Talking to Garden & Health first thing in the morning as he prepares to go about his day, Bernard Obie speaks quietly and methodically but with rare confidence borne out of a lifetime of experience.
When asked to describe his day, he pauses for a beat and lays out his mornings in detail, and one gets the sense that this type of minute detail is something Mr. Obie practices in every aspect of his life.
“Yeah, so I generally, you know, start the day with a few prayers,” he starts, “I give thanks to God for life, for the chance to be in it in this way. And, you know, to have the health and the strength to pursue activities that I consider to be important.”
Mr. Obie pauses and adds, “And to know that to be alive and healthy and well, is a privilege.”
After he has spent a few moments communing with what he refers to as “divine allies,” Mr. Obie spends a few minutes journaling, which he prefers to do in the mornings as it seems to “flow more easily” after he sleeps on it, he explains.
Mr. Obie shares that he records his thoughts and feelings on a regular basis, musing that on the off chance someone else might sit down one day and read his accounting, this might “brings them to a place where they can experience in a small way, the experience that I have had…and it’s mostly joyful.”
After his morning routine is completed, Mr. Obie is off to tend to the business of the day and his business is Abanitu Organic Farms near Roxboro, North Carolina where he and his family cultivate a variety of vegetables, small fruits, melons, flowers, gourmet and medicinal mushrooms, and medicinal and culinary herbs.
The Abanitu Organic Farms’ website specifies that the farm’s focus is “heirloom and open-pollinated vegetable varieties almost exclusively, emphasizing flavor, hardiness, and disease resistance. We specialize in seasonal greens, brassicas and lettuces but cultivate regional fare ranging from asparagus to zucchini, including several varieties of heirloom tomatoes.”
What sets Mr. Obie and Abunita Farms apart is their attention to the mundane but essential organic, sustainable farming details. Their goal is to produce the healthiest versions of their crops because be believes, “the health of the people can rightly judge the skill and the aptitude of the farmer.” Reciting this like a proverb, one gets the sense that this is not just a personal motto but a solemn oath Mr. Obie has taken upon himself.
Raised by what he describes as, undereducated parents during a time of great struggle in their younger days, Mr. Obie and his siblings were constantly encouraged to better themselves through education which eventually led him to attend North Carolina State University to study agriculture.
The family’s long history in tobacco farming informed the young Mr. Obie, and he brought together his education and experience to build the family farm into a sustainable, organic produce operation.
A stint working in the business of mass agriculture and meat-producing led Mr. Obie to become a vegetarian in the 1980s and set him along his life’s path to find heartier, healthier ways of providing sustenance for his family and his community. Decrying the use of chemical enhancers and lab-oriented food production practices, Mr. Obie concluded, “everyone I knew was getting sick and what passes for food is the reason. If it’s poisonous to you, it cannot be food, you call it something else, but it can’t be food.”
From that simple realization, Bernard Obie set out to carve his own healthy, sustainable, organic way of living while serving his community. His passion and life’s work in Abunita Farms continues this mission.