An enchanted moment


It’s a lovely fall day today at Riley’s Ranch with a cool breeze blowing from time to time, and yellow leaves are gently falling. The sun is shining, dappling the forest floor here and there with warm spots of light. I’m with our Shorthorn cows, to observe Bossie who is full term but not in active labor yet. Her udder is much fuller today.

It looks like little hooves could pop out any minute once her labor starts.

Her huge belly is hanging really low.



They are all chewing their cud and standing around under the pine trees so quietly and calmly, motionless except for the occasional switching of their tails.

And their chewing.


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Calves are napping. 

One little brown calf is mooing in his sleep and his little hooves are twitching.

Our 1000 lb. bull, Gus, is scratching his big behind on the fence, wagging his hind quarters slowly and comically, back and forth against the fence.

His big old head swings left when his rear end goes right, and then the opposite, bowing out the fence behind him to a severe angle but not breaking it.

We are all enjoying the shade of the forest, just beyond our pond on the west edge of the north pasture.

It could not be any more peaceful.

Bossie just decided to lay down, and all the cows, calves, and Gus have turned to look at her.

One of our cows walked over, dipped her head down toward Bossie’s hind quarters and is just standing there quietly with her head down.

It’s almost like we all know something good is about to happen.


Ashten’s Annual Farmer’s Dinner at Riley’s Ranch!

Riley’s Ranch was honored to be chosen as this year’s location for the Annual Farmer’s Dinner

  by Ashten’s Restaurant of Southern Pines, NC !


Every year, Ashten’s owner/Chef Ashley Van Camp caters a gourmet dinner to honor all the local farmers who provide the delicious produce, meats, seafood and eggs for her restaurant in Southern Pines, NC, that make dining at Ashten’s an amazing culinary experience.


Ashley Van Camp, Owner/Chef of Ashten’s Restaurant and Ashten’s A’Field of Southern Pines, NC


Over the past year, we have forged a great relationship with Ashley and Chef Hannon as one of their local sources for heritage, whey-fed pork and heritage free range eggs, with regular orders for our Large Black hogs and weekly orders for Riley’s Ranch heritage eggs.  Riley’s Ranch Cowboy pork chops are featured on the specials menu when available. Chef Hannon does all the expert butchering himself, curing and smoking his own bacon from our hogs, and making his own sausage with our tasty whey-fed, pasture raised heritage pork without added hormones or antibiotics.

Here are Chef Matt Hannon and Chef Jimi Ardinger braving the rigors of cooking outdoors with David’s big wood fired grill with our heritage chickens grazing underfoot without a single complaint.


Chef Hannon and Chef Ardinger of Ashten’s Restaurant


They served up a wonderful fall menu of delicious smoked brisket rubbed with several mystery ingredients (including lots of coffee, I learned!), tender pulled pork, roasted chicken, fresh baked bread with homemade apple butter, bourbon collards, fall salad, roasted butternut squash, guinea terrine—-all sourced locally, from many of the farmers attending the dinner.

It was an enchanted evening under the Riley’s Ranch pines, the long table set up right behind the barn next to the cattle pastures, with heritage chickens for dining companions and our Shorthorn cattle, Large Black and Tamworth hogs and “Blackworth” piglets close by.



FarmDinnerHayRide             David gave us a fun (and slightly scary) hayride  before dinner through the pastures to meet the cattle and through the woods of the farm as night fell, and when we returned we headed back behind the barn to the long dinner table decorated with wildflowers and glowing with votive candles and lanterns.  Music filled the night air, provided by our favorite local acoustic guitarist and vocalist, Allen Ashdown.



We hosted more than 50 people: Ashten’s farmers and their spouses, local foodies, leaders of the growing local farm to table movement, and many loyal Ashten’s fans. We enjoyed delicious gourmet food, fresh air, good company, moonlight and perfect fall weather—what a perfect combination.


After dinner some folks followed the path lined with garden lights down to the new bonfire pit set into the slope overlooking our two ponds.  David finished building the retaining wall and bonfire pit in the nick of time for the party, bringing load after load of huge creek stones up from our creek. One of the stones was about 4,000 lbs!DavidStone

Look for an article about  Ashten’s Farmer’s Dinner at Riley’s Ranch with great photos in the November edition of Pinestraw Magazine.

More info about Ashten’s Restaurant of Southern Pines, NC here:

farm dinnerMelandDavid

David and Melanie Riley, owners of Riley’s Ranch, with one of Melanie’s favorite heritage Buff Orpington hens.



Riley’s Ranch AWA Press Release (hot off the press!)

AWAlogo2 RILEY’S RANCH IN CARTHAGE, N.C. AWARDED TOP ANIMAL WELFARE CERTIFICATION –Local farm uses sustainable agriculture methods to earn Animal Welfare Approved certification– CARTHAGE, N.C. (Sept. 11, 2013)

– The hogs and laying hens at 75-acre Riley’s Ranch are now certified as Animal Welfare Approved. This certification and food label lets consumers know that these animals were raised in accordance with the highest animal welfare standards in the U.S., using sustainable agriculture methods on an independent family farm. The Riley’s applied for certification with Animal Welfare Approved as a way to let their customers know that they raise animals with respect. David says, “We don’t just ‘say’ we love and care for our animals with the highest respect for their health and wellbeing. We actually have proof of this. AWA is the most highly regarded food label when it comes to animal welfare, pasture-based farming, and sustainability. That is what Riley’s Ranch is all about.”

