Apples to blackberries – A shift in farm focus

By on July 3, 2020

Every Friday on social media, we post a Farm Feature Friday showcasing one of our dedicated North Carolina farmers. Brent Brown, of Double B. Farms, is one of those farmers. The #FarmFeatureFriday campaign will run for an entire year on our Facebook, Twitter and Instagram pages. Be sure to tune in each Friday afternoon on social and help show your support for our local farmers!

Twenty-eight years is, by all accounts, a long time to do anything. However, for Brent Brown, owner of Double B. Farms in Lincoln County, farming for nearly three decades has been a family affair and a labor of love.

Farming runs deep in Brent’s family. Growing up he worked with his father and grandfather growing apples on B.E. Brown Farm, the family operation. Eventually, Brent decided to leave the apple industry to focus on blackberries, which is now Double B. Farms’ sole focus. “My family goes back almost 100 years in the apple industry, and we raised upwards of 100 acres of apples until the late 1990’s,” he said, “then we transitioned out of the apple industry into vegetables, growing tomatoes, squash and cucumbers for several years before I began our quest into the blackberry industry in 2006.”

Setting off to build his own blackberry growing operation, Brent started with about five acres of land. Since 2006, Brent and his family have grown their blackberry farm to currently 40 acres.

The reason behind Brent putting so much work into his farm is simple – it’s what he does and he’d have it no other way. “Farming is in your blood, either you have it or you don’t,” he said, “I went to college at the University of South Carolina and majored in marine biology, and actually worked in it for two years, but farming draws families back and I was one of those who got drawn back here in the late 80’s.”

Getting the farm to where it is today took a major rework of the entire grounds. “When I took over the farm, the apple orchard had very little infrastructure. Now, we have water & electricity across all 80 acres that we own,” Brent said. “We only farm 40 acres of it, but we’ve changed the infrastructure from irrigation and electricity to migrant housing.” Like many farms, Double B. Farms brings in certified H-2A labor to help with harvesting and other farm activities.

Most farmers will tell you that the most exciting time on the farm is in the spring when everything is blooming and the fruits of your labor (literally, in this case) are ready for harvest. It’s after that, when it comes time to market and sell the produce, that things get difficult. Brent said he would like to see less people thinking of farming as an easy profession. “The days of my grandfather when he would put his boots on, hop on a tractor first thing in the morning, ride it all day, plant something and then come back a few months after and harvest it, those days are finished,” he said. “Now you need to have a sound education in chemicals, in fertility, in labor management skills and you have to have a sense of marketing. It’s a much more difficult profession than people think it is.” Although growing blackberries poses a plethora of challenges, Brent says that nothing brings him more satisfaction than seeing the hard work of him and his family pay off. “The freedom to work and provide for your family is very satisfying, and to be able to work hard and see something that you’ve created turn out is most exciting,” he said.

Brent has a clear vision for where he wants to take Double B. Farms. He is aiming for 10 percent growth each year for the next 10 years, so that by the time he turns 61 the farm has doubled in size. Just like his father and grandfather before him, Brent hopes to leave that land to his son one day, better than how he found it.

As summer pests multiply, so do your options for handling them

By on July 2, 2020

Now that summer is fully upon us, you may be encountering some typical summertime pests around North Carolina. It may not help that you’re probably home more, giving you more opportunity to notice the critters around the house. The North

Annual summer internship experience takes a virtual turn

By on July 1, 2020

For more than a decade, the Public Affairs Division of the N.C. Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services has hosted a summer intern through the Youth Advocacy Office of the N.C. Department of Administration. The internship offers the opportunity to

Today's Topic

Today’s Topic: New agriculture and agribusiness numbers released; industry continues to grow

By on June 30, 2020

Agriculture Commissioner Steve Troxler sits down each week with Southern Farm Network’s Mike Davis to discuss “Today’s Topic.” Last week N.C. State University economist Mike Walden released updated agriculture and agribusiness numbers, and the industry has seen growth, moving up

Sampson County Century Farm prospers under the care of one woman

By on June 29, 2020

Since 1913, the Petersons have been operating their family farm in Sampson County. Carla Peterson and her husband, Chris, currently own the farm, but it was his grandfather who laid the foundation in the early 1900s. Mr. Peterson’s grandfather sold

Marvelous melons: A Jackson family farming legacy

By on June 26, 2020

Every Friday on social media, we post a Farm Feature Friday showcasing one of our dedicated North Carolina farmers. Brent Jackson, of Jackson Farming Company, is one of those farmers. The #FarmFeatureFriday campaign will run for an entire year on

Farmers Market Managers Recognized for COVID-19 Response

By on June 25, 2020

These days, the four NCDA&CS farmers markets are still operating with modifications due to the COVID-19 pandemic. It’s been three and a half months since the markets plunged into emergency response mode – having to make immediate adjustments for public

Keep an Eye Out: Asian Longhorned Beetle Closer to North Carolina than Ever Before

By on June 24, 2020

A 17-year cicada emergence, forest tent caterpillar outbreak, and global pandemic isn’t all that 2020 has to offer. On June 15th, Clemson University’s Department of Plant Industry and the U.S. Department of Agriculture announced that the Asian longhorned beetle, an

Farmland under threat part 1: What is the issue?

By on June 24, 2020

As residential and commercial development spread, farmland across America is disappearing at an unprecedented rate. According to a new American Farmland Trust report, “Farms Under Threat: The State of the States,” 11 million acres of farmland was either fragmented or

Today's Topic

Today’s Topic: Modified Junior Livestock shows will be held at the State Fair and Mountain State Fair; open shows cancelled.

By on June 23, 2020

Agriculture Commissioner Steve Troxler sits down each week with Southern Farm Network’s Mike Davis to discuss “Today’s Topic.” We recently announced that we would be holding junior livestock shows at the State Fair and Mountain State Fair whether we end