2005, Lee was diagnosed with non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma. “Getting sick and then recovering was an eye-opener for both of us,” Lee says. They started eating more vegetables and researched organic and sustainable gardening practices. They soon realized they wanted to share what they’d learned about healthful eating and living. “We just knew we wanted to do something that really counted, and make a difference,” Lee says.

    Date Published: August 15, 2017
    Date Updated: August 16, 2017
  • A Different Lifestyle

    Now, Peaceful River Farm is both their home and their livelihood. Lee and Larry cultivate 5 acres of produce they sell at a popular weekly farmers market and to chefs and a few grocery stores in the area. Lee teaches cooking classes emphasizing fresh, colorful, and delicious vegetables grown on the farm. They also host farm dinners, inviting chefs to prepare healthful meals with fresh-picked produce, served on the deck overlooking the property.

    “It’s a different lifestyle,” Lee says. “We work 60–70 hours a week, but it has a retreat feeling to it, as well.”

    Date Published: August 15, 2017
    Date Updated: August 16, 2017
  • Putting Food to Work

    Lee’s cancer diagnosis changed her approach to food and cooking. “I started reading a lot about health and nutrition and eating well, and I said, ‘That’s your connection. You have to change your diet,’” she says. “It turned out to be a lifeline for me.” 

    Now she shares her knowledge of smart food choices in cooking classes in the farm’s barn. Lee loves good food, but she doesn’t think cream and butter are necessary ingredients in a delicious dish. Her menus are plant-based, built around the freshest ingredients from the farm. Lettuce and leafy greens are high on her list of healthy and nutritious foods. She loves kale, collard greens, beets, and cabbage, and uses fresh herbs to give her recipes depth and richness.

    “Nothing makes me happier than to come up with a dish that has stellar nutrition and tastes phenomenal,” Lee says. 

    Date Published: August 15, 2017
    Date Updated: August 16, 2017
  • Growing Healthy

    Lee and Larry owned a landscaping and nursery business before they became country farmers, but the transition from landscaping to farming was a challenge, Larry says. He took classes in sustainable farming practices to learn more about growing healthful food in soil full of beneficial fungi and bacteria. He farms the land hard, but he adds compost to the soil to help maintain its fertility and rotates crops to improve yields. He grows cover crops in the rotation and applies organic amendments to supplement the minerals in the farm’s naturally silty clay soil. A drip irrigation system helps conserve water.

    Date Published: August 15, 2017
    Date Updated: August 16, 2017
  • Dinner is Served

    Sunday night farm dinners at Peaceful River Farm represent the culmination of the Newlins’ hard work. Guests arrive at the farm at about 5:30 and meet in the barn, where they mingle over snacks and slip into the spirit of the serene countryside. Larry leads a short tour, introducing guests to the farm and telling them a little about how the food on the menu was grown.

    The guests then gather at the long table on the deck, set with crisp white linens and decorated with garden flowers. “When they come, they don’t know each other, but they develop friendships immediately,” Larry says. 

    The healthful lifestyle Lee and Larry sought when they bought Peaceful River Farm has expanded—beyond expectations—to foster a nourishing, healthy community. Refined sugar really isn’t necessary: Life on the farm is sweet enough already.

    Date Published: August 15, 2017
    Date Updated: August 16, 2017
  • Fresh-Picked Flavor

    Lee and Larry Newlin believe produce tastes best straight from the garden. Here are some
    of their favorite fall greens (CLOCKWISE FROM TOP:)

    ‘Green Oakleaf’ Salanova Lettuce

    This head lettuce is one of the essential ingredients in Lee and Larry’s salad mixes. The colorful lettuce is a cut-and-come-again crop, Larry says. “We get three or four cuts out of it.”

    ‘Red Butter’ Salanova Lettuce

    Larry and Lee love this lettuce for its intense color, texture, and flavor.

    ‘Joi Choi’ Bok Choy

    These tender greens are harvested when they’re small. “The nutrition is hard to beat,” Larry says. The Newlins slice
    the leaves thin and use them
    in salads.

    Rainbow Swiss Chard 

    Larry calls this crop “the gift that keeps on giving.” He harvests the leaves, which are as tender as spinach, from October through June. They have “an earthy, wonderful flavor,” he says.

    ‘Garnet Giant’ Mustard

    The dramatic red leaves grow quite large, but Larry and Lee like to harvest them when they are still small and delicate. “They’re a superfood,” Lee says. The nutritious and just-a-little-spicy green tastes great in mixed-green salads or braised.


    This Japanese mustard green has wonderful twisted and serrated foliage. Mild-tasting and high in vitamin C, the leaves add loft to salads.

    Date Published: August 15, 2017
    Date Updated: August 16, 2017
  • Lee’s Beautiful Beet Salad

    Start to finish: 1 hour 25 minutes  

    Servings: 4


    1 lb. red and/or golden beets

    2 Tbsp. champagne white wine vinegar

    ½ tsp. sea salt

    1 avocado, seeded, peeled, and sliced

    2 tsp. lemon juice

    3 cups mixed spring salad greens

    1 Tbsp. extra virgin olive oil 

    1 tsp. dried red bell pepper (optional)

    1. Place beets in steamer basket in a saucepan with water that comes just under the basket. Cover and steam 45 to 60 minutes or until tender when pierced all the way through with a fork.

