In a time honored tradition of maintaining land in the family, Emily Harris purchased the home in which she grew up and 3 acres of farmland from her father, Jerry Harris of Polkville. Among an assortment of fresh fruits and vegetables growing on the farm are 1600 blueberry bushes, the first of which were planted in 1973. These mature, well-maintained bushes yield an abundance of delicious blueberries each season. Blueberries have one of the highest antioxidant capacities among all fruits, vegetables, spices and seasonings. Berry Fields sells them during the approximate two month season from end of June and into August.
Emily and Jason Parker have been farming together since 2010, and were married in 2011. Emily and Jason are friendly, industrious folks who are selling at the Shelby Farmers’ Market through the entire market season. Their children Rachel, Ryan, and Evan are a great help on the farm and at the market.
One of the most interesting things for the fall market has been the abundance of varied greens available, just ready to be taken home and cooked. Another treat has been lettuce bowls or lettuce trays. Jason has planted small heads of lettuce in these containers and they are available for purchase to take home and just pick off the leaves to make a crunchy, healthy, fresh salad whenever the mood strikes! “With the lettuce planted in the containers, they may be maintained and used until the lettuce has been consumed with only minor farming techniques applied—picking off old leaves and keeping the container watered and in the sunlight,” Jason says. Emily says, “Farming was a way of life for my parents—they were teachers, just as I am, and they farmed in the summer to make money.”
The summer vegetables that are brought to market include lettuce, squash, cucumbers, peppers, eggplant and tomatoes including four different types of Heirloom tomatoes—Cherokee Purple, Pink Girl, Brandywine and Cherokee Green. Jason says, “Irrigation for these summer vegetables is very important. We use a drip irrigation system to direct the water to the base of the plants. This keeps the foliage dry, prevents disease, and conserves water. I also grow on plastic mulch to help keep the vegetables clean and to keep grass and weeds out. I use different types of plastic in the summer months than in fall. The fall plastic is black in order to maintain the warmth of the sun for the vegetables.”
Emily’s father, Jerry, helps the couple with the farm. His years of experience are a definite asset as well as his actual hands on help. There are no farm animals working on the farm, everything is done by machine. Emily is a teacher in Cleveland County and Jason works at Turning Point Academy during the school year. making it even more important that Jerry is able to help them with the farm. Emily says, “We couldn’t do it without Daddy’s help!”
Come see Emily and Jason at the Farmers’ Market on Saturdays to see their lovely selection of fruits and vegetables!