Whether you’ve seen her cooking up Southern dishes on the Hallmark Channel or leafed through her cookbook filled with mouthwatering buttermilk roasted chicken, sage and sausage stuffed acorn squash, or field peas, you probably know Jamie DeMent best as “The Farmhouse Chef.”

By day, DeMent (whose full name is Jamie DeMent Holcomb) is planting, harvesting, cooking, and selling products from her farm and by night, she’s writing about food for her next cookbook.

Today, she’s announcing she will run for the 23rd District state Senate seat. 

State Sen. Valerie Foushee, a Democrat who represents the area currently, announced Wednesday that she will run for election to North Carolina’s newly drawn U.S. House District 6, in the wake of Rep. David Price’s announcement of retirement from the congressional seat that formerly covered much of the new district’s territory in Orange and Durham Counties.

DeMent is a registered Democrat and has a strong platform on issues such as healthcare, education, and reproductive rights. She says voters should consider her because of her ability to thread the needle of two critical elements to the 23rd district—rural living and research—and hopes her background in both government and farming will help her in her bid for senate.

Rural roots

DeMent grew up in rural Louisburg, North Carolina, where her family had a farm supply company, learning about cooking, farming, preserving, and feminism from the strong women in her community. In a family of public school teachers and first responders, DeMent says she felt called to a life of public service as well. 

After graduating from UNC-Chapel Hill with a bachelor’s degree in Southern History and African American Studies, DeMent moved from Chapel Hill to Capitol Hill to work as a legislative aide for former U.S. Rep. Brad Miller.

Though she never thought she’d return to rural life, DeMent says she felt a pull back toward the Old North State. She soon found herself working as a director of special projects at the North Carolina Museum of Natural Sciences in Raleigh, where she met her now-husband, Richard Holcomb.

Together, DeMent and Holcomb own Coon Rock Farm in Hillsborough, a 55- acre farm that lies along the Eno River, as well as Bella Bean Organics, an online company that delivers local and organic foods to individual homes and businesses.

The couple also ran the Piedmont Restaurant in Durham, which closed in 2020 after an out-of-state investor purchased the building that housed it.

From her work in the restaurant, DeMent created recipes, found people wanted them, and figured what better way to share them than in a cookbook. Her first cookbook, The Farmhouse Chef: Recipes and Stories from My Carolina Farm, was published in 2017 by UNC Press.

DeMent has since published another book about canning and appears frequently on the Hallmark Channel’s Home & Family show.


How does a background in Southern cooking and sustainable farming translate to a bid for state senate?

DeMent’s interest in public office dates back to her days as a legislative assistant. 

“I wanted in some capacity to serve my state and my nation in whatever opportunity that arose,” she says. “When I heard that Valerie Foushee was thinking about running for David Price’s seat, it seemed like an obvious moment for me to step forward and do the work that I’ve wanted to do for a long time.”

DeMent’s campaign platform prioritizes education, healthcare, and environmental stewardship. It also prioritizes children and families, as DeMent has a one-month-old daughter.

“I want [my daughter] to grow up in a world where education is accessible to every single person,” DeMent says. “That their life choices aren’t limited by, can they afford to go to college? Could a child’s parents afford to send them to a preschool program? I want to make sure that we have equitable access to education across the board.”

DeMent says she wants to support building up North Carolina’s public universities and community colleges, in particular. 

“There’s a phrase that UNC is the ‘light on the hill’—I think that in the past several years, that light has gotten a little dim,” DeMent says, adding that she wants to work with state leaders and “the wide network of university supporters across the state and nation to make sure that UNC stays the flagship of our university system and that it remains a beacon of light and public education across the nation.”

From her background in sustainable farming, DeMent says she’s been fighting climate change on her own in small ways her whole life. She says she supports the increased use of renewable energy resources and believes the government needs to back these efforts with subsidies. She also hopes to direct more state resources toward public transportation, particularly high-speed rail and buses.

“Climate change, it’s a real and an immediate threat,” she says. ‘We’re falling drastically short of addressing it as we should.”

DeMent’s platform is firm on the need for affordable, quality healthcare, particularly in rural areas, and she says she is concerned that abortion rights are in danger due to the current composition of the U.S. Supreme Court. Her votes in the state Senate, she says, will support healthcare and reproductive rights in North Carolina. 

“If we provide preventative care to all of our citizens, at the end of the day, we’re going to save money,” she says. “I think it’s just common sense.”

DeMent says she’s well suited to run for the 23rd District seat due to her diverse set of experiences as a government employee, small business owner, and farmer. 

“I live in and represent rural North Carolina on my farm, but I also have deep ties in the higher ed and tech worlds in North Carolina,” DeMent says.“I think that my understanding of both spaces can do a lot for this district.”

Support independent local journalism. Join the INDY Press Club to help us keep fearless watchdog reporting and essential arts and culture coverage viable in the Triangle. 

Comment on this story at backtalk@indyweek.com.