If growing the ideal strawberry is truly an art form, Bush–N–Vine has spent years perfecting the “culture” of horticulture.
Too much water? It’s gonna be mush. Not enough? Hard as a rock.
Bob and Sam Hall at Bush–N–Vine in York, S.C., have long been working years, endlessly trying to perfect the brilliant ’berry.
“There’s a fine line you have to walk sometimes,” said Sam Hall, a 2010 Agriculture Economics graduate from Clemson. “You water it a little bit less, it sweetens it.”
“Seems simple, let’s cut off the water. Unfortunately, the plant still has to have water.”
And so it goes.
But Sam and Bob, who started Bush–N–Vine 32 years ago before his senior year at Clemson, are not about to stop trying to perfect the process.
What started as three weeks of harvesting has evolved into 28-30 weeks of strawberry harvest thanks to innovative techniques like drip irrigation and above–ground tunnels, implemented in 2005. “It’s a greenhouse without the heat,” Sam explains the tunnels.
“You have to get into the mind of a strawberry plant,” Sam said. “You have to figure out what makes them tick.”
What makes Bush–N–Vine tick is not just Sam and Bob, but the extended Hall family, who all pitch in during the busy harvest season.
And considering the variety of fruits and veggies – Bush–N–Vine grows everything from cabbage, spinach and summer squash to peaches, eggplant and sweet corn – there’s rarely a down season at the farm just off Highway 321.
“We do almost anything and everything,” Sam said. “If it can be grown.”
Clayton Rawl Farms
More Info coming soon!
In a small town called Lowrys, S.C., some 25 miles southwest of Fort Mill, S.C., there’s a huge acreage of land known as Cotton Hills Farm.
The 1,000 acres known as Cotton Hills Farm has been in the Wilson family since 1882, but now it’s Jeb Wilson running the show, taking over for his dad, Jeff.
And don’t look now, but Jeb’s son, Mac, who was born AFTER Fresh from the Farms started 13 years ago, is now playing a bigger role in some of the day-to-day tasks, like unloading producedeliveries. Although the affable Mac is quick to deflect any atta-boys, it’s all in a day’s work:“I’m not the boss of anything,” he said, in between unloading boxes of cucumbers and zucchinis.
Still, word about Cotton Hills has been out for awhile, especially with the “big cities” of Rock Hill and Fort Mill taking school field trips.
“We’ve been doing (field trips) for the [last 20 years now]” Jeb said. “It really has helped identify what Cotton Hills Farms is”
From picking the perfectly ripe peach to curing that corn on the cob craving, Cotton Hills has got you covered.
Sure, Lowry’s is known for its unique tractor and horse Christmas parade, but with each passing year, the quality of their fruits and vegetables has given folks a reason to come to town in month’s other than December.
Jeb is in charge of the markets, and not just the home base one in Lowrys, but in Richburg and Chester.”I do enjoy working with customers,” said Jeb, a master’s graduate in journalism from the University of Texas, who decided to come home and help build the family business.”Just seeing them enjoy what we’ve grown, knowing that it’s fresh and local. That we’re able to provide good local produce to Chester and York County.”
Looking for local honey but don’t know where to find the buzz about it?
Or even better, searching for the holy grail of local goodness—hot honey—to bring your pizza up a notch?
Dayspring Farms is your answer.
After growing up on a farm in Montgomery, Alabama, John Gardner spent 44 years working at Winn-Dixie stores before “retiring” in 2002 and enrolling in Clemson bee school.
Two decades later, John personally tends to a million bees.
You think those numbers are impressive? “It takes 2 million trips to a plant to make 1 pound of honey,” he said. “And a worker bee only lives 6 weeks in the summertime. They wear their wings out and die.”
But John’s not about to wear out from working on his nectar-loving pursuit. Adding the hot honey—which is made with a combo of the award-winning Carolina Reaper, cayenne, ghost and habanero peppers—to the Dayspring lineup is proof he’s not ready to call it quits anytime soon.
In his second career, Gardner won the vaunted Bee Keeper of the Year award in the State of South Carolina, although his hobby does come at a small price. In fact, one may label it a sting operation.
“I get stung every day I work with the bees,” he said. “Probably 6-8 times a day. But it doesn’t bother me at all.”
Love at first bite?
You know it when you sink your teeth into it, that crisp taste, the juices dripping from the corners of your mouth.
But where did that apple that your feasting on come from?
Jesse Deal can tell you exactly where his apples come from: A 100-acre Deal family orchard 7.5 miles north of Taylorsville, N.C., on Highway 16.
“Let’s face it, if you buy a cantaloupe from Honduras,” Deal said, “how do you know what the cantaloupe’s been through by the time it gets to you?”
Deal Orchard was started in 1939 by Brack and Thelma Deal and is now run by their son Lindsay at the foot of the Brushy Mountains.
Less than 90 miles from Fort Mill, S.C., Deal Orchard is well-known for its super juicy Asian Pears as well as the dozen or so apple varieties, including Gala, Rome, Honey Crisp and Jesse’s personal favorite, Pink Lady.
