Apples to blackberries – A shift in farm focus

by | Jul 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.