Log in Newsletter

Good Eats

Feed your soul

Garden center, farmers market, grocery and country cafe — Pate’s Farm Market offers life’s simple pleasures in abundance

Posted

Whenever I feel the need to nurture my soul, I head to a garden center and walk among the flowers. I don’t even pretend to have inherited a green thumb from my mom, who could turn weeds into luscious blooms. She was the plant whisperer.
For several years, my nursery of choice was the popular Carolina Market on Raeford Road near Montclair, a fixture since about 1990. Like many locals, the rites of spring included a trip for red, pink and white geraniums to plant in my window boxes. Fall signaled a time for mums in golden and burnt orange hues. A stroll among Christmas trees — in all their natural, healing aromatherapy glory — ushered in the holiday season.
When I wanted produce, that was another trip. All the way to Reilly Road Farmers Market, where the pickings were fresh and the service friendly at the market open since 1982. Once, I was so enamored by the selection, I photographed bundled stalks of asparagus that looked like dancers and captured other lush specimens of goodness. The muscadines always shined like purple and green jewels. The workers there thought I was a bit of a weirdo, but hey, what else is new?
What I didn’t know at the time is that both businesses were owned by Mike Pate, a 1981 graduate of South View High School who started out as a teen selling peaches by the side of Cumberland Road as a way to boost his income laboring at the nearby textile mill.
Pate was always thinking big. He had a dream of combining his two businesses into one giant location called Pate’s Farm Market and adding more stuff to, well, feed our souls. Not a natural disaster, a coma or a pandemic would stop him.
He is forevermore a man with a big dream, a good woman by his side, and the people working with both of them who have believed all along.

The Pate’s experience
On July 30, 2021 — during the height of the COVID pandemic — Mike and his wife, Rochelle, and their dedicated team opened Pate’s Farm Market on the corner of Raeford and Bunce roads in western Cumberland County.
Spanning 10 acres, the operation includes a Disney World of garden centers, ripe for exploring and complete with Instagram-worthy seasonal decorations such as pumpkins, gourds and cornstalks. There’s also a 17,000-square-foot shopping experience under a red-metal roof building featuring fresh seasonal produce, Amish jams and sauces, a meat market with the usuals, plus exotics from ostrich to oxtails, alligator, bison, buffalo, elk, frog legs, quail — and so much more.
“We like to carry something for everyone,” says a smiling employee.
Tucked into one side of the operation, you’ll find a covered hot bar with country favorites made by a talented, 25-year-old cook named Woody Kay, who largely learned his craft by watching YouTube videos. The food is served up by the nicest ladies.
So, if this is Monday, it must be Meatloaf Day. Lunch/dinner menus change daily, with tasty side dishes that include mashed potatoes or rice and gravy, mac and cheese, and well-seasoned vegetables (we always like cabbage and collards), along with homemade cornbread or a pillow-soft yeast roll. The cost is $10.99, plus tax. If peach cobbler is available, go for it and savor every sweet bite.
Crispy fried chicken, fried pork chops and hamburger steak also get an extra thumbs-up. Arrive by 11 a.m. on Saturday for the chicken and pastry, made the good old-fashioned Southern way. All meals are best enjoyed on the outdoor patio with a view of folks in the garden center, some pulling plant-filled red wagons. Or get your orders to-go and make both you and your family happy.
Bonus: Cakes. Choose from maybe a dozen varieties, including red velvet and coconut pineapple. Sliced, half-cakes or whole. We went for a half carrot cake ($15.99) that got devoured in less than two days by three people. The scratch-made pound cakes also are best-sellers.

Build it and they will come
When we visited Pate’s Farm Market in late September and early October, Mike Pate hadn’t been in lately, his wife said. That’s because he was overseeing their two Pate farms — one in the North Carolina mountains and the other in Virginia — where he grows pumpkins and gourds and also Fraser fir Christmas trees. The goods are not only for the Fayetteville business but but also for other garden centers.
“This is my second passion,” he says in a phone interview. “I guess you could say this is my last rodeo.”
People who know Mike Pate, who’s 59, wouldn’t bet on it. They’ll tell you the guy always has something up his sleeve for creating ways to better serve his customers. And the determination of a bull.
His will was tested on April 16, 2011, when a record 30 tornadoes touched down in the state — including one that destroyed his farmers market on Reilly Road.
Barbara Kunik, who has worked with Pate as a cashier for roughly half her life — she’s 76 now — remembers the day well.
“The tornado blew out the windows and took the roof off,” she recalls. “Mike got the word out throughout the neighborhood to come and get the groceries. He made sure everyone got groceries.”
He also rebuilt the business.
Kunik says she always knew Pate was a “go-getter who wants to offer the best produce at a fair price.” She adds, “He’s like a son to me.”
While the new Pate’s Farm Market was in the works from the ground up, there was another setback.
Mike contracted a severe case of pneumonia in 2019 while working at the farms and was put in a medically induced coma for two weeks and hospitalized for more than 40 days. Rochelle says she nearly lost him.
And then, the pandemic struck.
But Pate and his team overcame the challenges and delays of changing times. He credits his wife with holding down the fort and managing the staff, vendors, farmers and other suppliers, among other daily operations.
“We are blessed. I couldn’t do it without her,” he says.
Pate’s Farm Market is at 6411 Raeford Road near Seventy-First High School. The nursery is open from 9 a.m. to 7 p.m. Monday through Saturday and 11 a.m. to 6 p.m. Sunday. The inside farmers market/grocery is open from 8 a.m. to 7 p.m. Monday through Saturday and closed on Sunday. The food bar with country favorites is open from 11 a.m. to 6 p.m. Monday through Saturday and closed Sunday. Call 910-426-1575 or check Pate’s Facebook page for daily menus.


X