Jamie Swofford, The Chef’s Farmer

Jamie Swofford is The Chef's Farmer. On his family’s farm in Cleveland County, he grows high-quality produce and boutique ingredients for chefs and delivers fresh and foraged ingredients to breweries and cocktail craftsmen in the North Carolina Piedmont. Before he farmed for a living, Swofford spent nearly two decades in kitchens throughout the Southeast and abroad. Equipped with a wealth of experience, deep culinary understanding, and a desire to preserve traditions rooted in Appalachian culture, he explores food in all of its facets; from the field to his own line of artisanal products under the name Old North Shrub. His love of food extends far and wide; a chef-turned-farmer, but foremost a North Carolina boy at heart.

The Farm

On his family’s farm in Cleveland County, The Chef’s Farmer grows boutique, heirloom produce for chefs, breweries, and cocktail craftsmen in the North Carolina Piedmont. 

On a modest acre and a half of land in Cleveland County, The Chef’s Farmer implements small-scale practices devoid of chemicals, synthetic fertilizers and large equipment. His fields are hand-tended and his work, ingredient-driven. As a former chef, he runs the farm with the same intensity as a restaurant kitchen. Using intensive practices to cultivate high-quality produce, The Chef’s Farmer serves 20 to 25 chefs in his corner of North Carolina.

The Chef’s Farmer’s is interested in unique products with exceptional flavor. On his patch of land, he grows a variety of produce––heirloom vegetables with stories to tell and diverse varieties suited for the Carolina soil. Expect a polycultural array of seasonal ingredients from roots and greens to edible flowers and culinary herbs. 

The Chef’s Farmer propagates from seed stock around the globe for produce that lends itself to sustainable practices and seed preservation.

Old North Shrub

Old North Shrub is The Chef’s Farmer’s inaugural line of drinking vinegars. It’s the place where his culinary expertise pairs with an intimate knowledge of ingredients to produce unexpected flavors with a sense of place. A North Carolina boy at heart, The Chef’s Farmer uses century-old techniques to highlight ingredients from the Old North State for a contemporary beverage that is a refreshing soda alternative, an unexpected addition to cocktails of all kinds, and a surprising addition to the pantry. Check out some recipes here

At its most basic, shrub is a beverage made of fruit, vinegar, and sugar. According to Slow Food USA’s Ark of Taste, “Shrub is a colonial-day drink whose name is derived from the Arabic word sharab, to drink. It is a concentrated syrup…that is traditionally mixed with water to create a refreshing drink that is simultaneously tart and sweet. In the nineteenth-century, the drink was often spiked with brandy or rum.” 

Old North Shrub was a happy accident. Jamie Swofford provides boutique produce for chefs in the Piedmont, and fresh and foraged ingredients to breweries. On a delivery run, one of Swofford’s regular customers, Free Range Brewing (Charlotte), invited him to craft a non-alcoholic beverage “that was not kombucha” for their bar taps. Swofford settled on shrub, a colonial-era drinking vinegar, made with ingredients grown, foraged, and sourced from his agricultural radius in western North Carolina. 

The shrub was first sold on tap in 2015, but soon gained popularity. A demand for a bottled beverage followed. In 2016, Old North Shrub began selling its drinking vinegars by the bottle.