Unique Places To Save Takes 50 Percent Ownership Stake in Orange County Farms, Retail Venues
February 1, 2019 (CHAPEL HILL, NC) In its fifth anniversary year, big changes are coming for Chapel Hill-based non-profit Unique Places to Save.
UP2Save, a non-profit with an entrepreneurial approach to land conservation, agri-tourism, nature education, and community placemaking, has taken a 50 percent ownership stake in multiple Orange County ventures, including the Honeysuckle Tea House.
As of the new year, Unique Places To Save (UP2Save) now holds half-ownership in EastWest Organics LLC, which owns the Honeysuckle Tea House, Farm and Gardens in rural western Orange County which is home to the Honeysuckle Meadery; the Keith Collection at Honeysuckle Gardens, an arboretum with nearly 3,500 named species of temperate woody trees and shrubs; the adjoining 143-acre Pickards Mountain Natural Heritage Area; and the Honeysuckle Café and Bar (the former Looking Glass Café) in Carrboro.
“The vision we are implementing at Unique Places To Save is to create a community-wide campus of farm and forest, food and beverage experiences - together known as The Honeysuckle - that connect people to the land in meaningful ways,” said Executive Director David Harper. “Those connections are what keeps the stewardship ethic in our culture that is so vital in guiding our land use decisions. These cherished places were created and protected by visionary landowners, and could have become private properties. We are taking on the responsibility of saving them as community assets. Now we have the exciting challenge responsibility to steward them into the future by offering new ways for people of all ages to enjoy them,” Harper explained.
EastWest Organics is a farm-to-beverage company founded by impact investors. With the new partnership, investor partners can specialize in creating and selling value-added farm products, while UP2Save can galvanize community involvement through its educational tours, workshops, and events that all celebrate land conservation. “Our private, for-profit partners can now focus on selling a variety of beverages, including teas and meads, produced right here on Honeysuckle Farm and sold at the Tea House and Cafe&Bar, while we fulfill our non-profit mission of creating places that make our communities unique,” said Harper.
“For example,” Harper explained, “When you enjoy our locally-sourced herbal teas, berry-based smoothies or meads, you experience the life of the farm, and your kids can be kids here. In celebration of the 5th anniversary of the Honeysuckle Tea House, we are creating the coolest natural playground in true Honeysuckle spirit -- as a community-supported effort.”
With the organization’s investment, half of all profits come back to the non-profit for its mission projects, like land conservation, wetlands protection, and education, while income from all Unique Places To Save activities, such as tours, workshops, and from donations and memberships, is completely remitted to the organization.
The organization has begun hosting regular educational tours of the farm and the Keith Collection for groups and organizations. Woods Charter School in nearby Chatham County has sent multiple groups of students to enjoy learning about honey and berry production and how herbal teas are made. “The farm offers so many great lessons for students who can walk through the beds where the herbs and berries are grown, see the beehives that pollinated the plants, and the compost that builds living soil for them to grow without chemicals,” said farm manager Ryan Smith. “Science, the S in STEM education, isn’t about so much more than textbooks and labs. We show people working lessons that they otherwise couldn’t see on private, completely for-profit farms, where the the focus is on running a successful farm business.”
UP2Save plans to use its entrepreneurial flare to form strategic partnerships that promote the growth of North Carolina farms, breweries, meaderies, and wineries. “We are proud to have recently received a North Carolina agritourism grant from the Department of Agriculture,” said Associate Director Christina Vad. “We’re lining up food and beverage experiences in partnership with other producers, like Orange County’s Botanist & Barrel (B&B). Just as people may head to the Yadkin Valley to tour the wineries, we’d like to see the Triangle become the epicenter of the North Carolina craft beverage movement, where tourists could take in a cidery like B&B, our Honeysuckle Meadery, or go to a place like the tasting room at the Honeysuckle Café and Bar to experience beverages from all over the area and state.”
For Director of Horticulture Becca Wait, the power of the non-profit is about connecting with people. “We are launching a number of great programs at the Keith Collection, reinventing what an arboretum can be,” she said. “We’re bringing in students as environmental investigators, helping us to identify new species in the collection. In addition, we recently hosted a botanical photo session for newlyweds who were having their friends and family over to the tea house for their wedding celebration.”
For Harper, the connection goes beyond the immediate. “We are curating the places where people can meet, have a retreat, get married, reunite, listen to great music, and drink the best of what North Carolina has to offer, and just love the land.”
UP2Save plans to move from its current half-week access at its farm and associated venues to full, seven-day accessibility. The Honeysuckle Tea House, an iconic gathering spot for Chapel Hill denizens and those from surrounding areas, will reopen for the 2019 season in late March/early April.
For more information on Unique Places To Save and its collection of sustainable farming and horticulture operations, visit www.uniqueplacestosave.org.