When Justin Strickland sits in his barn at Old Holler Farm on an old bar stool that once belonged to his grandfather, he knows that he and his family are right where they are supposed to be.
“I love it,” Strickland, 28, says. “It takes me back to my childhood. It reminds me of my grandpa. I feel extremely connected to him out here.”
Strickland grew up working construction during summers and on weekends.
“When we were slow, I got sent to clean fence lines at a cattle farm and feed cows,” he says. A few times he worked in a poultry mega-house. “I learned how to operate a skid loader when I was 9.”
He played basketball at Guilford College for a year before transferring to Davidson County Community College. He later worked for an oil change business, then at 22 decided he could make more money if he had his own shop. His grandfather put his house up for collateral for the loan to start the business, which grew to multiple locations.
When his grandfather died in 2014, Strickland felt pulled to pursue farming. The Stricklands bought their 83-acre farm in Germanton in 2015, and Justin eventually sold his auto business so that he could farm full time.
His wife, Jessica, taught English at North Forsyth High School and now stays home with their two sons, Tate, 5, and Beckett, 2.
“We wanted to have some land for the boys to just be boys on, to let them go and run wild and play with animals and get dirty,” she says. “We eventually realized we didn’t just want land, we wanted farmland. When we found this farm, it just spoke to us.”
They boarded horses initially and later added beef cattle production.
At last count, their predominantly black Angus grass-fed herd had grown to 45. In the spring, Strickland plans to sell vacuum-sealed beef from his farm to local restaurants and at area famers markets.
Their boys frolic with pygmy and Boer goats and enjoy helping feed the flock of nearly 600 grass-fed, free-range chickens the family raises for organic eggs. Justin and Jessica want to provide the boys with not only a way of life but also a way to make a living.
“The whole vision of this farm is to build it up enough to where, when they’re at the age when my parents taught me how to work, they can work together on the farm,” Justin says. “I intend to teach them how to invest in it and how to do sensible things with it.”
Old Holler Farm was established in 1790, and the Stricklands honor that history. A pillow Jessica made from an Old Holler ham sack rests on Justin’s grandfather’s rocking chair. “There’s a whole lot of meaning in that chair,” Justin says. “When we read to our boys, we rock them in that same chair.
“I’m an old soul,” he adds, “and I love the history that goes with farming—both here at this farm and in general, all the way back to Biblical times. In a way, it makes me feel closer to God.”