(Originally published Aug. 9, 2011)
When something's in your blood, you can't escape it, even if you try.
That's how David Thompson of Thompson Family Farms in Walton County feels about farming. He's passionate about it, and so is his entire family.
David grew up in the in the Campton Community farming with his father for 12 years, a period which instilled in him a love for the land that he could never shake. He tried law school at the University of Georgia, but it didn't take long before he was back on the farm. Later he landed a job as a developer, but again was drawn back to agriculture.
"[David] stopped farming when he was developing, but I always knew he had such a love for it that when he could go back to it, he would," his wife, Suzanne, said.
Since 1998, Thompson Family Farms has grown to encompass 122 acres of production: one 40-acre and one 82-acre farm. The couple and their sons, Wes and Clay, run the farms with help from David's brother, Mike, and less than a dozen workers.
A variety of crops
The farms yield a variety of produce, including zipper creme peas, colored butter beans, okra, green butter beans, corn, eggplant, cucumbers, peppers, melons, cantaloupes, and tomatoes -- just to name a few.
Though the farms are not organic, the Thompsons don't use a lot of chemicals, just enough to provide a quality product that won't disappoint, Suzanne said. Seeds are grown seasonally in a greenhouse and later transplanted into the ground, she explained.
A lot of hard work and long hours go into farming, she said. And then you have nature to contend with.
Most of the 40-acre farm is set on a drip irrigation system connected to a well that has been running around the clock, David said. But rain is needed to keep the other, 82-acre farm thriving where only a small patch of land is irrigated. The Thompsons have so far lost four acres of green beans to this year and are at risk of losing fields of corn.
"We need an inch [of rain] a week to make a crop -- that's a good year, when we can have it," David said.
But as of Wednesday afternoon, he'd measured only a little over 2 inches of rain over the last 12 weeks. If it weren't for the well, he said, there wouldn't be enough produce to sell at the stand, not to mention at farmers markets.
"We wouldn't be at the farmers markets if it wasn't for irrigation," he said.
A sense of community
The Thompsons enjoy the markets because they foster a sense of community.
Suzanne handles business operations and public relations, and runs the Thompson Family Farms Facebook page. She posts family photos and popular recipes on the social media website.
"We want it to feel more like community than business," she said. "We're a locally grown farming operation with an abundance of acreage, and we appreciate all the individuals that buy and enjoy our produce," she said.
The Thompsons hope to add another 100 acres of produce next year, Suzanne said.
The Thompson Family Farms produce stand, located on Highway 11 North of Monroe in the Campton Community, is open from 9 a.m. to 6 p.m. Monday through Saturday and on Sunday from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. But the farm also sells at the following area farmers markets: Atlanta, Snellville, Monroe, Covington, Grayson, Bethlehem, J&J Market. David's brother, Mike, sells at the Oconee Farmers Market on Saturdays.