The June edition of Texas Highways magazine has an article that includes The Grer Farm. These photos were taken by the TxDot photographer. The article is below provided by Texas Highways.
The farm house in spring
The Little Red Hen cabin early morning
Bluebbery just emerging
Get your hands dirty (or not!) on a Back-to-Nature Getaway
At Sand Creek Farm & Dairy near Cameron, visitors get to know Sebastian, a half-Andalusian, half-American Cream foal born in spring 2011. (Photo by Randall Maxwell)
After failing in our efforts at suburban gardening, my husband, Matt, and I embraced community-supported agriculture by obtaining our meat, milk, and produce directly from local farmers and ranchers.
However, a new wave of “agritourism” has taken root in Texas and is taking this farm-to-table experience a step further. In order to provide a level of financial stability to a farm’s cyclical earnings, some farmers and ranchers invite visitors to participate in duties such as harvesting vegetables and fruit, feeding pigs, herding cattle, shearing sheep, and corralling goats. Some even offer overnight lodging. For city-dwellers like myself, it’s an opportunity to witness the resilience and dedication of the men and women who nurture the land to put food on our table—and have some fun in the process. Eager to explore this trend with Matt and our three children, I plotted out a summer of farm-and-ranch getaways.
The Greer Farm
On 400 acres southwest of Daingerfield, we find the ultimate example of agritourism at Greer Farm, where Sid and Eva Greer produce crops ranging from pine trees to blueberries, raise cattle, offer cooking classes, and welcome visitors year round for day visits and overnight stays.
Forests of pine and mixed hardwoods frame expanses of lush grassland, while manicured cutting gardens provide bursts of color and delicate fragrance. The Greers’ white clapboard farmhouse serves as home base for the Greers’ monthly Farm to Fork cooking classes, when Eva, who trained at the Arts Institute of Houston, offers hands-on instruction in such topics as cooking wild game, holiday celebrations, pasta-making, and baking with berries. Eva tells me that one memorable class consisted of a group of Dallas women who were learning about Julia Child. With Eva’s encouragement and instruction, they used vegetables and meat raised on the farm to successfully replicate six recipes from Child’s book Mastering the Art of French Cooking.
The Greer Farm is at 1444 CR 1125, southwest of Daingerfield. Call 903/645-3232; www.greerfarm.com.
Agarita Creek Farms Fredericksburg
Next, we drive to the Hill Country in search of Agarita Creek Farms, a ranch on 170 rugged acres just outside of Fredericksburg. The hilly landscape—dotted with mesquite and cedar trees—ascends from the nearby Pedernales River bottom to a peak elevation of 1,700 feet, offering spectacular panoramic views of the surrounding Hill Country.
Here, Tom Carnes works the land in the mornings and evenings—spending workdays at his law office in town. His wife, Beverly, enjoyed a career as a speech pathologist before devoting herself to fulltime ranching, braving the Hill Country elements to raise heirloom sheep breeds, primarily as breeding stock but also for meat and wool.
Piling into Beverly’s truck, we pursue Agarita Creek’s herd of more than 100 sheep. Though the sheep primarily feed on grass, Beverly gives them supplemental treats to encourage socialization and provide a nutrient boost during times of drought. As we feed them from the back of the truck, she calls some animals by name, saying, “They’re very sociable, like pets. We’re especially close to the orphans that we’ve bottlefed.”
Agarita Creek Farms is at 968 Braeuti-gum Rd. just outside Fredericksburg. Call 830/896-9140; www.agaritacreek.com.
Sand Creek Farm & Dairy Milam County
Our visit to Sand Creek Farm & Dairy, northwest of Bryan, revealed an unexpected twist: Owners Ben and Alysha Godrey eschew fossil fuels while maintaining a herd of 40 Jersey, Guernsey, and French Normandy cattle, in addition to a wide assortment of heritage livestock. “We prefer horse-drawn equipment,” says Ben. “It’s a very peaceful way to farm. Not only is it clean and sustainable, but the horses are a pleasure to work with.”
The Godfreys keep busy making cheese, yogurt, and caramel from their cows’ milk, and they also harvest beef, lamb, eggs, chicken, and turkey. But they enjoy sharing their way of life with the public, too, so they open the farm to visitors once or twice a month for Farm Day events. Today, we’re gathered with a group in the milking room to begin the tour. We climb into a horse-drawn wagon to explore the farthest reaches of the farm. Ben drives standing up, gently commanding his horses in Dutch, calling “Links” (left) “Rechts” (right) and “Teug” (pull).
We roll past the 5.5-acre garden and acres of farmland covered in cowpeas, a cover crop that enhances the soil with nitrogen. Here, the Godfreys grow vegetables such as Purple Majesty potatoes and Golden zucchini, as well as familiar crops like lettuce, onions, carrots, and beets. In the distance looms the thicket, tangled with wild grapes and blackberries.
