To meet Sandy Gabel is to meet a man living his dream. Owning and operating a farm has been his deepest wish for most of his life. He got the bug as a young child growing up on his parents’ farm in Connecticut and living in proximity to cows, sheep and chickens.
Beef cattle and hay
During college at Duke University in the late 1960s, his parents invested in a farm on Green Level Road (in what is now Cary). Sandy lived and worked on the farm and commuted to Duke to study English. He recalls, “It was the only way my parents figured I’d ever stay in school and get a degree.”
Then Sandy’s path took a turn away from farm life and he moved to New York City to join his family’s insurance brokerage firm on Wall Street. He stayed there for over 30 years, building a career in the financial industry, and saving the money he would eventually need to realize his agricultural dream. He left New York in 2005 and moved back to North Carolina, purchasing a plot of land outside of Oxford. Beef cattle were the first species to join him. Since then, he and his wife Laura have together built a new home overlooking their pastures. Their livestock collection now includes dogs, horses, donkeys, alpacas, chickens and guinea fowl.
Little Grassy Creek Farm now comprises more than 950 acres of pasture land and forest and is on track to ultimately accommodate a 100-cow operation. They prefer small-to-medium framed red and black Angus with a little Hereford mixed in. Strip grazing might just be Sandy’s “middle name.” He moves his cattle to new pasture every day, using the power of his own two legs, a roll of polywire and an ATV to travel between herds. As Sandy walks his pastures, he takes a large “salt shaker” of ladino clover seed to help diversify the forage mix. During the winter months, he’ll distribute hay using a bale processor. This unique machine chops up a round bale of hay and spreads it in a long line, enabling cattle to have equal access and more evenly distribute their manure.