Owned and operated by North Carolina natives, Joe and Judy Montague, Homeplace Farm has earned a spot as one of the “favorites” at the WakeMed Farmers Market.
Located on the other side of Fuquay-Varina between Fuquay and Sanford, Joe and Judy own a sprawling 175 acres of farm land, including a 1.5 acre garden where they grow their own produce and use it in the canned goods that they bring to farmers’ markets in the area. They also make fresh pies, cakes, and other treats, including their infamous “Neiman Marcus Bars”.
History of Homeplace Farm
Homeplace Farm is the official name of Joe and Judy’s business. However, they also operate JAM Catering, which is a division of Homeplace Farm and is an acronym for Judy’s name: Judy Andrews Montague.
Below, the couple shares their story, including how they met, how the business found its start, and what they love most about what they do.
Business After Retirement
When we retired five years ago, we remodeled our house, and then we kind of looked at each other and said, “What do we do now?”
After we retired, I decided that I would open a lady’s dress shop, and that left Joe wondering what he would do. Well, at the same time that I opened my dress shop, they had just opened a farmers market in Fuquay-Varina. So, I said, “I tell you what- let’s can a few things, and I’ll bake some pies and cakes for you, and you can take them to the market on Saturdays.”
So, that’s what we started doing, and after a couple of years, I realized that I was tied down with my dress shop and couldn’t really do the things that I wanted to do. So, I closed that, and I told Joe, “I’ll come help you at the market.”
From there, we expanded our business, and now we have a space at the North Carolina State Farmers Market on Saturdays and Sundays – and then we’re at the WakeMed Farmers Market on Tuesdays. We’ve been going strong with the business for five years now.
This is our 3rd year at the WakeMed Farmers Market, and we’ve had a great relationship with all of ya’ll. It’s been a real joy to come.
The Canning Process
Our farm [Homeplace Farm] has been around since 1842, and the house we live in was also built in 1842. Joe inherited the farm from his father, who bought the farm the day that Kennedy died.
We have a separate, outside kitchen where we do all of the canning, and then I have a registered kitchen inside of the house where I do all of the baking. We also have a climate-controlled cellar underneath our kitchen, and this is where we store all of our canned goods. We’ve put up 26 cases (each case holds 12 jars) since last year.
How long do you spend canning?
During the summer months, when the garden is coming in, we spend an hour out there, harvesting. We usually put up around 1,000 pints over the course of three months. In the outside kitchen, we’ll be out there all day. Saturdays, Sundays, and Tuesdays we’re at the farmers’ markets, so it only gives us four days at home to get everything done.
As for what we end up canning – it comes in cycles. For example, we just put up all of these pickles. But next week, we’ll be putting up beets and snaps…so, you’ve got cycles of things.
All of the things that we can come straight from our garden. The soil is so fertile where we are that you stick something in the ground, and it will grow.
There’s been a garden where we have our garden for about 150 years – in the same spot! It has little rocks all in the garden, and Joe calls that his “little solar panel”. He says those rocks heat up the soil, and it makes things grow…and it does.
A Chance Meeting 23 Years Ago
Joe is a farmer, and he’s always worked in farming. Farming and canning is something he learned from his mother. He also owned a mobile home park and did construction work building homes throughout the area. It was odd that we even met each other because I was involved in a whole different type of world.
I was a city girl! I mean- even my plastic plants died.
I worked with the Miss America Pageant for 45 years, so I was around beauty queens all of the time, and I judged pageants all over the United States (To date, I’ve done 68 pageants). I also owned John Powers Roberts modeling school, and I owned a North Carolina talent and modeling agency where I was booking talent for all of the movies down in Wilmington – so I traveled a whole different circuit than Joe.
How did you and Joe meet?
Well, my sister and her husband owned a restaurant between Raleigh and Fuquay called “401 Seafood,” and Joe went in there all of the time to eat. Joe had a daughter-in-law that worked there when she was in high school, and after she married Joe’s son and they started having kids, she would fill in for some of the other waitresses when they would go on vacation.
She was there one night when I went in, and my sister and her were talking when my sister made the comment, “I wish I could find somebody decent for my sister to date.” At the same time, Joe’s daughter-in-law said, “Well, I wish I could find somebody for my Pop.” That’s when my sister gave her my phone number to have Joe call me.
You see, I owned my own business, and I owned my own home in North Raleigh at the time- and everyone I tried to date just wanted to move in for me to take care of them. And…well, I can take care of myself, and so you know- I was just looking for a partner.
All of that happened in July, and in September, I was going on a cruise related to one of the fashion shows I was involved in, so I invited Joe along. He’d never been on a cruise, and he proposed to me on the cruise ship. He got right up on the stage in front of everybody there. Then we got married in December. So from July to December – it was a short courtship.
Twenty-three years later, we work together all of the time, and it’s been wonderful.
I help Joe put up all of this stuff for the farmers’ markets, and he helps me with my baking. It’s so funny because nobody would have ever put us together or would think that we would fit or work.
What is the most challenging thing about your business?
It’s the time. You know- when your string beans and everything comes off at the same time, you just can’t get it all jarred, and you lose a lot of stuff. We do take some of our excess to the Food Bank.
What is the best thing about your business?
[without skipping a beat] Doing it together.
We’re together 90 percent of the time, and that’s the way we like it.
*Click on any image below to view the photo gallery.
About Homeplace Farm
Homeplace Farm is based out of Holly Springs, NC. You can visit Joe and Judy at the WakeMed Farmers Market, Tuesdays, at the Raleigh Campus from 10am – 2pm throughout the summer. They also accept orders over the phone.
Phone: (919) 868-5366