Food & Drink

Colony Urban Farm Store Fills A Niche

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Kristi Maier | @triadfoodies

Imagine taking all the hobbies that you enjoy and turning it into your dream. It’s happening at Colony Urban Farm at 1100 Reynolda Road in Winston-Salem.

It’s a little farm store with some gardening seeds and supplies, bee keeping needs, and implements for raising chickens…as well as….chickens. A little bit of country living for bona fide city folk. You’d be amazed how many people walk in wanting more information on the habits of the bees.

In Winston-Salem. Go figure.

Fun fact: The North Carolina state insect is the Honeybee. It appears that beekeeping is on the rise here and that suits this Colony just fine.

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Husband and wife team, Allison Bowling and Josh Pietrafeso, moved to Winston-Salem last September after growing tired of the harsh, long winters in Denver, Colorado. Allison grew up here and had been longing to return. Josh said he and his wife had always loved urban farms and markets, which are quite common in Denver. He says they spent a lot of time helping friends learn more about raising chickens, beekeeping and gardening. They often found conversations at get togethers turning to these topics. “We took a little bit of what we loved about all our favorite places and started coming up with a plan to open a place of our own.” In February of this year, the couple opened Colony Urban Farm Store. “It’s called Colony because we all have different skills. My wife is the chicken lady. I know about bees.” It’s a new concept here in the Triad. Josh says, “If you said urban farm in Denver, everyone would know what you are talking about, but here we had to spell it out a little bit.” It’s exactly what it sounds like. Farming for the modern life and raising chickens and bees are a big part of that.

Josh, who’s a licensed solar electrician by trade, grew up the son of a master gardener, growing everything and preserving it too and that transitioned easily into adulthood. “We’ve always gardened and Denver has such a short growing season, we got tired of buying at the store or in bags. It is already weeks old by the time it gets into the store and goes bad so quickly. So I got into hydroponics to have fresh greens and salad year-round.” There was a deeper reason too. Their son, Sash, was experiencing absent seizures and as the doctors prescribed harsh, adult-strength medication, he and Allison wanted to find a more natural path. “For a three-year-old to have to endure that, it just didn’t seem right, so we got several opinions and were told there might be a correlation to food allergies. We removed gluten, dairy and eggs and pretty much immediately we stopped seeing these things that were happening.” As a result, Josh and Allison decided to also eliminate those things from their diet for the most part, and to develop a healthier lifestyle.

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Healthy and sustainable is what they live by today. “Our motto is ‘know it or grow it.’ If you don’t know where your food is coming from, either grow it yourself or change your source,” Josh told me. The market items are a small but growing selection of produce, like berries and micro greens, eggs, cheese, ready-made products like ferments and pimento cheese or do-it-yourself kits if you prefer, like mushrooms, grow your own bread, make your own buttermilk, kefir or sour cream.

If you like honey, you’ll be in heaven. Colony already has one of the largest selections of local and exotic of honey in the city, but Josh and Allison wanted to offer something a bit out of ordinary.

Honey on tap.

He says, “We thought, wouldn’t it be cool if we could dispense honey?” Honey was then put on tap in Winston-Salem. Towering in all its amberness in tall, clear, cylinders where customers can sample and the Colony Urban farmers will dispense and explain every little sweet, smoky and floral note. It’s the show piece of the store and has a neon sign to go with it.

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The rest of the store is stocked with things that Josh and Allison love, from the handmade African baskets to the gardening items, beekeeping and chicken coop supplies to the soaps. There are even books. So in addition to farming type supplies, you’re likely to find a unique gift for someone. Colony Urban Farm Store is also one of the latest shops in the area to offer Air Wheel Coffee, a local air-roasted coffee available in whole bean in repurposed wine bottles. Air Wheel also makes a coffee extract kept in the refrigerator case.

Since opening, the couple is striving to source each and every item as locally as possible.

Everything except honey, which they plan on continuing to offer a wide selection of local and imported varieties. Josh says, “Everything else will be hyperlocal. Even our bee pollen is locally sourced.”

Bee pollen? Yes. And you should give it a try. Think of a nutty type flavor with full-on honey impact, while not being too sweet. It’s great for the immune system and for people with allergies. It’s also an excellent source of protein used immediately by the body. Josh suggests, “Throw it on toast, have it with jam, yogurt, on top of smoothies…really anything. You can even mix it with a bit of honey for quick energy boost.”

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As more customers have stumbled upon and reached out to Colony Urban Farm Store to learn more about beekeeping and other urban farm methods, they are now offering workshops and classes to meet that growing need. Josh says, “I’m passionate about it and I want to teach folks about it, so the workshop allows us to hand out that knowledge and later they can buy their supplies right from this store.”

Josh says he’s been amazed at the response from current and future chicken keepers as well as current and future beekeepers who needed this kind of resource. “Winston is such a great town. It’s beautiful. I didn’t grow up here so it’s a blank slate for me. We’ve had a great reception here. I look out and this is my view every day. What we are doing is embraced here, and it’s cool to see that.”

Wanna go? Colony Urban Farm Store is located at 1100 Reynolda Road, Winston-Salem. colonyurbanfarm.com 336-331-3961

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