From Southern Living, September 2010
Secret Farm Hideaways
Whether you want to gather eggs and harvest beans or just retreat from the noise of modern life to a quiet farmhouse porch, these seven stays tap into the romance of rural life.
Photo: Courtesy Greer Farm , Article: Kim Cross, Diane Daniel
Daingerfield, TX You-pick berries, grassfed beef, and farm-to-table cooking classes are highlights on a family farm that practices sustainable agriculture. Lake cabins come with Wi-Fi, eggs, homemade bread, and local jam. greerfarm.com
Illinois teenager makes a stop in Daingerfield
Jeff Varwig prepares to leave Greer Farm in Daingerfield to continue his bicycling mission to raise money for Angel Tree.
By Marlene J. Bohr firstname.lastname@example.org A young man with a big heart bicycled through Daingerfield the first week of August and did not let the heat stop the mission that he began July 16. Jeff Varwig, 17, of Chicago, began his quest to raise money for the Angel Tree Christmas project in Chicago at the Canadian border in Minnesota. His overnight stop in Daingerfield was intended to be at the State Park; however, when he arrived, he discovered the park was closed for renovations. He was led to contact Sid and Eva Greer of Greer Farm in Daingerfield where he spent the night of Aug. 3, before continuing on his journey. “I have sponsors back home who are giving money for me to do this ride,” Jeff said. “I also have met people along the way who have been asking me questions. Some people have wanted to give also. I wasn’t expecting as much along the way, but people have been really generous.” He said his main objective was to get people in Chicago to support Angel Tree. “They give toys at Christmas,” he said. “It started off giving Christmas presents to children of prisoners, but they also do other things to support them. If they can’t afford to feed their families, the Angel Tree helps pay for the food for families throughout the year.” Jeff’s parents fully support his endeavor to help others by taking this bike trip. “My parents are always careful and want me to make sure that I pay attention to my safety as I go,” Jeff said “My dad has done a lot of cycling with me, so they know I am capable. They also know I have prepared well for this, so I shouldn’t have any problems too big for me to handle.” He said it was a treat for him to spend a night at Greer Farm. Mr. Greer met Jeff at 9 p.m. at Dollar General in Daingerfield and took him to the farm for the night. After breakfast, Jeff continued on his way to Galveston, hoping to be there by Aug. 7. “I have stayed in a variety of places, sometimes near the road,” he said. “I have stayed in bed and breakfasts and sometimes in motels. “It wasn’t as hot when I started, but it has been more of an issue recently. I have tried to ride in the mornings and the evenings and avoid the middle of the day. I stop fairly often to get water during the day as I sweat so much. That helps me get out of the heat every hour and a half when I go get some water.” The time has sped by for Jeff as he has been averaging 85 to 100 miles per day. “I usually try to ride 100 miles a day, but have now gotten to where the heat keeps me from riding so much,” he said. “It’s going down to 80 to 85 miles a day.” Jeff carries bags, along with clothes and supplies. “I have racks that go over each wheel of the bike,” he said. “I have four bags with things, small bags, but big enough to fit the clothes and supplies that I need.” In addition to riding for a good cause, Jeff said he has enjoyed the trip. “I have gotten to see a lot of interesting things as I’m out riding eight hours a day,” he said. “I have enjoyed the scenery and how it changed since I’ve gone across the country. It is different than when I started.” If you would like to help Jeff in his mission with donations for Angel Tree Christmas gifts for children with parents in prison, contact him at email@example.com. Jeff will return to school this fall as a high school senior.
Kevin Green/News-Journal Photo Sid Greer, left, shows Nathan Wells, 9, \uFEFFhow to pick blueberries Friday at the Greer Farm in Daingerfield. Greer owns the farm with his wife, Eva.
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Eva has made her own mark on the property. “Cooking and flowers are her passion,” Sid says. This explains the 3.5 acres of landscaped gardens with everything from 100 varieties of roses to lilacs, caladiums, and lilies.
Both of the Greers are passionate about sustainable agriculture, which means farming in a continuously prosperous yet environmentally responsible way. They’ve had great success with it. Visitors flock to the farm every summer beginning in May for blueberry picking, followed by blackberries through July and figs in August. “We planted some grapes and raspberry bushes in the winter and different fruit trees,” he says. “It will take a few years to see how they grow. But the blackberry and blueberry crop looks to be really good this year.”
Berries are only the beginning. Everywhere you look, there’s something edible. Take a few steps and you’ll spy asparagus, cabbage, and sauerkraut. Go in another direction and find heirloom tomatoes, basil, summer squash, and white eggplant. And then there are the fruit trees: cherry, fig, apricot, and apple.
All of these fresh foods come in handy for Eva’s cooking classes. Each month, she hosts up to 10 people at a time for instruction on culinary delights featuring produce from her farm. This summer, check out classes such as “Sweet & Savory: Cooking with Greer Farm Blackberries and Blueberries” and “Mouthwatering Salsas.” Students are encouraged to get as involved as they like. “Sometimes people don’t like to be all that hands-on,” she says. Some students kick up the participation level only when they sit down to eat the fruits of others’ labors, paired with plenty of wine.
Berry picking and cooking classes are great and all, but the best part about visiting Greer Farm is the sleepover. About two years ago, the Greers built four log cabins that have air conditioning, kitchenettes, big bathrooms, flat-screen televisions with satellite, and wi-fi. (That wireless comes in handy. Cell service is iffy at best.) The cabins, complete with cedar swings, overlook the lake, which is stocked with sunfish, Florida bass, crappie, catfish, and coppernose brim. Guests can fish, kayak, rent bikes, hike or run on the numerous trails lining the farm, and “have their own little petting zoo,” as Sid puts it. Old structures—some dating back to before the Civil War—litter the grounds, including an outhouse that now houses a croquet set and a sampler that reads How To Be a Mean Mother.
“Camping” takes on a different meaning at Greer Farm. Thanks to indoor plumbing, cooking lessons, CNN, and a bocce court, it’s palatable to even the girliest city slicker. And Sid says people leave inspired to look for their inner farmer. “The No. 1 thing people tell me is that I’m living their dream,” he says. “They say that when they come to the farm, they feel like they’re a part of it.”
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