Inside a high tunnel on the Butler Family Farm, organic green tomatoes captured the attention of visitors on Monday afternoon. Sam Butler is looking forward to them turning red before the end of 2017.
He was glad to show a group interested people success inside a high tunnel. Sampson County Cooperative Extension hosted its High Tunnel Production Workshop, with the assistance of Butler. If established properly, grow tunnels may produce some good results throughout the year. As a farmer, he enjoyed sharing his story and spending time with people.
“If you’re into agriculture, you definitely need to have a love for it,” Butler said about the family farm that’s been around since the early 1900s.
It took Butler and other members of his family about three to four months. The fall harvest, will be the second successful season of growing the certified organic crops, which are later sold to grocery stores.
“We’re still on a small scale, but we still want to produce a profit,” Butler said. “This is like a compliment to our growth.”
James Hartsfield, a farm management agent for Sampson and Duplin County joined Butler for the presentation. He said the whole process was a learning experience for Butler and himself. The process involved communicating with horticulture specialist from North Carolina Agricultural & Technical University.
“I think that’s a good alternative for small farmers who want to engage in looking at other enterprises,” Hartsfield said.
Nelson Brownlee, area farm management for Robeson and Bladen Counties, presented information on tunnels. Some of the topics covered various growing seasons, economics and the different types of greenhouses.
As an agent, Hartsfield helps people find financial assistance. One of the programs was a cost sharing program through the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) — Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS). Kellyam Valle-Cancel, NRCS Soil Conservationist, from the Sampson County Soil and Water Conservation Services, spoke about some of the requirements based on size and crop growth.
Dwayne Faircloth, a NRCS Soil Conservation technician, worked with Timmy Butler, after he became interested in high tunnels.
“One thing we had to look for was a suitable site,” Faircloth said.
That involved finding a site far away from trees and a spot with enough sunlight.
“That’s what we need to heat up everything,” he said.
Lenon Hickman, traveled from Duplin County to participate in the workshop. Like Butler, he enjoys the organic process of growing organic crops. Butler Family Farms is GAP (Good Agricultural Practices) certified through the USDA for the work, which mostly goes to supermarkets.
“It’s challenging, but it makes the food taste better with no chemicals,” Hickman said.
He plans to continue the progress at his greenhouse.
“You can grow this year around,” he said. “That’s what so good about a greenhouse.”
Reach Chase Jordan at 910-249-4617. Follow us on Twitter at @SampsonInd and like us on Facebook.