Happy Acres Farm History
Welcome to Happy Acres Farm. Thank you for visiting and taking time out to learn about us.
In the late 1970’s, my father was reaching retirement age with the U.S. Army. My parents decided to return to Roanoke Rapids, NC. where my mother was born and raised and met my father, who was raised on a farm in Emporia, Va.
After full retirement, my father started planting a wide variety of fruits, including peaches, blueberries, blackberries, grapes, pears, and cherries.
By 1985, he had planted approximately 1,500 peach trees, which was his primary fruit.
During the blooming stages, the public would come and see the beautiful blooms and on several occasions, our local newspaper, the daily Herald came out and did front page coverage of his operation and the impact he had on the local economy. He offered U-Pick and a roadside stand to sell his peaches.
In 2000, my father started showing advanced stage of Alzheimer’s, and his ability to maintain his orchards declined to the point where his trees became injured by fruit tree borers and killed most of his trees.
I became involved with his farm in 2004, when I took over operations and started clearing the damaged trees. In 2005 I planted 100 new peach trees, and started the long, uphill restoration of his farm while working fulltime for the Halifax County Sheriff’s Office and farmed on holidays and weekends.
In 2009 I finished clearing out his ½ acres of blueberries and was able to start picking and selling them. In 2011, as a joke, I posted on the Internet “6,000 pounds of blueberries, what the hell do you do with them”?
I received an email back from an individual that stated he would buy all of them. Sure, what a joke. I responded with “what’s the catch”? He replied, no catch, just a few conditions. I had no idea who he was, but I was game.
1: We had to have our own label, no problem, we had one.
2: We needed a bar code on our label, no problem, we had one.
3: We had to be able to package them in 1 pint clam shells……..hold that thought, I will get back with you!
I started searching the Internet for blueberry packaging equipment. I had no idea that the cost would be so high. While speaking with Lakewood Equipment Co., the sales rep. told me that several years previously; he had sold a blueberry packaging company here in North Carolina 4 new packaging lines. He suggested that I call them and provided me with their phone number. I called and we made arrangements to go and see the equipment in Ivanhoe, N.C.
Don’t stop reading…… I believe you will be amazed.
I met with the farmer in Ivanhoe and several of his workers escorted me across the VERY LARGE blueberry farm to a small, remote barn located in the woods.
The door opened and…well…. It is hard to describe what I saw. Piles and piles of old BEI conveyors, rotating tables, denesters, and closers.
We chose the best of the least rusty items, loaded them on our trailer and headed home.
OK, here is where it gets serious. The entire ride back, approximately 2 ½ hours I tried my best to find the words I was going to use to explain to my wife why I bought it and why it was worth the amount I paid for it.
Upon arrival, knowing it was going to be a challenge, I pulled up to our maintenance barn. As I started unloading the conveyors, I heard “WHAT THE HELL IS THAT JUNK”!!!. Yes, you are right, my wife was home. Then it was “HOW MUCH DID YOU PAY”? I stood there, looking at my treasure, she only saw junk.
Cutting, grinding, sanding, primer, paint, sanding, cutting….. well, you know what I mean.
It took 1 month to restore the equipment.
I emailed the man and told him I had packaging equipment, and was ready to sell him blueberries.
Great, he replied, by the way, who does your 3rd party GAP inspections?
WHAT?..... Hold that thought, I will get back with you.
What is GAP? I found out it stands for Good Agricultural Practices.
I called around, and found that U.S.D.A does 3rd party inspections.
We scheduled a July visit. We prepared, cleaned, build this, did that, and July arrived.
After a VERY long and stressful day, we passed and was GAP Certified for our first time.
I immediately emailed the man back and told him we were GAP certified. We was excited and ordered 50 flats, that’s 600 pints. Our first and largest order ever. It took about a week to get the order completed. I emailed him to schedule a pickup.
WE DON’T PICKUP. When can you deliver? WOW, did not see that one coming. I found a person locally with a pull behind freezer trailer and loaded up. I emailed him advising that Hickory was 4-5 hours away; we should be there by 6 A.M. on Saturday.
Alex, one of my workers road with me. Keep in mind, I still only have a purchase order, I have no clue who I am selling to.As we approached the receiving department……. WOW, it was MDI, the buyer for Lowe’s Foods. We just sold to one of the largest food chains in our area. I was blown away. God Is Great!!
MDI continued ordering from us for the 2011 season.
With the orders getting larger, in the fall of 2011 I purchased an old school trailer.
The building was delivered in two parts in October 2011.
In December 2011, we planted 3 additional blueberry orchards
Here is what it looked like after setting it up on the foundation.
We ripped out, knocked down, cut, hammered, and nailed for the entire winter. The hardest job was removing the old, glued down carpet.
Here is what we ended up with.
In 2012, we started packaging in our new facility.
We currently harvest blueberries from 5 orchards, we average 350 pounds per package day.
In July 2014 we started shipping blueberries to Richmond, Va. To a “From the Farm to the Table Organization”.
In August, 2014 I retired from the Sheriff’s Office, and started building our Agritourism section of the farm.
We have 3rd. and 4th. Generations working our farm.
God has been very good to us, and I thank him every day for his grace.
Thank you for taking your time to find out about us. We look forward to a fantastic 2015.