On Saturday May 16th, the Ogburn family once again welcomed The Community Market Owners for a Spring tour of their farm. It was a gorgeous, warm afternoon perfect for walking the fields and learning about what makes Ogburn Berries & Produce one of the amazing Producers we are so fortunate to have in Wake County.
A hundred years ago, the Ogburn family farm looked very different than it does today. Purchased in the early 1900’s, Simeon Ogburn began the farm by growing tobacco with a few head of cattle. The land was tilled using a pair of mules and a wooden plow. There was only the small family farmhouse and a barn on the property. Three generations and almost a full century later, his namesake Simeon “Sim” Ogburn is following in his great-great-grandfather’s footsteps… with a few changes.
These days, the farm has transitioned from growing tobacco and now focuses on a diversified array of crops, a commercial herd of cattle, and a small hive of honey bees. Three homes dot the landscape where Sim, his parents and his grandmother live. Barns, workshops and a small greenhouse fill what space the crops and cattle do not. Tractors and other heavy equipment have replaced the mules; Although there’s still plenty done by hand on the farm every day.
As a graduate of NC State University, Sim brings back to the family farm a strong interest in sustainable farming. He uses science and technology to complement the experience and expertise his Father and Grandfather instilled in him. Just talking with him, it’s easy to see and feel the love he has for his family’s land and the farming lifestyle.
Ogburn’s grows a mix of strawberries, corn, cabbage, cucumbers, cantaloupe, squash, zucchini, tomatoes, eggplants, watermelons, bell peppers, jalapenos, sweet potatoes, peas and carrots. They have about 150 head of cattle and use artificial insemination to better the genetics of their herd. The farm grows its own hay for the cows to eat, along with a few grains (milo, rye and wheat), corn and soybeans. A sophisticated method of crop rotation minimizes disease among their plants. (Interesting farm fact: Tomatoes are related to Tobacco plants and as a result are susceptible to the same diseases.) A “drip” irrigation system is in place that allows them to regulate exactly how much water and fertilizer each crop receives in a day. (Another interesting farm fact: Did you know that tomatoes need about an hour and fifteen minutes of watering every day? Or that strawberries need 1 pound of Nitrogen fertilizer per acre each day?)
Sim talked with us at length about the care he puts into each of his crops; How he painstakingly chooses which varieties of tomatoes to plant, how each crop is scheduled to the day for optimum yield and the lengths to which he goes to ensure his customer’s happiness. “We plant a lot of our crops on plastic partially because it keeps the produce cleaner and our customers like that,” Sim tells us with a smile.
Ogburn’s is located on Old Stage Road in Willow Spring, NC. Very soon their Roadside Stand will be brimming with seasonal produce, so stop in and say hello. There’s a good chance you’ll spy Sim (or his dad) working out in the field. His mom Sarah might be helping stock fresh produce. They are sure to greet you with their warm hospitality and southern charm. And, if you’ve got a few minutes, they just might share with you their passion for farming and growing delicious food.
You can also find them at the Fuquay Varina Grower’s Market on Wednesdays and Saturdays.
Sim’s Tips for Keeping Strawberries Fresh
- Get them out of the heat as soon as possible.
- Don’t wash the fruit until you’re ready to eat it. Water will cause the berries to soften and spoil faster.
- If you plan to keep your berries for longer than a day or two, refrigerate them. (Otherwise, they are okay to keep out on the counter short term.)
- Keep the caps on the berries. Once you cut off the green tops, the berries will start to lose their moisture and dry out.