Nicole LaChapell, co-owner of Bellair Farm, is a firm believer that, “Locally grown food is the pathway to good nutrition. I see food as medicine.” As far as she’s concerned, “You can’t beat the freshness of a local farmers market.” After farming for 10 years at her family farm in Pilot Grove, Nicole and her husband Jeff have transitioned into farming full time.
Nicole’s love for farming is rooted in her love of variety and the outdoors. Her interest in herbalism, as well as growing an abundant amount of different and unique vegetables, makes for a full booth at the market. You can always find something unusual and interesting, because, after all these years, the unusual is what keeps her passionate about farming. Several variations of greens, strawberries, blackberries, raspberries, tomatoes, cucumbers, herbs, fresh cut flowers, beets, spring transplants, body care products, jellies, jams and so much more can be acquired from Nicole when product is in season. Her love for variety shows in the magnitude of different offerings she brings to the market each week, including her new walnut husk ink, which she makes from scratch.
Farming also keeps her connected to the outdoors. “I just love being outside and listening to the birds singing. My father is a big bird lover. My favorite bird is probably the wren because it’s always building nests in unexpected places.” Her love for the outdoors deters her from using any chemicals on her farm. She maintains a chemical free farm for her family, customers and for the wildlife on her farm. “I let many things go to flower to increase the population of carnivorous insects, which naturally deters pesky bugs that might nibble on my garden. Plus, the birds help in pest management as well. I only use natural remedies on the farm.”
Her love of nature may keep her occupied on the farm, but she still enjoys visiting Columbia to socialize with her customers. “I really like the conversations I have with my customers and the diversity of Columbia. I love living in the country but it can also be a bit lonely. The market gives me an opportunity to be social. Plus, I enjoy selling at a market that participates in SNAP benefits. Programs like this level the playing field and allow everyone access to healthy fruits and vegetables.”
Having sold at the Columbia Farmers market since the spring of 2016, the success of her family farm has inspired her son and daughter to take a bigger role in the business. Rowan, 15, and her daughter, Willow, age 11, are beginning to understand the importance of entrepreneurship and teamwork. Helping on the farm is teaching them important lessons in the value of hard work, and the creek is always there when it’s done! Vegetable farming may or may not be their destiny, however; Willow has been expressing an interest in baking. If all goes well, she may be adding baked goods to Bellair Farms offerings in the future.
Discover what makes Nicole and her offerings special at your local Saturday farmers market!