About Flow Farm

FLOW: “A state in which people are so involved in an activity that nothing else seems to matter.”– Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi

I always loved that concept, so much that it became the name for our farm. Building and running a farm certainly requires a lot of planning, but working with your hands in the soil and weeding and harvesting always brings me into to the moment, to the state of Flow. We first started to come to Pinehurst in 2001, and I decided I wanted to grow a garden. It was that simple, an idea and some action. Jules was living in Washington, DC working as an environmental attorney, and I was living in Chicago working with computers in the financial markets. Pinehurst was our weekend home together, and we were married here in 2004. And now Pinehurst is our full-time home, and we have two sons, two dogs, two cats, and a farm.


In 2008, we bought five acres of forest and have been able to expand to about 15 acres over time. It’s a beautiful forest with pine and hardwood trees, dogwoods and magnolia and holly, and a healthy forest floor peppered with leaves, needles, ferns and mushrooms. We cleared some to build our new home, and we included about two extra acres inside the deer fence for me to develop our farm. I’m not sure what Jules thought I was really going to do, but she indulged me along the way, and here we are.


Among the first things I learned when we cleared a small patch of the forest and setup the initial layout for our fields was that our soil is really not well suited to grow fruits and vegetables. It works fine for growing a mostly pine forest, but it’s not made of the right stuff to really grow healthy food. Well, I had no idea about this, and it wasn’t like we were going to cancel the project and move somewhere else, so I started to learn about soil. We are vegan, and it felt good to read books about building soil and growing organic food, but most of what I read still used animal products to build soil fertility. And that’s when I learned about biochar, which I heard was being used successfully on a small veganic farm in France. So, I decided to build a kiln to make biochar from the trees we had cut down from our forest.


We started with largely depleted, acidic, sandy soil on top of hard-packed clay, because that’s what’s naturally found in a pine forest ecosystem in this area that gets lots of rain. The main things I needed for my soil were organic matter, resident carbon, nutrients, and minerals. And I knew that if I added those things, then the soil organisms to build healthy living soil would be provided by nature. I brought in azomite powder from Utah and kelp seaweed meal from the coast of Maine for trace minerals, and a wide range of natural rock amendments were added to give the soil environment access to all the nutrients in quantities that were both abundant and balanced.


To build organic matter, we grew cover crops all year-round for the purpose of shredding and working into our soil. We use a blend of science, art, and intuition in designing our farming techniques, and we learn a lot from all the wonderful farmers who have written books and blogs to help us. We use only sustainable methods, and we are in the process of becoming a USDA Certified Organic farm. We work hard to keep improving the quality of the soil in our rows by using our own style of no-till techniques with small tools and hand-managed processes. It feels really good to be growing food in a manner that reflects our values. In doing so, in our small way, we are helping to improve the soil, air, and water quality in North Carolina, a state badly polluted by industrial agriculture.


After many years of letting our soil develop and grow, in 2016 we started selling our food locally through our Farm to Friends harvest share subscriptions. And, we are also starting to sell our Flow Farm biochar, made exclusively in our kiln from locally sourced wood.

  • Our Mission

    Our Mission

    To grow intensely healthy food, sustainably, organically, and veganically.

    Along the way, we will share our harvest with our friends and build community around food. On our farm, we are always continuing to learn and to explore inventive ways to better take care of the soil, and to more efficiently do everything we do. We feel biochar is a key tool in improving our soil, and we enjoy the challenge of improving our kiln to cleanly and effectively make lots of biochar.

  • On Biochar

    On Biochar

    What is this strange stuff called “biochar”?  When we started growing on our land in Aberdeen, we didn’t know either. It didn’t take long in the research process, though, for us to learn that biochar was what we would need for Flow Farm, and our produce, to optimally thrive. So, we decided we would learn how to make it, and we built the first version of our kiln in 2010, based on the Adam Retort design, invented by Chris Adam in Germany. We worked with Peter Hirst and Bob Wells on that initial installation, and we’ve continued to improve on it ever since. It’s a project that gives us endless challenge as well as pleasure and satisfaction.


    The use of biochar, especially in conjunction with veganic growing methods, has many benefits that contribute to a healthier planet. Some benefits include reduced soil acidity, an overall improved soil quality, a boosted ability for the soil to retain nutrients, increased availability of nutrients from the soil for plants, reduced greenhouse gases, reduced groundwater pollution and reduced water usage. Creating biochar is a 2,000 year-old practice that converts organic waste into a carbon soil-enhancer. The process results in a fine-grained, highly-porous charcoal that helps soils retain nutrients and water.