    2. Remove from heat and let beets cool slightly. Cut off stem and root ends. Slip skin off beets. 

    3. Cut the beets into 1-inch pieces. Use two separate bowls if using both red and golden beets. While beets are still warm, sprinkle with 1 Tbsp. of the vinegar and the salt. Let stand a few minutes to allow beets to absorb the flavors.

    4. Sprinkle lemon juice over avocado slices.

    5. Place prepared beets on greens, then layer a few slices of avocado on top. Drizzle with olive oil and the remaining 1 Tbsp. vinegar. Sprinkle with dried pepper, if desired. Serve immediately.

    Per serving: 143 cal., 9 g total fat (1 g sat. fat), 0 mg chol., 377 mg sodium, 15 g carb., 6 g fiber, 8 g sugars, 3 g pro.

    Date Published: August 15, 2017
    Date Updated: August 16, 2017
  • Lee’s Tatsoi and Curried Chickpea Soup

    Start to finish: 45 minutes  

    Servings: 6


    1 lime

    1 cup finely chopped onion

    1 tsp. sea salt

    2 Tbsp. extra virgin olive oil

    2 cloves garlic, minced

    1 lb. small red-skin potatoes, chopped

    1 to 2 Tbsp. curry powder with turmeric

    4 cups vegetable stock

    1 cup unsweetened coconut milk

    2 15-oz. cans chickpeas (garbanzo beans), rinsed and drained

    2 cups chopped zucchini

    6 cups chopped tatsoi leaves or spinach

    Black pepper

    1. Remove zest and squeeze juice from lime. 

    2. In a large pot cook onion and salt in hot oil over medium heat about 4 minutes or until onion is tender. Add garlic. Cook and stir 1 minute more. Stir in potatoes, curry powder, and lime zest. Cook and stir about 6 minutes or until potatoes begin to brown.

    3. Add stock and coconut milk. Bring to boiling; reduce heat to low. Simmer, uncovered, 15 minutes.

    4. Add chickpeas and zucchini. Cook 10 minutes more or until potatoes and zucchini are just tender. Stir in tatsoi and lime juice. Season to taste with additional salt and the pepper. 

    Per serving: 326 cal., 14 g total fat (7 g sat. fat), 0 mg chol., 808 mg sodium, 41 g carb., 7 g fiber, 8 g sugars, 10 g pro.

    Date Published: August 15, 2017
    Date Updated: August 16, 2017
  • Lee’s Delicious Quinoa Nosh

    Prep: 30 minutes  

    Stand: 5 minutes  

    Chill: 15 minutes

    Bake: 20 minutes at 400° F  

    Servings: 8


    4 room temperature eggs, lightly beaten

    2 ½ cups cooked quinoa, at room temperature

    ½ tsp. fine-grain sea salt

    Pinch crushed red pepper

    1 cup finely chopped green onions

    ⅓ cup vegan Parmesan or freshly grated Parmesan cheese

    ¼ cup finely chopped fresh thyme

    3 cloves garlic, minced

    1 cup gluten-free or whole grain bread crumbs

    1 Tbsp. extra virgin olive oil, melted coconut oil, or melted butter

    1 recipe Chipotle Sauce

    1. In a medium bowl combine eggs, quinoa, salt, and crushed red pepper. Stir in green onions, Parmesan, thyme, and garlic. Stir in the bread crumbs; let stand 5 minutes so the crumbs absorb some of the moisture, creating a mixture you can easily form into football-shape croquettes or balls. (If crumbly, add a little bit of water to moisten.)

    2. Lightly oil a 15×10-inch baking pan. Form quinoa mixture into 1-inch croquettes or balls and place on pan. Do not crowd. Use an oil mister or pastry brush to lightly oil tops with olive oil. Cover and chill 15 minutes or overnight.

    3. Preheat oven to 400°F. Bake about 20 minutes or until the edges begin to brown. Do not burn.

    4. Remove from baking sheet and cool on a wire rack while you bake the remaining balls. Once balls are cool, keep covered to keep moist. Serve with Chipotle Sauce.

    Chipotle Sauce: In a food processor combine ¾ cup vegan mayonnaise or mayonnaise; 3 Tbsp. chopped fresh cilantro; ¼ cup sliced green onions; 2 cloves garlic, minced; 1 ½ to 2 tsp. chopped canned chipotle peppers in adobo sauce; and 1 ½ tsp. lime juice. Cover and process until finely blended. Cover and chill until ready to serve.

    *Tip: You can make these into larger patties for a meal.

    Per serving: 330 cal., 21 g total fat (3 g sat. fat), 93 mg chol., 462 mg sodium, 24 g carb., 3 g fiber, 2 g sugars, 8 g pro.

    Date Published: August 15, 2017
    Date Updated: August 16, 2017

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