Sand Creek Farm & Dairy is at 1552 CR 267 near Cameron. Call 254/697-2927; www.sandcreekfarm.net
While working on Jennifer Babisak’s story on agritourism for the June issue, Senior Editor Lori Moffatt learned more about the challenges and rewards of small-scale ranching and farming—and of opening your land to the public—from Sid Greer of Greer Farm near Daingerfield from Tom Carnes at Agarita Creek Farms in Fredericksburg.
“We were gifted this land by the parents of my wife, Beverly. Her dad became very ill soon after the gift, and we relocated here earlier than planned due to his illness. It was great for Bev to be here for her dad's last months, and it has been wonderful to live one farm over from her mom. Their farm has been in her mom's family since the 1800s, and her dad's family has been here that long as well. The Altdorf Biergarten and Restaurant in Fredericksburg, in fact, was built by her great-grandfather as his home and shop.
Even before we moved here, we decided that we were going to raise heritage animals. We joined the American Livestock Breeds Association and devoted ourselves into learning about rare, threatened breeds. We decided to focus on sheep for two reasons. As the drought evidenced, this is not proper cattle country. It is, however, great sheep and goat country. We might have focused on goats, but our cattle barbed wire fences, originally designed for cattle, would not contain them properly. Sheep it was.
We had a hard time choosing a breed of sheep. I was partial to the Navajo-Churro, sheep brought over by the Spanish explorers and the sheep of the Navajos. The US Cavalry, during the Indian Wars, killed almost all of the Churros. Those that survived were hidden in caves. They were long thought to be extinct. Then, in the early 1970s, a herd was discovered at a reservation in the west. All Churros in the United States today come from this herd. They have a double layer, hair over wool, and their hair and their wool come in an array of colors. Their hair and wool are usually different colors, which makes it fun to identify them after shearing. Both males and females are horned, with either two or four horns (and sometimes five or six in a ram).
Jacobs are spotted sheep, with two or four horns, that are rumored to be descendants of the spotted sheep given to Jacob in Genesis. They used to be plentiful in England, and were introduced into the U.S. in the 1850s. Ironically, the breed was bred up in England to its ruin, and English breeders now start their flocks with Jacobs from the U.S. or Canada. They generally have white wool with black spots; their spots show up brown on their surface hair coat.
Beverly loved the Jacobs, I loved the Churros. We got both. They have in common their horns, their relatively coarse naturally colored wool, and their triple purpose: meat, milk, and wool. They are perfect sheep for homesteaders. They are also well adapted, live well on our natural vegetation, and are much easier to manage and maintain than sheep. I cannot recommend them enough. Our grass feeding, combined with their size, produces small, lean cuts of delicious lamb. It is the best I have eaten, bar none.
We do raise Dexter cattle, another threatened breed, but only in small numbers. This idea came from the American Livestock Breeds Conservancy. Dexters are small and a delight. They came to the U.S. from Ireland. They are dual purpose, milk and meat. Their dual purpose, their small size, and their efficiency in eating make them ideal for homesteaders. They are the perfect cow.
Tourism was always an integral part of the plan. We wanted to have a place where families could come and enjoy the ranch and one another. There are TVs for videos, but they are not hooked up for TV reception. There are board games, cards, etc. It is a place to escape. We have families who come here two or more times every year.
We think it important for kids to know what a farm or ranch is, and where food comes from.”
Sid Greer, who runs Greer Farm near Daingerfield, notes,
“How do I define agritourism? Well, it’s where agriculture and tourism intersect, where owners of farms and ranches bring the public onto their property to experience the outdoors and the so-called leisurely pace of a farm.
I think that the idea of a farm-stay is a fun alternative to a typical getaway. When we ask visitors what they liked about the experience, they tell us that they wanted (and got!) a new experience, or to escape from the stress of the city. Parents want their kids to how things grow, and that milk doesn’t come from a carton; it comes from a cow.
Some places offer a total farm experience, others provide an experience where you don’t have to rough it: You can collect some hay, feed the horses, but you don’t have to shovel manure. Usually, it’s your choice.
A common element on our end is that we have a keen interest in sharing what we do with others. We tend to be self-sufficient types, and when we invite guests into our lives, what we do is on display. So we have to enjoy the aspect of sharing. In some ways, that’s more important than the extra revenue. We really enjoy having people come out and say, ‘Wow!’
Before we started our farm-stay program, we had all the elements here except the tourism. While we had a good cash income from the family farm, a farm’s earnings are always cyclical. Agritourism has provided us with a level of financial stability.
Some of the challenges are obvious: You lose your privacy, and it takes away part of your time from your farm job. But for us, it has been worth it.”