    Flow Farm Biochar is made from local trees, typically landscaping and forest wood waste, and is produced onsite in our artisan kiln. In the first phase of the process, the wood in the interior chamber that will be turned into biochar is dried by hot gases from the connected fire box, which is fueled by about 100 pounds of wood for each batch. As soon as the water in the wood has evaporated, the temperatures begin to rise quickly and the first flammable wood gases appear. These gases are routed back into the fire box to be burned as part of the fuel, which reduces air pollution. This additional energy is used to heat up the wood chamber and to further accelerate carbonization during this second stage. Temperatures are maintained about 500 degrees Celsius for several hours. This “cooking” of the wood (rather than “combusting” it) through a process known as pyrolysis, produces a type of very stable carbon with mineral residues, resulting in biochar that is an excellent addition to the soil, one that provides a great home for soil microorganisms, has enormous surface area, and hold on to moisture and minerals.

  • About Veganic Agriculture

    About Veganic Agriculture

    At Flow Farm, we believe in working with nature, growing with principles, cultivating wholeness and nurturing the world we want to inhabit.

    Flow Farm is run by people who believe in the benefits of nutritious, animal-free diets and as such, our farm is a reflection of our practices and values. Although veganic agriculture is a fairly new concept, early pioneers are proving that it is not only possible to grow beautiful and nutritious produce using organic practices, meaning without chemical pesticides, herbicides or fertilizers, but the gentle cultivation practices are made even friendlier for the planet and safer for consumers by omitting animal products and by-products, such as bone, feather, and blood meal, fish emulsion, and animal manure waste.

    Veganic agriculture grows food without polluting and using animal products by emphasizing green “manure” (crop-derived compost), the use of cover crops, rotation growing and building the mineral composition of the soil. Is this kind of growing more time, money and labor intensive than conventional agriculture? Yes. But we’ve decided that the externalized costs of polluting the planet and supporting the industries that harm animals and our environment are too great a burden to bear. Flow Farm has adopted veganic growing practices since our inception to show that it is possible to thrive while building a healthier, more compassionate world.

Our People

Family Owned and Operated with Love!

Mark Epstein  Owner/Farmer

Mark Epstein

I always really loved farms, and I grew up a vegetarian and so it made sense to me to grow some of our own food. Farming is a noble exploration into the wonder and miracle of life. How do those seeds know what to do? And how can we assist in a positive way for the whole environment? We apply a blend of science, art, and intuition into our farming techniques, and a lot of hard work. I delight in walking around the farm, and looking at everything that we’re creating. Jules and me and our boys are vegan, so having our farm be veganic is a simple extension of our own values. And, that feels good. And, I love eating the food!

Jules Latham  Owner

Jules Latham

As an environmental attorney, the arguments for taking care of our planet by adopting a vegan diet and caring for our soil and water table by practicing veganic farming just made sense. As a mom, it’s something I can feel truly good about. I’m honored to be able to support Mark and Billy as they do the real work of growing nutrient-rich, beautiful, delicious food, all while improving the health of our soil. That we do this without contaminating our crops with pesticides, or adding hormones or the possibility of animal-borne diseases to our produce and the environment, this is something to celebrate!

Billy Bullen  Farm Manager

Billy Bullen
Farm Manager

Flow Farm has changed my outlook on life regarding sustainability since I started here in 2010. Before I started working with Mark, I thought I knew what sustainability was, but through working here I have learned a whole new level of sustainable and eco-friendly practices. I'm finishing my degree in Sustainable Agriculture at Central Carolina Community College in Sanford/Pittsboro. My goal is to grow sustainable produce for our local community, and to pass on any knowledge I have to anyone interested in making our planet a better place. Working alongside Mark here at Flow Farm is an honor, and I hope to be here many more years growing food for our local community.

Kendra Lee  Photographer

Kendra Lee

As a self proclaimed ‘foodie’, it was a surprise to everyone in our lives when our 10-year-old announced she was no longer going to hurt animals by eating them. It was an even bigger shock to everyone when we all agreed to do follow her lead. Everything we knew about eating and food changed that very moment. While we are not 100% vegan, we have made huge changes and are learning to cook and love foods that we would have never considered before when every meal was centered around meat. Knowing our food doesn't hurt any living being makes mealtimes so much more gratifying. It's been an incredible year for us, and the cherry on the top has been my invitation to officially photograph Flow Farm. I am so very impressed with the hard work Mark and Billy have put in, and being asked to document the beauty of it all is a true honor.