What is in this article?:
• John Vollmer, along with his wife , Betty and son Russ, operate Vollmer Farm in Bunn, N.C.
• Though he has been in agriculture all his adult life, John Vollmer’s venture into organic farming is an ongoing 30-plus year process.
BUNN, N.C., farmer John Vollmer discusses his experiences with organic farming.
More profitable approach
As a small farm, we are able to compete and to do that. We have found that farming with reduced chemical inputs and approved organic pesticides is a more profitable way to do things,” he adds.
To be a small acreage farmer and to be profitable enough to support two families requires that each acre of land produce at a high level and produce crops that have a high value.
The main production area of the farm is now organic, and the Vollmer Family has created some unique marketing strategies that are married to these production practices.
John and Betty started off growing two acres of organic strawberries and have since added blueberries and blackberries to the farm. Over the years they have added a number of crops, a pick-your-own operation, and with son Russ, they added a farm store and agritourism business.
Now, farmer John and Betty make their entire living and their son Russ , a partial living , on 30 acres of land. The concept isn’t new, farmer John explains.
George Washington Carver developed the concept at Tuskegee University back in the 1920s and 1930s. Carver said growers could grow $30,000 worth of crops per acre. Vollmer says he uses the same strategy, shooting for a goal of $40,000 of gross income per acre.
Strawberries are the focal point of the operation. It’s the one crop that stops people who drive down the road past the farm.
Vollmer Farm has a thriving pick your own operation in blueberries and blackberries. They have only 2,400 blueberry plants, but they produce an amazing amount of product.
Blackberries are the same — on 300 plants the farm sold $15,000 in product in the second year with the crop.
A combination of 100 acres of land owned and another 70 acres of rented land provide enough land to rotate crops and keep organic certification in place. Despite having more land available, Vollmer says he tries to keep total annual production to about 30 acres or so.
The North Carolina grower also produces transplants nearly year-around in two greenhouses. One particular greenhouse crop, organic tobacco transplants, has been particularly successful.
Vollmer’s organic tobacco transplant crop is sold to six growers who grow tobacco for Santa Fe Natural Tobacco Company, which is a world leader in production of tobacco products from organic tobacco and also from additive-free tobacco.