PYP 103: Lee and Larry Newlin on Healthy Soil, Healthy Farms, Healthy Food, and Healthy People

lee-larry-newlinLee and Larry Newlin are the proprietors of Peaceful River Farm in southern Orange County, North Carolina. Larry runs the ecological farm, and Lee takes the produce and teaches people how to prepare healthy food and live a healthy lifestyle.

Before adopting this challenging and idyllic lifestyle, the Newlins worked 80-hour weeks running their garden centers, living and raising their children on fast food and convenience foods. That all changed one day in 2005 when Lee got a call at 6pm on Friday evening. “It’s not an ulcer,” her doctor informed her. It’s cancer.”

Fast forward 10 years, Lee is totally cancer free, their farm is helping restoring the ecosystem next to what was one of the most polluted rivers in North America, and I get to be their neighbor!

In our in-person conversation, we discussed:

  • the lessons from Lee’s battle with non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma
  • the cancer diagnosis: a bolt from the sky
  • “Can you give me something to read about how to beat cancer?”t
  • tricking hydrangea lovers into learning about nutrition
  • the gift of being declared cancer-free – and Lee’s commitment to cherish it
  • how not to roll over in the face of medical paternalism
  • how Lee connected with her body by apologizing to all her organs for the cancer
  • transitioning from chemical agriculture to ecological farming
  • the importance of aesthetics in farming
  • resurrecting “dead nature”
  • taking “downstream” seriously
  • why their farm was inspired by classic gardens rather than conventional farms
  • the beauty and convenience of the kitchen garden
  • extending the garden season through micro-climates
  • how going organic can save old farms
  • turning around an unsustainable food system
  • billions of billions of organisms in a tablespoon of soil
  • the connection between soil health and human health
  • how to substitute healthy for unhealthy ingredients
  • and much more…

Enjoy, add your voice to the conversation via the comment box below, and please share – that's how we spread our message and spread our roots.


The music for today’s show was generously provided by Will Ridenour, a kora player from North Carolina who has trained with top Senegalese musicians. Both tracks can be found on his first CD, titled Will Ridenour. You can learn about Will, listen to more tracks, and buy music on his website,

Intro/outro track: Dance of Peace (Sabali Don)


Lee and Larry's Projects
Peaceful River Farm – Lee and Larry's Farm
Peaceful River Farm on Facebook
Lee's Healthy Cooking Classes on Facebook
The Lost Gardens of Heligan
The Gardens at Forde Abbey

Books Discussed
Dr. Gaynor's Cancer Prevention Program – Dr. Mitch Gaynor
Radical Remission – Kelly Turner, PhD
Square Foot Gardening – Mel Bartholemew
Sustainable Market Farming  – Pam Dawling
The New Organic Grower – Elliot Coleman

Other Resources
Carolina Farm Stewardship Association 

My Photos of Peaceful River Farm


The demo kitchen and learning center (I'll be holding some Plant Yourself Intro Dinners there – go here for details.)


The kitchen garden and fruit arbor.


The full kitchen garden, behind the house.


Larry checking on the spring crops.


The greenhouse where the baby plants grow.

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