She’s planted it, picked it, packed it, tended it and sold it her whole life, and now Tonya Honrine’s farm girl dream of selling her own produce at the State Farmers Market has come true, complete with her own sites where, this week, she also added her very own office.
Last week, in the yard of her family’s produce packing shed, not too far from Kerr Memorial Church in the Sharecake Community, Honrine proudly showed off the 8x15 (120 foot) building that was lovingly constructed by friends who wanted to help the 36-year-old realize her dream.
It has been now, she firmly attested, smiling as she walked around the still under-construction building that was completed and moved just two days ago.
The building is her pride and joy, the cherry atop a wonderful dream now fully realized.
It was a dream she’s had ever since she visited the State Farmers Market with her father, Stanley Honrine, when she was just 4 years old.
“We’d go there to sell our produce, and once we finished there, we’d drive over to the Big Star grocery store and sell to them. I always had a lot of fun, and I just wanted to one day be able to have my own place at the market. It just seemed like something great to do.”
Farming has always been in her blood. A sixth generation farmer, Honrine, daughter of Stanley and Mary Ruth Honrine, has walked the farm, picked the cucumbers, squash and egg plants most of her life, and later, sold them, either with her family or on her own.
“I guess you could say it’s in my blood … farming runs deep,” she said, a sheepish grin spreading across her face.
But farming didn’t always equate to being on the Sampson County farm full time. When she graduated from Hobbton High School in 1994, she moved to Wilmington and began taking classes at Cape Fear Community College. Her field was marine technology. She later transferred to Brunswick Community College for aqua tech, but it wasn’t long before she found herself back on the farm.
“A friend of my father’s was at Duke Hospital, literally on his death bed, and he told my family he needed to see me. I went up there to visit and he looked me in the eye and said ‘Tonya, your family needs you on the farm,’ so I did just that, I went back.
Then Hurricane Fran came through, devastating the Honrine farm. “We didn’t have anything left. We lost it all. We started cutting trees down and selling them just to make some money. But we didn’t let it get us down, you know that’s the nature of farming. It’s all a gamble.”
But Honrine believes it’s a gamble worth taking. “It’s the nature of farming, but I’ll always put my money on the land before anything else.”
Life on the Sampson County farm, though, didn’t take in 1996, though farming was never far from her existence. She eventually moved back to Wilmington, opened her own produce business and began a wholesale business, returning home to gather the produce she’d then sell about an hour away.
But Sampson County roots run deep and so did Honrine’s dream of the Farmers Market. She’d put her name on the list for available sites, but nothing had ever come to fruition. She waited six long years, biding her time and hoping.
Then it happened.
“I was so excited. I mean, you wait and wait and then it happens. It’s really a dream come true.” That came in November, and the Sampson native jumped at the chance.
By this time she was home again — permanently, she attests — and eager to ply her produce trade.
“I came home because it was time. My parents are getting older, and I knew this was where I needed to be, and working with them was what I needed to be doing. So I made the decision and I came home.”
On Nov. 8, she got her sites at the Farmer’s Market.
It was her daddy’s idea to construct an office.
She had been using her car and the trailer, but deep down she, too, hoped for a building that would make her business that much more official.
Enter John Monk. A carpenter by trade, Monk had been framing new houses for years, when the economy was good, then he began remodeling work. He has spent much time helping the Honrines and loves Tonya like family.
When he heard she wanted an office, he wanted to help.
“Tonya’s a hard-working girl. I wanted to help her.”
Honrine smiles at Monk. “He’s been good to me, that’s for sure. He did such a good job with this. John had the wood from old houses and we repurposed it.”
The end result is a building constructed from mostly recycled materials, some of it from as far back as the late 1800s and early 1900s.
“Everything is from Sampson County. Even the guys who moved it, Williamson Mini Buildings, are from here, and the things that aren’t recycled, like the door knob and the ceiling fan, they came from Sampson County businesses. I wanted it to be that way. I’d rather keep it local,” Honrine said proudly.
Love of home runs as deeply as love of farming, and even though Honrine is plying her trade in Raleigh, it’s home-grown and purely Sampson.
“All of this just comes natural to me. I started selling produce with my family in Faison when I was a little girl, and I’ve been into it ever since. I’ve picked it, packed it, planted it … you name it. Even when I was living in Wilmington, I was still taking produce form here and selling it there.
“I just love doing it. And, I love being a part of the farm life. There’s something really nice about sitting down to a table and knowing that most of what is own your plate you actually grew. It’s a kinda special that’s hard to describe.”