Faith: The key to growing blackberries

By on June 12, 2020

Growing up, Heather Webb of Faith Family Farms in Shelby, thought she wanted to be a nurse. “Farming was the furthest thing from my mind,” she said, “but it got in my blood and I absolutely love it!” Starting with only 10 acres of land in 2007 and growing to currently 90-acres, the Webb’s have worked hard to grow their farm and drive innovation in the blackberry community.

As the name suggests, Faith Farms runs on a lot of faith and family. “When we first planted blackberries in 2007, it was either make it or break it,” Heather said, “nothing was handed to us here.” The farm is completely family owned and operated throughout the year, and H2A workers are brought in to help during their busy season from June to early August.

Five varieties of blackberries are grown on the farm; P45, Ouchita, Natchez, Osage and Von. A typical day starts at 6:30 a.m. when the buses pick up the H2A workers from their homes. Blackberry picking begins at 7:30 a.m. and usually continues until 3:30 or 4 in the afternoon, with a lunch break in the middle. After all the picking is done and the blackberries are put into their 7,500 square foot packing facility, the workers are taken back to their houses while the Webb family checks the cooler, does inventory and ships needed product to customers.

Although many people think of thorns when they hear the words “blackberry picking,” Heather says that only one variety has thorns. “Lucky for us we only grow one variety of blackberries that have thorns, that being the P45,” she says, “we combat the thorns by wearing long sleeves and working softly and carefully with our hands.” The P45 is actually Heather’s favorite variety because of it’s sweetness. She recommends using them in a tasty blackberry cobbler! Her husband, James, however, would pick the Natchez due to its size and visual appeal.

Although farming blackberries is a lot of hard work and takes extreme faith and dedication, Heather and James both love their life as farmers for different reasons. “I love the interaction with other farmers and customers across the industry,” Heather says, “but my husband would say that his favorite part of farming is growing something from nothing and watching the fruit of your labors come to life.”

Faith Farms is on the board of the North Carolina Blackberry Growers Association and their berries can be found in stores like Publix, Walmart, Sam’s Club and Aldi. The family also owns a winery that they send some of their blackberries to, “especially when it rains a lot,” Heather said. So whether you enjoy blackberries straight from the field, in a cobbler or made into wine, Faith Farms has the perfect product for you!

Working seven long days a week, Heather says, “is a lot of hard work but is very rewarding because you get to do it with your family. I am blessed to work every day with my spouse and children.” Much like the title of her favorite movie, Heather often finds herself saying that her life as a farmer is a wonderful life!

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