Dan Green

Dan Green, co-owner of Woodcrest Farm & Forge, adjusts the heat at the forge where he teaches blacksmithing.

As you wander up the driveway, past the big, white farmhouse toward the barn owned by Dan and Liza Green, you’re likely to hear the distant chatter between goats, chickens, sheep, and other farm animals, along with greetings from Sadie, the Border Collie. Rising above sounds commonly associated with farms, is a loud, and rhythmic clanging of metal against metal, followed by a short, silent pause, and then the beat resumes.

In the not too distant past, blacksmithing was a regular function of life on a working farm, with toolmaking skills learned and passed down from generation to generation, much like Dan Green’s father, Allan, did with him.

Allan and Chris Green purchased the farm on Dairyland Road in 1993, and founded Woodcrest Farm. The couple raised their family there, and spent more than two decades turning their home into a working farm, with gardens, farm animals, and a working forge, where Allen would lead classes in blacksmithing. 

In 2020, Dan and Liza purchased the property from their parents with the intention of building on the working and teaching aspects of the family farm. Today, Woodcrest Farm & Forge offers camps, tours, blacksmithing classes, and sells produce, eggs, beef, and pork. 

The elder Greens moved to a smaller house nearby, but they remain closely involved with the business of running the farm and its expanding offerings.

“We see so much potential here and we see so much opportunity to create a community space that is welcoming and serves the immediate needs of a lot of folks,” said Dan Green, who now leads the blacksmithing classes. “We see boundless opportunity and opportunity for our family to share so much of what my parents built.”

The Green family had originally moved to North Carolina from upstate New York. Even though they hadn’t lived in a particularly bustling area of New York, there still was a measure of culture shock for the family to cope with. But farm life agreed with Allen and Chris, who learned new skills and built a working farm.

Dan went to Stanford Middle School and graduated from Orange High. He attended UNC-Chapel Hill, starting out as a Poli-Sci major, but soon returned to his love for theater, which he had been involved with since early in high school. After earning his degree from UNC, Dan briefly lived in Atlanta where, despite thoroughly disliking his time there, met his future wife, Liza. The two of them moved from Atlanta to New York City.

“We had a great life there,” he said. “I started working for Blue Man Group as an electrician. I specialized in lighting and special effects and that kind of thing. I worked there from around 2003 or 2004, until we left in 2016.”

During his time working for Blue Man Group, Dan’s responsibilities with the company grew. He became more capable with his hands as a technician, and gained management and administrative experiences when he was running his department. 

It wasn’t long after he and Liza had their first child that Dan began to notice changes in the company he worked for. The couple talked about wanting to try something different. At about that same time in 2016, Dan’s parents were expressing their desire to step away from the long days of running the farm, and downsize to another part of their property up the road.

That year, Dan and Liza returned to Hillsborough for a month to determine if it was the move they wanted to make. They ended up spending the next four years, during which they had another child, working with Dan’s parents, learning about what working on the farm meant, and planning what their version of it would look like.

“And then we purchased the farm from them in 2020, right before the pandemic,” Dan said. “In February, we said ‘OK, here’s the plan. This is what we’re gonna do. These are the business things we’re going to maintain and this is the schedule for us moving into this house here,’ because we were living in a rental across the road. And then the pandemic hit. It was the best decision we’d ever made. We have this acreage and we had a place for our kids.” 

So now, the same person who, as a youth questioned his parents’ decision to purchase a farm, is now reveling in the benefits the farm will provide in raising his own children. 

While Liza works full-time in Raleigh as the Associate Director at the performing arts program N.C. State Live, Dan handles much of the upkeep of the farm, and organization of the classes and camps. And, if all goes well, he wants to make it a sustainable business.

The onsite forge plays a key role in those plans. One of the unexpected pluses of the pandemic was an increase in the number of people looking for educational activities that could be done outdoors. Woodcrest Farm had been already marketed to homeschools, but often even youths in Orange County Schools had at least one open day of the week when there were no virtual classes. Woodcrest offered an option.

“My sister-in-law is an educator and she and I started doing the first camps here, and now we work with another camp leader who works in the area and shares our values of having this place for kids to come and play and learn about the farm and get outside,” Dan said. “That seems to have really resonated with a lot of folks.”

While Woodcrest Farm offers classes and camps on plant and animal care, and trails to hike, there is also a large barn on the premises that provides plenty of space and tables for art classes and projects. The Art on the Farm camps even include creative movement collaborations with goats and other farm animals.

For the blacksmithing camps and classes, materials are provided for learning fundamental techniques, shop and tool safety, and forge and fire maintenance. Dan said students will learn to make hooks, fire tools, and home decor, but there is no specific pace or expectation of the students, even though most kids who take the class leave with a feeling of accomplishment.

“There’s people who feel empowered by the transition they’re able to make to bring to this the steel to the raw materials here,” he said. It’s hard work. It’s physical work, and if they’re not ready for it there might be a lot more guidance required. But I can’t think of a time when someone didn’t enjoy it.”

Dan said eventually he plans to enclose the forge and add a venting system so classes can be protected from the cold and heat, and from the elements.

“We really think that nonprofit status is probably in our future,” he said. “We have we have dreams and we have goals. We would like the farming aspect of this place — raising and selling our own all-natural pork and beef and eggs — to grow, but I do it all by myself, more or less at this point. We have volunteers come every once in a while. But we would really like to grow that aspect of it and continuing as an educational farm.”

Dan also said he’s sees Woodcrest Farm operating as a sort of incubator space, where guest farmers or young farmers could come in and use part of the farm’s land, resources, and experience.

“We really want this to be a community space,” he said. “We want this to be a place where folks in this area — not just our neighborhood out here in Orange Grove — know that they’ve got a farm to go to where they can come get this food, this vital resource that is going to be good for them. It’s going to be good for the environment. It’s going to be the way it’s raised. And they can see how it’s all done. They can learn about how it’s all done.”

For more information about Woodcrest Farm & Forge, go to www.woodcrestfarmnc.com