MARISSA PAYKOS and I share similar ideas when it comes to food—know where your food comes from and share it with your neighbor. But her beliefs go way beyond mine: she also wants to share the best food she can with her community as a way to help those in need.
If you spend any time speaking with her at her Forsyth Farmer’s Market stand, you’ll find out just how kind her family and farm truly are.
Talk about a welcoming group—I was immediately greeted by a parade of animals when I drove up to Payko’s Whippoorwill Farms. Cowgirl and Cowboy the goats, Moose the dog, and Payko’s daughter Ellie bombarded me with a warm welcome.
South Carolina’s Whippoorwill Farms began as Payko’s dream with the support of her husband James Young. To this day Young works a full-time job while Paykos works on the farm with her farm-hand and daughter Ellie.
Paykos, who was once a vegetarian, decided to expand her diet after becoming pregnant with Ellie. With the environment and her health in mind, she did not want to introduce just any type of meat into her diet. Paykos took a chance, bought some land, and started raising livestock for her family. There is no better way to know what goes into what you eat than raising or growing it yourself.
Over time the personal stock grew into stock to share with friends and neighbors. All the while Paykos continued to sharpen her farming skills and learn the tricks of the trade. Eventually the Farm grew even more. Whippoorwill Farms began legally selling their locally grown meats and produce about a year ago.
Pykos explained, “It was almost like this thing I had been seeking, my passion. I always loved animals, you know it always meant a lot to me taking care of animals. I had horses growing up. It was like I found that, I found peace doing it.”
Every single thing Paykos does at her farm is self-taught, from butchering the chickens to planting her seasonal garden. Products include free range chicken, eggs, sustainable raised pork, free range rabbits, and seasonal local produce.
It was clear during my short time spent at her farm that she is constantly working and learning. She even tended to the animals while she gave me a tour.
As I watched Paykos feed the pigs she told me about their diet. “We work with some distribution centers where they will get in rejected produce. Sometimes we get in bread too, but 80% of their diet is veggies and produce. So the other 20% would be breads.”
Paykos elaborated, “We like them to have a well balanced diet. So they like to eat exactly what we like to eat; they like to eat greens, they like to eat veggies.”
By feeding her pigs with rejected produce, Paykos is taking potential landfill items and naturally composting them back into the earth.
In addition to pork, Whippoorwill sells eggs and chicken, which means the farm has both chickens for eggs and chickens for meat.
The goats and horses are a permanent fixture on the Farm. Ellie loves them all and even has a favorite hen she calls Mama.
Over the winter, Paykos will ramp down her stock of meat chickens and focus primarily on the garden. The grounds get too cold to keep the chickens through the winter.
By rotating crops and livestock, the one-woman farming machine is able to better manage her duties and give her customers the best products possible.
“The garden started as an act of selflessness from a mentor of mine. I was working at a farm in Bluffton for a couple days a week just to learn more, because animals have always kind of been my wheelhouse, but veggies not so much,” she says.
“I started working with Three Sisters Farm and the those sisters were mentors to me. Mary, one of the sisters, particularly had taken me under her wing and really wanted to see me succeed.”
Mary located a free location for Paykos to plant her own garden and hone in her developing green thumb. The generosity of a free gardening space encouraged Paykos to continue to pay it forward, and inspired Whippoorwill Farm’s Pay What You Can Produce Stand.
In order to give back to her community and to those who may be in need, Paykos allows customers to pick out their own produce and pay for what they have. All you have to do is drop your desired amount in the pay box located in the stand which sits at the front of the farm.
“Obviously I am going to sell at the markets, but there is going to be extra—there is going to be leftovers. There are going to be not ideal things to take to the market like produce that does not look that pretty, and that is where that goes.”
Produce has included items such as ripe summer tomatoes, southern scuppernongs, onions, cucumbers, peppers, okra, and winter greens.
The Pay What You Can Stand will move with the Farm to its brand new location. Whippoorwill Farm is going from two acres to much more, which means room for more stock. With bigger and better digs, and much more acreage, Paykos and Young plan on working the land by hand just like they did before.
Besides a location at the Forsyth Farmer’s Market, you can order directly from Whippoorwill. Paykos personally delivers the orders for free. Just another way for her to give back to the community.
“I don’t really sell to restaurants because I don’t have enough, but also my big thing is being able to supply to people that are just like me and you. Not just people that can afford a fancy dinner,” Paykos told me.
To order directly from the Farm, more information can be located at their website at whippoorwillfarmssc.com