As part of our celebration of National Co-op Month during October, we had the pleasure to visit and tour one of our Owner-Producer Farms – Ogburn Berries & Produce in Willow Spring, NC. They were very gracious hosts so we are delighted to feature them “In the Limelight”!
When we arrived, we were greeted with this personalized sign board welcoming us. Our hosts for the day were Sim Ogburn and his mom Sara. When we called to schedule our visit, Sim said that being it was the end of the season, that he didn’t know if there would be much for us to see. But, we took a chance anyway and are glad we did. We learned quite a bit.
Sim gave us a brief overview and history of Ogburn’s. This forth generation farm has seen many changes over the years. As have many other family farms in our area, Ogburn’s started as a tobacco farm, but is now home to many kinds of fruits and vegetables as well as cattle and even bees! And one of their larger crops in Spring is strawberries.
Our tour just happened to be right after Sim and his crew had put in the strawberry plants for next Spring’s crop. He told us about the different variety of berries and that he orders the “tips” from a specialty grower in Canada. He also shared that the plants are grown on black plastic to help keep the soil warmer and the weeds down. They use a drip irrigation system from a pond on the site that can be refilled quickly with a near-by well. In addition to watering the plants for hydration, we were fascinated to learn how Sim keeps the plants from freezing on those especially “hard frost or freeze’ nights. To keep the plants safe, he sprays them with water but must continue to do so throughout the night so he sleeps in his truck with the heat running! Now THAT’S dedication!!
After learning about the strawberries, we headed over to the large barn to check out this year’s sweet potato harvest. The photo below shows all the crates of potatoes that were ready for sale either at their produce stand, the Grower’s market or that would be sold to a packer for canning. The canning potatoes had been hand-selected by Sim and his staff based on the requirements (size, shape, etc) of the packing facility. He also showed us how to tell if a sweet potato was “cured” or not (hint – it has to do with whether or not the skin is soft or more firm).
You may already know that a sweet potato is a “tuber” that grows underground. But did you know that sweet potatoes aren’t started from seeds like most other vegetables? They are started from something called a “slip” which is a shoot grown from a mature potato. Farmers can order these slips or they can grow their own – which is what Ogburn’s does. So, some of these crates are set aside to become next year’s crop. This DIY Network post explains how the process works – of course in much larger scale on a farm. 🙂
Our tour continued with Sim sharing with us about some of their other products…honey, beef and corn. He said that they keep bees for two reasons: First, and most importantly, because the bees pollinate the produce; And second, they sell the honey. The beef portion of their business is seasonal as well due to breeding and harvesting seasons. During our visit, most of the new calves had been born within the last few weeks or so. Sim and Mrs. Sara shared tons of info about breeding, raising and managing cattle and even a few personal stories. We especially liked hearing about how much Mr. Ogburn, Sim’s dad, enjoys, and (according to Mrs. Sara) secretly loves, feeding the herd every day.
Ogburn’s Farm does also grow corn, but not for human consumption. They grow it mainly as animal feed (cows and chickens) and they do sell it by the bag-full for deer hunting.
The day of our visit the weather was beautiful – sunny with a very slight chill in the air. So, after the tour, we headed back to the Produce Stand to sample the snacks that Ms. Sara had prepared for us and to shop for our own goodies. In addition to their seasonal produce, they also sell delicious salsa (made from their tomatoes), fruit jams and syrups, jars of raw honey, and strawberry cider. To find out more about Ogburn Berries and Produce, please visit their website.
We want to again extend our thanks to Sim and Mrs. Sara for hosting us last month. We so enjoyed our Fall visit that we are making plans for a Spring tour to (maybe) include strawberry picking. So, if you missed it this time, be sure to check our newsletter for the spring date.