When the Maple View Farm and Milk Company announced in 2021 it was shutting down, many people mourned not being able to get fresh dairy products from the rural Orange County business. But what would become of the hundreds of acres of farmland?

As customers have visited the still-operating Maple View Ice Cream store, they’ve been taking notice of the change in scenery – as the 1,250 acres that used to have either cows or corn for feed are now filled with grapevines and sheep.

The former Maple View land is now Union Grove Farm, a major investment from a local venture capitalist who has a grand vision for the area. And while many people’s initial questions may be about the different crops and products it is producing, another element is how the farm is producing them.


Sheep cover a plot of land with tall grass, munching away as they stand between hundreds of stakes and lines for eventual grape vines. The sheep are moved – plot by plot across the various pieces of land – nearly every day as part of a rotational grazing system, which is a method known for being more eco-friendly than gas-powered mowers.

Union Grove Farm majority owner Greg Bohlen says it’s just one way his farm is approaching things differently than many others. Bohlen, who is known for running Union Grove Venture Partners and for having early investment in businesses like Beyond Meat and Poshmark, is also a fifth-generation farmer. But he’s taking an approach he says is more sustainable, environmentally friendly, and – frankly – palatable than traditional methods.

“We are the first certified regenerative table grape farm in the United States,” says Bohlen, “which we are proud of. We don’t use any of the ‘cides’: no pesticides, herbicides, insecticides, or fungicides.”

As its name suggests, regenerative farming aims to restore or improve the quality of soil where its crops are grown. For Union Grove Farm, that means using cover crops and treating the soil with its own vermiculture compost mix. Bohlen said his business partnered with Weaver Street Market locations and the Orange County Schools district to collect food waste, which is then given to hundreds of thousands of worms that create a nutrient-rich mix later sprayed onto the vineyard fields.

“‘Organic’ has been a term that’s been widely used,” he says, “and the problem with organic foods is you’re only concerned with the inputs, you’re not concerned with the outputs of what the food looks [and tastes] like. With regenerative [farming], one of the things that we’ve learned is that the best predictor of nutrient quality of the things that grow [is] the density of the biological activity under the surface of the soil.

“So,” Bohlen continues, “the more biological activity, the higher the nutrient density.”

To better share understanding of regenerative farming, the Union Grove Farm team opened and operates the Center for Regenerative Agriculture on its property. The space — repurposed from the Maple View Agricultural Center — is where farmers, soil experts, and community members can learn more about the process and its benefits for crops, consumers, and the climate. Bohlen’s partner, Meredith Sabye, co-founded the center and helps inform its variety of visitors while connecting with agricultural leaders.

The style of farming is not the only ambitious venture Bohlen is making with Union Grove Farm. The vineyard’s goal is to grow a new type of table grape developed by a Hillsborough resident and former grape breeder for N.C. State, Jeff Bloodworth. The fruit – for which Bohlen owns the license and says does not yet have an official name – is a thin-skinned, seedless muscadine, with the benefits of grapes known for juices but easier to eat. Bohlen says Union Grove planted about 8,000 vines in 2023, and it expects to plant 8,000 a week this year.

Along the fence posts separate Dairyland Road from Union Grove Farm’s vineyards, signs about regenerative farming methods are posted to inform those traveling by.

With Union Grove Farm operating in a voluntary agricultural district, Bohlen says he wants this venture to promote agricultural tourism in many ways. His business aspirations across the 1,250 acres are evident when looking at operations tangential to the farm. Union Grove sells lamb meat from its sheep herd and partners with local restaurants. An 1800s style cabin constructed with modern amenities on the property is available to rent on Airbnb, and Bohlen’s son constructed and runs a wedding venue a mile from the main farm house.

Up next, the business is looking to establish a distillery on site. After partnering with Steven Raets of Sonark Media to buy equipment off the closing Top of the Hill distillery, Bohlen is creating a team and a space he hopes will be open to customers by the fall. It will make brandy, as well as other amber and white liquors, and have a tasting room with limited restaurant service – for now. The founder says he hopes to scale it up further, adding more food options and a beer garden with a second story accessible by the silo with the Union Grove Farm mural.

“We had to first take an open-stall cow barn and completely rebuild [it],” says Bohlen of the distillery facility. “We brought in windows from Apple in Cupertino when they were doing their demo of one of their buildings. The windows are 60 feet long by 9 feet high, and it gives the building a very distinct look. But it also gives you a tremendous view of the vineyard and the space.”

The distillery equipment installed at Union Grove Farm, some of which came from Top of the Hill’s distillery after it shut down in February 2023.

Another element of the vision is a potential performance venue right outside the distillery, with artists playing against a backdrop of boulders dug up from the farmland and grapevines in the distance. While that aspect of the project is a long way off from being official, Raets says it’s hard not to get excited about its prospects for attracting artists and audiences.

“It is a natural marriage, almost, to have the scenery that Greg has created together with the music – potentially – and together with the distillery,” he says. “The fact you can eat something, take your kids out on a Saturday, and just hang out. Both the kids can be entertained and the parents – and that’s a no-brainer. There’s not a lot of stuff like that out here.”

And, like everything else with Union Grove, Bohlen says his distillery will be completely regenerative as well, including the local grains.

“We would be the first fully regenerative distillery in the United States,” he describes. “Again, when you taste what’s produced, there’s a jaw-dropping difference in the quality of the alcohol.”

Bohlen understands that the Maple View Ice Cream store is still a major part of day-to-day tourism to the area – and was how he discovered the farmland after moving to Chapel Hill in the late 1990s. With that, he says Union Grove Farm is regularly in touch with the shop to make sure people are well and happy. The latest step in the relationship is coming soon, which Bohlen jokingly credits to Sabye’s love of coffee.

“We are putting a mobile coffee trailer up across from the ice cream store,” he says, which will be called Blue Heeler Coffee. “People will be able to come and hopefully be able to get delicious Larry’s Coffee from 7 to 10 in the morning. We’re trying to provide more utilization of the space, have more reasons for people to come and enjoy a little bit of time in the country.”

And with more people visiting the farmlands west of Chapel Hill and Carrboro, Bohlen says he hopes they take away more than just great products from what Union Grove Farm has to offer.

“The only reason I’m doing any of this,” he says, “is I want consumers to begin to understand and hear the word ‘regenerative.’”


Editor’s Note: An earlier version of this article incorrectly said Union Grove Farm is operating in a building envelope approved by the Triangle Land Conservancy. That exemption is still being negotiated and the line has been removed.

Featured photo via Meredith Sabye/Union Grove Farm.

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