2007 was a ‘berry’ good year out at the Jarvis family farm
BY PATTI SELLS | News-Telegram Feature Writer
Aug 14, 2007 - It was a “berry” good year for Steve and Lynn Jarvis of Jarvis Farm in Como who opened their commercial thornless blackberry operation to the public this year – the first pick ‘n’ pay plantation in the area.
�Last year we picked everything ourselves as a family,� said Steve, who turned his 65-acre homestead into a farm rich with not only blackberries, but figs and peaches, as well. �I quickly saw that we weren�t going to be able to harvest everything ourselves this year. Good help is just too hard to find. That�s why we opened it up for pick �n� pay.��
The farm, which began in 2002, abounds with 7,000 blackberry plants, 400 peach trees and 135 fig trees.
�It�s real nice for the kids and the whole family to come out,� explained Steve, who said they have had a wonderful response to the new operation. �We have a hayride, nature trail and a five acre lake for catch-and-release fishing.�
Business has been so bountiful, Steve plans to expand the operation by planting 7,000 more plants, and even build a few cabins to accommodate customers who come in for weekend getaways.
�We�ve got to have more plants before we have more people. Families are coming in from Dallas and all over,� he said. �They�ll be able to stay the weekend, pick at the farm, hit the antique stores downtown. They�re gonna eat, get gas � this will be real good for the economy in our area.�
Steve said he recognized early on that people wanted his product, as well as other fresh fruits and vegetables. Therefore, he added on a country store to his rural log cabin home located on FM 69 south of Como, and barters his goods in exchange for others, such as blueberries, strawberries, cherries, cantaloupe, watermelon, purple hull peas, squash, onions, okra, and sweet, fresh ears of corn.
�Getting farm fresh fruits and vegetables is what people want,� he said. �We get everything as local as we can ��sweet potatoes from Lake Fork, okra out of McKinney, but the best new potatoes are coming out of Muleshoe. And that�s what we want � the best tasting, freshest products we can possibly have.�
The Jarvis Country Store also stocks ribbon cane syrup, honey, fruit preserves, jams and jellies.
�We try to carry those old time favorites that you can�t find at the grocery store. Well...you might can find them but they have all those additives. Ours is just sugar and blackberries.� said Steve�s wife Lynn, who had to learn the art of canning and preserving.�
�I had never canned in my life,� she said with a laugh. �But when you marry a farmer, you�re kind of expected to know those things.�
According to Steve, they pride themselves on providing farm fresh vegetables and fruits and simple raw sweeteners without all the corn syrup and high fructose ingredients that cheapen a product.
Fig preserves are a big seller for the family, according to Lynn, who is currently doing a trial run on strawberry and peach preserves, as well.
�I just recently got a hold of a green tomato pickle recipe that was Steve�s grandmothers,� she said. �It�s been in the family for four generations. Nobody has this recipe. That�s the kind of things that people are looking for.�
The family business started small five years ago, according to Steve, who said they began making the rounds with their farm fresh products and homemade preserves to area events such as the Gilmer Jamboree, Commerce’s Bodark Bash, and of course, our own Hopkins County Fall Festival.
�The word just gradually began to spread,� said Steve, who from there began delivering to customers throughout the business community. �I�d go around to all the different businesses here in town. That really helped get the word out.�
Before long, he had so much business he couldn’t make the rounds, therefore he decided it would be best to park his truck, known for its covered cabin bed, on the downtown square convenient for his customers to come to him.
�It�s almost a drive through business,� said Steve, who explained he has produce prepackaged, priced and ready for pickup. �People get off work and can just swing through. I think it works out well for everybody.�
The Jarvis farm truck can be found on the square Tuesdays and Thursdays from 3:30 p.m. to 6:30 p.m.
�The whole idea is to get the food to the customer fresh,� Steve said. �When you refrigerate vegetables, you lose flavor. If you can get the produce from the farms to the table in the shortest amount of time with the least amount of refrigeration-you�re going to get maximum flavor. The goal is to eliminate as many middle men as you can.�
The only middle men in the Jarvis family farm operation are the couples three children, Levi, 11, Zechariah, 8, and 6-year-old, Hannah.
�The kids are a big help,� said Lynn. �And even though it�s a lot of hard work, we have a lot of fun, too.�
According to Steve, each year the family holds a contest to see who can find the biggest blackberry.
�We�ve found some as big as a 50 cent piece,� he said, as one of the boys ran to the freezer to retrieve this year�s prize berry. �They�re not all this big, but they are all as big as a quarter.�
With berries this big, customers can fill up a two gallon bucket in no time, according to Steve.
The Jarvis family also make plants available to their customers selling Navaho, Apache, Arapaho and Ouachita, their newest variety. They also sale five varieties of peach trees, and Brown Turkey fig trees, as well as plum, pear and some ornamentals.
But the farms thornless blackberries are the family’s main attraction.
When we started researching, everybody we talked to said the blackberry was the way to go,” said Steve. “In the next 10 to 15 years there is going to be a big explosion in the berry industry.”
Research shows antioxidants found in the berry’s juice to be extremely beneficial for those with cancer and diabetes among other diseases.
�In the next couple of years people are going to hear more and more about the benefits of blueberries and black berries,� Steve said. �And I think it�s just a matter of time before people wake up within the next few years and say �I�ve got to change my diet and start eating better.� Helping people do that makes my job very rewarding. Farming is good, clean, country living. It�s a simpler way of life that more people should try to get back to.