“I like the Pink Lady,” Jesse said, his voice raising an octave. “Pink Ladies all year long.”
Nearly a decade ago, long-time friends Jeremy Haltiwanger and Jamey Dagenhart were having lunch, like they normally do about once a month.
But on this particular day, the two started dreaming a bit about the future. They talked about their mission in life, what they felt called to do.
“We decided we need to hire people with special needs,” Haltiwanger said. “I said, ‘OK, how are we going to do that?’ He said, ‘that’s up to you to decide.’”
The seeds planted at that lunch hit on some fertile soil that both men couldn’t ignore. It may have taken 6-7 years for the passion to materialize, but the end result is something that’s nothing short of providential.
Welcome to Growing Joy Farms. It’s a unique, sustainable agriculture and regenerative operation that hires special-needs employees and is powered by aquaponics technology, currently using over 2,000 fish in their complex operation.
It’s also the newest farm providing nutrient-rich produce to the Fresh From the Farms’ farmbox. Like many of the farms FFTF sources from, Growing Joy is not “certified” organic, but in practice it is, staying away from all synthetic pesticides and fertilizers.
“I started researching different options and came across aquaponics and found it very interesting,” Haltiwanger said. “I tried a small system in my back yard, then started talking to people and we ended up starting up right when Covid shut everything down.”
But despite the trials, Growing Joy is taking off. Its specialty is lettuce—so much so that they’re sourcing high-end Charlotte restaurants like Stagioni and Trolley Barn, The Good Life in Fort Mill, as well as the N.Y. Butcher Shoppe in Indian Land, Dilworth and Cornelius.
Lettuce, however, isn’t their only game. Growing Joy is planning on harvesting up to 14 different fruits and 24 vegetables, with some of their early returns producing delicious spinach, kale, tomatoes, potatoes and okra.
And with two greenhouses—totaling more than 4,000 square feet—on their 4-acre Chester, S.C., property, Growing Joy has nearly maxed out their operations and is ready to invest in a third aquaponic greenhouse, which grows 30 percent faster than traditional farming. The long-term plan is to eventually have 6-8 greenhouses, employing up to 30 employees, with as many special needs workers as traditional.
“So far, our employees have shined. They really enjoy the job. It’s providing purpose. It’s providing opportunity. It’s also providing respite to their care-giver,” said Haltiwanger, who hired his first special needs employee in May of 2022. “God loves everybody and created everybody. It’s not that they have disabilities. It’s that they have abilities that have to be shown in certain ways.”
The name Growing Joy is a bit of a throwback to Bonclarken’s Camp Joy, where Haltiwanger and Dagenhart met back in the 90’s (it’s also where Jeremy met his wife, Becca).
“Their enthusiasm,” he said of the joy he sees on his employee’s faces. “They find excitement and pleasure in the little things.
“I say Growing Joy is for our employees, but truthfully, it’s for me. It’s all about perspective.”
Pasta and Provisions
Ever crave homemade fresh pasta, but have no idea where to go? Look no further than Pasta and Provisions, an Italian Food Market/Kitchen three miles south of uptown Charlotte.
One visit to the 20–year–old market and you’ll enjoy the old Italian ambiance of creaking maple floors along with fresh–cut pasta whizzing overhead on a zip line, over racks of quality homemade and market fares.
On the chalkboard, you’ll see P & P’s 14 different pasta varieties, sold by the pound, including Egg, Spinach, Garlic & Rosemary, Wild Mushroom and Arugula & Black Pepper. For the health–conscious, Pasta & Provisions also offers Whole Wheat and Organic Spelt pasta.
Fort Mill, S.C.
Very few words say Fort Mill more succinctly than The Peach Stand.
Providing those stunning strawberries and perfect peaches you’ll find at The Peach Stand is Springs Farm, another household name, which has served Fort Mill since 1938.
And behind Springs Farm is manager Ron Edwards, who eats, sleeps and breathes fresh local produce.
“I love what I do every day,” said Edwards, Springs Farms manager since 2004. “I was born and raised on a dairy farm. It’s all I’ve ever done.”
Edwards’ job is not for small-time thinkers.
First, there’s the 22 acres of strawberries – 14,500 strawberry bushes per acre – all planted by hand.
Then there’s 50 varieties of peaches over 70 acres. That’s 14,195 trees to manage if you’re keeping score at home.
“Plus or minus 4 or 5 that the deer may have killed,” Edwards said.
In between, Springs Farm is a “7 day a week job” from April 15 to October 15, with blackberries, watermelon, tomatoes, cucumbers and all the other garden veggies that require harvesting.
Yes providing fresh produce for The Peach Stand, Springs Farm Market (on Springfield Parkway) and the old Peach Stand (across from The Peach Stand from June 1 to Labor Day) is an all–consuming responsibility.
But that’s what it takes. If you want to give your community the very best.
“The only way to have fresh produce,” Edwards said, “is to pick everyday.”