Like other AWA farmers across the country, Melanie and David Riley recognize the growing consumer interest in how animals are being raised. The hogs and laying hens at Riley’s Ranch roam freely, with access to fresh spring water on coastal Bermuda grass pastures and woodlands. The AWA-certified Large Black hogs, Tamworth hogs, and mixed-breed laying hens are excellent at foraging and thrive in a pasture-based system. The Riley’s strive to minimalize any land or water contamination and soil erosion on their farm by avoiding the use of pesticides and by using strategic fencing around ponds. The animals at Riley’s Ranch perform natural behaviors, a key difference from practices at industrial confinement systems. “Simply put, chickens, cows, and pigs are not allowed to be themselves in those operations, and are forced to live in unnatural conditions that require the daily use of antibiotics to ensure the animals survive,” Melanie says. “Here at Riley’s Ranch, our pigs have a happy life and get to be pigs. Our chickens can be happy chickens, scratching and pecking to their heart’s content!”

The Riley’s welcome individual families or small groups of students for farm tours to meet the animals and to help gather eggs. Registered Large Black Hog piglets are available from the farm at eight weeks of age. Products from Riley’s Ranch are available at Sandhills Farmers’ Green Market, Elliott’s Provision Company, and at select local restaurants, including Ashten’s Restaurant and Elliott’s on Linden.

For more information about the farm, visit, or to make an appointment for a tour, call 910-947-5512.

# # # About Animal Welfare Approved Animal Welfare Approved audits, certifies and supports farmers raising their animals according to the highest welfare standards, outdoors on pasture or range. Called a “badge of honor for farmers” and the “gold standard,” AWA is the most highly regarded food label in North America when it comes to animal welfare, pasture-based farming, and sustainability. All AWA standards, policies and procedures are available on the AWA website, making it the most transparent certification available. Animal Welfare Approved’s Online Directory of AWA farms, restaurants and products enables the public to search for AWA farms, restaurants and products by zip code, keywords, products and type of establishment. In addition, AWA has published Food Labeling for Dummies, a regularly updated guide to commonly used food claims and terms, available free for download at

Happy 4th of July, Bacon Lovers!

It was a great day in Pinehurst, NC, for the annual 4th of July Parade and a special Sandhills Farmer’s Green Market event.

Met lots of new folks who had never known Pinehurst had a Farmer’s Market downtown, and plan on coming back to see us Saturday!

The rain miraculously held off (for our customers, that is, after deluging us vendors as we set up our tents and tables before the Market started) and everyone enjoyed the sunshine, free ice cream, lemonade, baked goods and fresh produce and crafts from our 18 vendors.

David grilled up Riley’s Ranch Brats and Italian sausage to give away as samples,

while bravely ignoring the bee sting in the corner of his eye that happened this morning on the way back from feeding the pigs.

Even in his Benadryl fog and hiding his swollen shut eye behind his cool shades, he was charming as ever—I don’t know how he did it.

He is my hero.

Me, on the other hand—I would have been at home in the bed, or in the ER worrying about my future eyesight.

Find out more about our Sandhills Farmer’s Green Market here:


Check out Boris the patriotic Boxer, who was a contestant in the pet parade: Boris_o

And this cool fellow: MarketHat

Newest Additions to Riley’s Ranch: Guinea Hens

31 Baby Guineas are the latest additions to Riley’s Ranch.

The young (called “keets”) are very small at birth, and very cute as you can see:



A Few Guinea Fowl Facts:

Adult guinea fowl are insect eating machines! They are native to Africa, and have a long history of domestication. They mate for life. In the UK they were usually known as “gleanies”. The adults will grow to  16–28 inches in length, and weigh 1.5-3.5 pounds.  They will have free range on the farm,  eating up all the bugs they can find, including  lice, worms, ants, flies, spiders, and ticks. They run together like a school of fish, darting this way and that around the farm.


Even the babies can catch and eat flies.  David has been scooping up flies with the pool skimmer where they are unfortunately gathered out in the pasture near Belle’s food bowl and dropping them into the barn stall where the  little ones are staying. They jump on those things faster than a duck on a June bug, and after a mad dash of about 10 seconds, all the flies are gobbled up.  David has them hooked at an early age on this yummy treat kind of like a crack dealer so they will be the ultimate fly control system for the farm when they grow up. One example  of our sustainable farming philosophy: pest control done the organic  way.

These interesting and noisy and watchful birds are also territorial and will “guard” the property with loud yelps when strangers or danger is perceived.

Cutie pies at a young age, yes!

Not so much, though, as adults. Check out this close up of a face only a mother could love :-)