AREA GROWERS HELP RESIDENTS EAT LOCAL
Thanks to the nationwide focus on health and wellness, many Lowcountry residents want to know where their food comes from and want to support the local economy by supporting nearby family farms. Eating locally can both reduce your carbon footprint and ensure that your fruits and vegetables are as fresh and tasty as possible.
Luckily, there are several farms producing fresh food right here in the Lowcountry. Here are just a few:
THREE SISTERS FARM
Beth Lee, Mary Connor and Priscilla Coleman are, indeed, three sisters. They grew up together on a farm that has been in their family since 1848, in the heart of one of the few remaining rural areas of Bluffton: the Pinckney Colony community. The sisters share common goals for their certified organic farm — preserving the land, the environment and creating quality products.
They sell several options for product subscriptions. Their floral product service offers weekly fresh flower bouquets spring through fall at pickup locations in Bluffton, on Hilton Head Island and at the Port Royal Farmers Market. Fresh vegetables, herbs and berries are in included in the weekly or bi-weekly vegetable subscription. The products are stored in an insulated cooler bag and may include extras like a small bouquet of flowers or eggs. The farm’s chickens aren’t certified organic, but they are happy, free-range birds, guarded daily from predators by the family dogs.
Three Sisters Farm also has a presence at all the local farmers markets in Bluffton and Port Royal and and on Hilton Head, as well as in Savannah at the Forsyth Farmers Market. For more information, go to www.3sistersorganicfarm.com/on-the-farm.
When neighbors Marissa Paykos and James Young started dating, their first outings together were picking tomatoes and camping in state parks. When daughter Ella arrived, they decided to instill this love for the outdoors in her by living on a farm.
For Marissa, this is the culmination of a long-term goal.
“It has always been a dream of mine to make a difference,” she said. “The farm is really a dream come true because we get to provide the community with a local farm, but also educate people where their meat comes from and the importance of raising animals in a humane and healthy fashion.”
Recently, the couple put in place a “take what you need and pay what you can” produce stand outside of their farm in Pineland. It’s open to the community at all times to help provide lower-income families with fresh, quality produce. It’s the couple’s way to give back to the community.
The farm’s products, including fresh farm eggs, pasture-raised chickens, pork and free-range rabbit, can be found at the Hilton Head Island Farmers Market at the Coastal Discovery Museum from 9 a.m.-1 p.m. Tuesdays and the Forsyth Farmers Market in Savannah from 9 .m.-1 p.m. Saturdays.
Ashley and Scott Chandler decided to bring their retirement dream to life — 30 years early.
“We had this retirement dream of being more self-sufficient and realized that there was no reason to wait for retirement,” Ashley said. “And then our whole life changed in three months.”
Officially opened in 2018, Ashcott Farms is over 12 acres of animal paradise, home to ducks, chickens, geese, bunnies and a proliferation of goats. The owners love to share their new life and farm animals with the community, offering four campsites on the property, both primitive and suitable for RVs. Ashley appreciates the farm and the lessons learned from a different style of life: “This has been such a smooth transition for our family and I am thankful that we are able to provide these life experiences for not only my children, but others as well.”
The farm even hosts goat yoga in partnership with The Art of Massage and Yoga Therapy. The workshop is a fun family event offering the community a chance to pack a lunch and spend some time outdoors.
The goats will play a pivotal role in the future of Ashcott Farms: The Chandlers are planning to use goat milk in products like soaps, lotions, cheese and yogurt, or to sell it raw to consumers as a nutritious option to cow’s milk.
For more information about Ashcott Farms, “like” the farm on Facebook.
While the Savannah College of Art and Design’s farm isn’t open to the public, it’s a great chance for students to learn to be good stewards of environment. The initiative launched last November converted a barely used parking lot by its equestrian facility into an organic oasis.
The farm includes vegetables, ornamentals and an 18-hive apiary. Project manager Jody Trumbull said food grown there is used in the college’s dining services shared with Savannah nonprofit Second Harvest Food Bank.
Several of the bee hives were relocated from downtown properties to the relative safety of bee boxes on the farm. SCAD’s bees seem to like their new home; they have produced large amounts of honey. It is available for purchase in limited quanitities at the SCAD campus store, which is open to the public.
The college plans to grow the farm to five acres in upcoming years.
On St. Helena Island, Dempsey U-Pick Farms is a local family farm that has been passed down through three generations. It began in the 1950s when Davis Dempsey’s father bought the plot of land and built a house for his family. Davis took over in 1968, continuing the family tradition of farming tomatoes and cucumbers. The “u-pick” came about a decade later with the 1978 trucker’s strike. With no way to get their produce to market, the family invited neighbors, friends and passers-by to pick their own food. Now the family runs a retail stand on the farm, but many people still come for the U-Pick experience. Dempsey Farms also donates to local food banks and to Second Helpings, a local nonprofit that provides fresh food to needy families.
On picking days, cars filled with eager pickers from Bluffton and Hilton Head Island line up at the farm’s gate before it opens.
In warm weather, Dempsey Farms grows strawberries, squash and zucchini, green beans, cucumbers, corn, okra, eggplant, cantaloupe, water melons, bell peppers and tomatoes. In the fall, the family’s second crop is includes a variety of winter squashes, peppers, tomatoes, cucumbers, watermelons, Chinese cabbage, eggplants, okra, sweet corn and pumpkins. These are usually available through mid-November, or until the first frost.
Demsey Farms only accepts cash and checks. It’s best to check Facebook or call ahead to check on availability. For more information call 843-838-3656 or go to www.dempseyfarmsupick.com.
PHOTOS BY CHRISTINE CANNON & SUBMITTED BY SAVANNAH COLLEGE OF ART AND DESIGN