Mullis, Dean

I DELIGHT IN DISPATCHES FROM THE DIRT – THANKS TO THE INTERNET, IT’S EASY FOR LOCAL FARMERS TO KEEP US UP-TO-DATE

Charlotte Observer, The (NC)
January 24, 2007
Edition: ONE-THREEFOOD
KATHLEEN PURVIS, Staff Writer
Section: FOOD
Page: 1E
Record Number: 0701230257

When you’re out in the fields, you have a lot of time to think. You can turn over thoughts while you’re turning over dirt and hash through the world’s problems while you hack at the weeds.

Maybe that’s why Dean Mullis started writing his online newsletters from Laughing Owl Farm in Richfield.

I don’t really know. I’ve never asked him.

But I spent my share of hours in the field at my family’s nursery when I was younger. I remember the way your thoughts wander farther as the sun gets higher.

Between the Charlotte Regional Farmers Market and the Matthews Community Market, I see Dean and his wife, Jenifer, most weeks.

Dean’s a quiet guy, not one to tell jokes like his market neighbor, Donnie Cline, or to wave and greet me by name like a half-dozen others.

So it was sort of a surprise when his newsletters started coming last year.

Getting to know your local farmer is different in the Internet age. People who didn’t seem like the types to type now send weekly reports for customers.

Donnie Cline, who farms in Lincoln County, sends short notes, just a list of what he expects to pick. Grateful Growers Farm in Denver sends occasional e-mails.

Mullis’ newsletter is different. It comes out almost every week, with reports on his crops, chickens and eggs, and whatever else occurs to him.

Sometimes he weighs in on news that’s gotten his goat. Sometimes it’s what’s getting his chickens.

For weeks last summer, he chronicled his battle with a fox. The tale had humor and pathos, and I followed it like a Saturday morning serial.

He writes about moonrise on the farm, and the antics of a strutting tom turkey.

His grammar isn’t perfect (neither is mine, as some readers point out). His spelling is hit or guess. But he’s always honest, sometimes brutally so, about the realities of farming.

In October, the newsletter had a picture of a bag of Funyons. He explained that when he’s processing chickens, he craves junk food.

“I do not want real food while I am dressing out chickens I have raised for 8-10 weeks on pasture, have asked them to be blessed, and then I kill them, scald them and pluck them.”

A couple of weeks ago, I made it out to the regional farmers market on Yorkmont Road for the first time since before Thanksgiving, drawn by Dean’s latest newsletter.

Donnie Cline was there, happy to catch me up on which chefs he’s spotted lately. “Rosemary Pete” was at his herb stand with basil he’s growing on the porch.

I loaded up on snow peas, spring onions, baby lettuces and whole wheat pitas. I shelled out for fresh chickens from Grateful Growers and flank steak and short ribs from Baucom’s Best.

At the Mullises’ stand, I bought eggs, radishes and a bag of microgreens so fine and tender, they must have been picked with tweezers.

I didn’t ask Dean what was up. I’ll wait and read it.

If you want to read it, too, you can e-mail him at demullis@vnet.net.

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